As a partner of AgRespect, we champion and support LGBTQ+ people in the farming and wider communities, encouraging greater inclusivity and diversity. For Pride Month, it was especially wonderful to see third year BSc (Hons) Agriculture with Farm Business Management student Emily Brown share her story with Harper and AgRespect, in hopes to help others become comfortable with their identity while at university.
Emily’s partnership with AgRespect was founded over a year ago, when she was looking for support in the rural community. She said: “Reading stories on their website was reassuring and comforting to know that there were other people who have come from similar backgrounds and are open about their sexuality, whilst being able to happily work in agriculture.”
Having grown up on a mixed family farm in Bedfordshire, being part of the agricultural industry was not new to Emily. She shared: “At A Level, I had studied economics, accounting and law, but I was interested in looking at these subjects from an agricultural perspective. Having grown up on a farm, I was intrigued to learn more on the management side, as well as looking at diversification and how farming businesses can be progressed.
“Agriculture with Farm Business Management covered most of those areas I was interested in looking at. I also really liked the option of the compulsory placement year to be able to see if you like a particular job.This then led me to attending the Harper Adams Experience, which was fantastic. It felt like a big family and an extension to Young Farmers.”
Regarding time at Harper so far, Emily gave a glowing review. She said: “Overall, it’s been brilliant. There have been many great moments, but the stand out for me is still Freshers’ Week. As daunting as it was at first, we were all in the same boat and soon got into the swing of things. Some of the best nights have been after assignment hand-ins and hitting the SU dancing to songs varying from Abba to Macky Gee.”
Despite enjoying university life, Emily still felt uncertain about coming out to her new group of friends. She said: “When starting at Harper, I felt pressure to hide my sexuality. As hard as I tried to forget about these feelings and act ‘straight’ in a heteronormative society, this unsurprisingly didn’t work, and was starting to have a detrimental impact on my mental health. After a pretty up and down year, I’d had enough of trying to please everyone else and hiding who I really was - I just wanted to be happier.”
After speaking to friends, and then to family, Emily now feels relieved to no longer be hiding such a big part of herself. Working as a representative for AgRespect, she hopes her story will help others to feel more confident to be themselves knowing that they are not alone.
On representation, Emily commented: “Groups like Agrespect are so important in showcasing LGBTQ+ people in farming and also helping to encourage diversity and inclusiveness within rural communities. Role models can have a beneficial impact on people, particularly in terms of challenging stereotypes, empowering those struggling to come to terms with their sexuality and reinforcing the message that homophobic language is wrong and can impact self-esteem.”
Talking about the wider community, Emily spoke about education as a way to combat homophobia. She explained: “I don’t think there’s going to be a quick fix unfortunately, as it will take time for changes to feed through. Increasing the level of LGBTQ+ sex education, especially in schools, is certainly important to help decrease stigma.
“Stonewall have also published guides on tackling homophobic language and have used posters as an example tackling the words people throw around as insults such as, “That’s so gay”. Implementing policies that clearly state that homophobic language is wrong and will not be tolerated is one of the best ways to start tackling the issue; it is important to promote any policy which is implemented to make as many people aware of it as possible.”
Education also spills into the online world as Emily continued, “It would also be great to see significantly less tagging of friends in posts whenever there is a story regarding pride, LGBTQ+ and diversity in agriculture on social media.”
With education in mind, we asked Emily about her advice for coming out, along with safe spaces online to find LGBTQ+ content. She said: “As long as it is safe for you to come out, do what you think is going to make you happiest. There are many people out there who will be more than happy to offer support.
“Regarding visibility on social media, the Agrespect Instagram page is a great place to start. Each story posted has a link to the storytellers account, so there’s a lot of visibility there. @farmlifeiceland is another fantastic account and also has some pretty impressive photos of farming in Iceland.
“In terms of inspiring media, I came across a Youtuber called Shannon Beveridge (nowthisisliving) whilst doing my A Levels. Although from a different country and completely different background her videos are very supportive. Along with this, since TikTok has taken off over lockdown, there is a lot of representation on there where searching for specific hashtags makes it a lot easier to find content you relate to. There are also a lot of coming out stories on the app which can be accessed by searching for the hashtags #comingout and #comingoutstory.
“For films, God’s Own Country is a great one to watch, which is centred around a gay farmer’s son from Yorkshire. Another good film is Pride which is based on the true story of a lesbian and gay activist group who raised money to support the families of Welsh miners during the strike of 1984. I found this particular film powerful because when the group first arrived in Wales many of the miners and their wives were hostile, however once they had met the group, most were very accepting and accommodating. Later on in the film one of the older rural Welsh characters comes out as gay.”
Emily hopes her story may help others to feel more confident and happy in themselves while also promoting the importance of respect for diversity in farming. You can read more of Emily’s story on the AgRespect website here. If you can relate to Emily’s experiences and are seeking to talk to someone, our Student Support team is here to help. You can get in touch with the team here.