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Gay farmer considered suicide after he tried to hide his sexuality

Viewers praised BBC's Countryfile but called it "heartbreaking" to watch

By Fabio Crispim

BBC’s Countryfile has been praised by viewers for highlighting the suicide rates among gay farmers. 

Presenter Tom Heap investigated the relationship between suicide rates in the farming community and sexuality in last night’s episode (April 29).

Heap found that around 50 farmers a year end their lives over poor harvests, low market prices and because of their sexuality and discovered that many gay farmers are afraid to come out because farming is seen as a masculine profession.

One of the farmers appearing on the show who considered suicide was Frank, who opened up about hiding his sexuality and coming out at the age of 60. 

He said: “I knew I was gay from very early years. It was difficult because you’re always trying to cover up something that may give it away. And farming being as macho as it is, who wants a gay, weak workman?

“You’ve got your gay life and you’ve got your real life. As I got older I felt this was wrong. At the age of 60 I finally decided to come out.” 

Frank, however, expressed regret over not coming out sooner and said he felt like he was’t able to be himself.

“You’re not being yourself, you’re hiding this part of your life,” he added. “There’s been very little hostility, I’ve had a few people who don’t ring me anymore.

“My life could have been so different if I’d come out years ago, I could have met somebody.”  

Keith Ironson, who runs the only gay farmers helpline in the UK, also spoke on the show, explaining that the men who call the helpline are often over 50 and frightened of hurting their family. 

“The pressure in the farmer community to get married and produce an heir is enormous,” he explained before recalling the story of a man who tried to take his own life before his father found him and saved his life. 

Ironson continued: “But when the father later learned his son was gay, he’d said: ‘If I’d known he was gay I’d have left him to kill himself.'” 

Viewers praised the show for spreading awareness of the issue, but called it “heartbreaking”.