Nathan Looney, a transgender urban farmer from Los Angeles said,
âFarming in general is rural, and in a rural environment, LGBT does not fly.â
– As reported by Seed Stock
Breaking the LGBTQ+ stereotypes in farming is a difficult task. Many who belong to the LGBTQ+ community, who are farmers as well, struggle to maintain the balanceÂ between their vocation as well as their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Ben Lewis, a gay farmer from Wales opens up about his struggles.
Meet Ben Lewis
Born in 1983, to Welsh sheep and beef hill farmers, Ben is the youngest among three children in his family.Â Working as a farmer and with livestock were part of Ben’s upbringing. It was something that was “ingrained” in him since “day one”. Whilst growing up, Ben opted to become a farmer even though he was the child who was most likely to get a ‘real job’. His older brother came out to his family as gay and moved away from farming.
“To the outside world, life was perfect”
After finishing his university, Ben joined Young Farmers and met the girl whom he eventually married. In an interview with ITV News, he said that he married a woman and lived a straight man’s life because farming and being gay wasn’t a life he thought was possible. He said,Â “I thought to myself ‘well you can’t be gay if you’re a farmer”, as reported by ITV.
In his blog on Agrespect, he wrote, “To the outside world, life was perfect”.Â Despite living the life that was expected, Ben knew that things weren’t right. After four years of marriage, Ben came out to his wife, and the couple separated.
âLooking back I definitely feel that I probably was suffering quite a bit, and then it just dawned on me â a lightbulb moment â that itâs just gotta happen. Not only for myself but for the people that were around me that I loved and they loved me back, to be true to them really.”
-As reported by Pink News
His life finally began
The year was 2009, and Ben finally felt like his life has begun. However, being both gay and a farmer in rural Mid Wales comes with its problems. Gossip about him became the ‘talk of the town’. Ben even came out to his family and friends. But, many had strong opinions. He lost the support of many of his friends in the process. However, his father was very supportive when Ben told him the news. His father’s reaction was simply,
” Well youâre the same old Benny to me.”
-As reported by Agrespect
Despite the support from his family, Ben started to feel that wanting to be a farmer and gay may never go hand-in-hand. This pushed him to leave farming. And, he went back to university to pursue another degree. Finally, he gained a Post Graduate degree from the University of Cirencester for agriculture. While he moved to Cardiff to pursue his new job at Rural Payments Wales, which is a part of the Welsh Government. He missed farming.
“There’s such stereotypes with farmers and it’s almost expected that you get married, have children, settle down on the farm and that’s what life entails as a farmer.”
-Ben told ITV during an interview
If only he could pursue bothÂ
Going home every weekend, and helping his father on the farm, wasn’t the life he wanted. He wanted to be a Farmer. However, things took an unexpected turn and Ben could see a ray of hope. 2 years ago, Ben received a friend request on FB from another farmer. “AÂ young, ginger dairy farmer”, as he described in his blog, named Frazer.
What started off with a random FB request morphed into something stronger. They had a connection. They would meet-up every weekend at Frazer’s dairy farm which was located outsideÂ Newport, South Wales. 2 years later, and today they are a couple. They even live together at the dairy farm. The two work together on the dairy farm and want to establish their own farming enterprise in the future.
“I work in the week bringing in a steady wage and spend weekends mending and welding what heâs broken in the week. Frazer works full time on the family dairy farm and we have a flock of pedigree Suffolks.”
-Ben Lewis wrote in his blog on Agrespect
Living the life he wanted:
Ben, today, is living the dream of having a career in farming and a personal life with his partner. The couple believe that views within the farming community have started to change. And, according to them, social media definitely has contributed to this change. Ben is also part of the LGBTQ+ farmers’ organisation ‘Agrespect‘ that aims to integrate diversity in the countryside. According to the Agrespect, there are thousands of people in rural areas who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. Hence it is important to encourage and celebrate inclusivity in these regions.
I initially thought that I had to hide my sexuality to be farmer and then thought that I had to hide being a farmer to be gay. However, through awareness, inclusion and shifting attitudes, I am now living âthe normal lifeâ. Normal is living with the person you love and doing the things youâre passionate about â life is too short not to.
-Ben Lewis wrote in his blog on Agrespect
Source Credit: Agrespect, ITV, Pink News, Seed StockÂ