Over the last few weeks I have been increasingly talking to people around where I’m at the moment about the Quinta Project idea. And many queer urban people really love the idea, which is great news.. however, there is always one question that comes up really quickly: and that is, wether or not the countryside (and farming in particular) isn’t a really hostile and homophobic environment.
I can really sympathise with this question, as I also had the assumption that life in the countryside is pretty heteronormative. Of course, being pretty much a big city boy, raised in an urban area and living in London most of my life, I never actually experienced life in the country side. So my idea was entirely preconceived rather than based on any actual experience.
I was therefore really glad to find an academic article that looked at this question and provided some answers from lived experiences, rather than preconceived ideas and media portrayal. In the article, the researcher went to interview farmers to figure out how and how much “sexualized and heteronormative patterns” shape modern agricultural life. The article goes well beyond simply examining homophobic experiences and/or smaller microaggressions being experienced by queer farmers. However, as I was trying to find out more about the latter, this was my main focus.
The bad news: many of the farmers interviewed as part of the research did experience some form of heteronormative ideas and even some talked about microagressions. However, it was far less and less severe then the respondents had envisaged (most respondents moved to the countryside from big towns). So overall, the author concluded that:
Real and perceived rural heterosexism can diminish queer people’s
desire to farm. It is difficult to know how many nonfarming queer people (of any gender or sexuality) would otherwise choose to farm, but are deterred by their perceptions or experiences of rural or agricultural heterosexism or hegemonic masculinity. Given this dilemma, it is a particularly important finding that most farmers did not encounter the overt heterosexism they expected. (p.19)
So maybe the idea that the countryside is a hostile place for queer people isn’t quite so true after all?
If you want to read the full article, here is the full reference: Leslie, I. S. (2017). Queer Farmers: Sexuality and the Transition to Sustainable Agriculture. Rural Sociology, 0(0). http://doi.org/10.1111/ruso.12153