Emily Brown not only holds the Harper Adams Student Union Presidency until this summer, but is also an NFU Ambassador – and a keen Agrespect campaigner.
This latter role has seen her appearing in front of thousands of people at events such as a Pride parade on the streets of Birmingham, and talking to millions on the One Show on the BBC about both Pride and her Agrespect campaigning.
In this blog, she explains why she believes this work is so important.
Agrespect promote diversity and inclusion in the countryside – and they are how I got involved with Birmingham Pride.
Pride is vital. There are still 69 countries where homosexuality is illegal.
In England, Section 28 (the law that prohibited the promotion of homosexuality) was only repealed in 2003. At the time of the repeal, a Stonewall survey found that 82% of teachers in England were aware of verbal incidents related to homophobia and 26% of teachers were aware of physical attacks. Although significant progress has been made across the world and the UK, there is still a long way to go - especially in rural communities.
We need the best people in the agricultural industry with a range of views and ideas and someone’s sexuality or gender identity does not define their ability to be a farmer or work in rural communities. People should not feel they are unwelcome in the countryside if they are a member of the LGBT+ community.
However, stereotypes can still do a lot of damage. For example, with bisexuality there is the stereotype that if a man identifies as bisexual he’s seen as gay, whereas if a woman identifies as bisexual she’s seen as straight. This can be really upsetting to individuals.
Comments on social media can also be incredibly hurtful and offensive. For example, tagging mates in posts calling them gay as a joke can upset those who are LGBT+ (and let’s be clear, jokes like this are not funny and are incredibly outdated.)
Stonewall research found that 61% of the lesbian, gay and bisexual population in the UK had self-harmed and 22% had previously attempted suicide. In the trans community, 84% reported they have self-harmed and 45% had attempted to take their own lives. The research by Stonewall indicated that homophobic comments and hate crime can have a drastic impact on mental health.
That is why I campaign with AgRespect, and why I found myself on TV last Autumn - talking about my appearance at Birmingham Pride!
Having the opportunity to feature on the One Show, representing Agrespect, was a very proud moment.
When I was younger there were very few role models from rural areas, so to be given the chance to openly talk about rural diversity and inclusion was amazing.
Notifications on my phone went crazy with messages of love, support and saying how proud they were when the feature went out.
It’s great to see the number of people from the rural community getting behind diversity and inclusion, although we still have a long way to go to ensure people can feel comfortable and safe being themselves in the countryside.
Then shortly after appearing on TV, we made our way to Birmingham for the day at Pride!
The day was brilliant, although quite surreal at times. Having a tractor with us, provided by Massey Ferguson for Agrespect to use in the parade gave me a strong sense of pride.
We were there representing LGBT+ people in the agricultural industry whilst being in the middle of a city, with loads of colour, music - and a fair few drag queens too. The fact that everyone was just being themselves was incredible - and being able to see this was emotional at times too.
The crowd were brilliant, they were waving and cheering as we went past and a few pointed out that they’d seen the feature on the One Show which was very surreal. It was eye opening that people didn’t care what you looked like or who you were, you could just be yourself and you felt supported, whilst also walking in the parade with those who shared a common interest in agriculture and the rural community.