Homosexuality in agriculture isn’t always what you imagine it to be. For example, farmers liking farmers or cowboys having the hots for other cowboys. Even if we do usually smell a lot better, dress better, and know how to win a lady’s heart more than the regular guys that isn’t the case. It’s about trying to be the person you are meant to be in an industry that may lack knowledge of a very diverse group of individuals. People often think less of gay men in agriculture because of their sexual orientation. They call them names and find themselves in awkward conversations due to lack of support because of lack of knowledge. I am Logan Runyen and this is my story of homosexuality in agriculture.
In the beginning
While attending grade school, I just wanted to be like everyone else and fit in, just like any other kid would want to feel. I enjoyed school to an extent when it didn’t involve doing math problems and defining vocabulary. I had the teachers and some family who made every day a lot more enjoyable or, so it seemed. Unfortunately, there was one thing that always hurt me and has forever scarred me. The bullies were often disguised as very close family members, friends, and strangers. I mention family and friends because they disguised themselves to appear as they would never judge me. They taunted me, called me names, and made fun of how I acted. I wasn’t like everyone else, and it didn’t make sense as to why it had to be me. There was always one phrase that included a specific word that scared me, haunted me, and made my stomach turn. It made me feel like I needed to disappear or fake it and never tell anyone. As the years went on, I seemed to get stronger but really it was only the beginning.
Everyone enters high school scared yet so excited about having only four short years left. I immediately wanted to join so many clubs and make as many friends as possible. After living in a small farming community, it was highly recommended to join FFA and be as involved as possible. I considered joining, and I instantly froze when I walked into the first interest meeting. I felt as if my heart was going to explode, and I could feel the pressure behind my eyes. I felt that feeling you get right before the first tear is about to make its way out of your eye. It was instantly a change of mind as I left to go back to my homeroom for the rest of the day. It was the bullies who I had done my very best to avoid because I couldn’t handle anymore name calling. They kept mentioning a word that continued to haunt me until my senior year of high school. Senior year had finally arrived, and this was going to be my best year ever. I finally was comfortable with people and didn’t let other opinions get to me as easily. FFA was going to be my thing even if it was the last thing I did. During all the great opportunities I was experiencing, I had neared a turn in my life I never knew I would encounter.
College is supposed to be the place and time when you start to form into the person you are meant to be. You get to figure out who you really are and plan for a future while hoping it all goes as planned. Over this period, I had several more people always ask me or would push me to think that thought I had been tormented with several years before. I avoided it as usual and did what I thought was best and forced myself to fake it. I hid the real me by having best friends who were girls, and it would make me feel as if this is what love really was. I had the friendship and that fake label in my head. I had a girlfriend, and that’s what I needed to have to make it through life.
My Personal Reality
I moved to Champaign, IL, in the summer of 2013 where I had my first internship and was no longer living at home. They say you never truly find yourself until you move away and live alone. That is exactly what happened to me, and it didn’t take me long at all. It was fall 2013 when things finally started to surface with a little help from a close friend. This was only three months into our friendship, and she wasn’t about to let me lie to myself. One evening, I was at her apartment, and she had noticed that I hadn’t been myself for a while because I was such a mental mess. She then proceeded to tell me that I knew what was wrong, and she wanted me to say it. I was sitting on the floor sobbing, my heart was racing, and all I thought was that I wanted to die right there. She asked me that same question again, and I lifted my head from my hands and told her. I admitted to having feelings for someone, and that they weren’t normal friend feelings. These were feelings of a crush, and it was exactly what I had never wanted in my life. It was love, and it was a real feeling but there was no way it would ever work because of his choices and who he was.
After I had made my confession and began the process in showing who I really was I actually came across someone. This person had a roommate, and they both had the same feelings I did about a different person a few months before. This started to take a toll on me, and I had hit my first wall of handing it emotionally. I finally broke down one night and called my mom in the middle of the night to have her come see me. She drove to Champaign where that night I told her and told her how much I hated myself. She didn’t seem to understand whether this was serious or not. She had told me she would love me for whoever I was, and nothing could change that. I had a feeling she didn’t believe me and that she thought this was “just a phase.” I knew it wasn’t, so I took things into my own hands and reached out to a therapist and began to start to feel better. I wasn’t mad at my mom; I just wanted to talk to a neutral resource about my feelings. This all didn’t just happen overnight but months and months of breakdowns and moments of falling to pieces. After a year and a half, I continued therapy and slowly made my way to telling my friends who I really was. All of them accepted me for who I was and that started to spark the Logan I was meant to be over all these years. I avoided my family still and always would until I found that right person to share my life with.
Change finally happened
In June of 2016, I had met someone who turned out to what I thought would be my one in a million. We met for the first time in July, and that was when my world started to feel as if it was falling into place. August had arrived, and I made the choice I had always been scared to do. I admitted to falling head over boots and asked that they be my other half. The answer was yes, and that was the best thing to happen to me in what seemed to be forever. This inspired me to finally start my process of working toward the real me and to never let negative comments or suggestions get to me. Being three hours apart was by not any means easy, but we made the best of it. I chose to drop a ball over Facebook by changing my relationship status from single to in a relationship to see what would happen. This was my way of telling all my friends that I had started another chapter in becoming who I really was. There were so many positive comments, but unfortunately, I had family members who left some negative comments because they had never met the person I was seeing. I hadn’t told them for a reason because that was for another day. For the first week of releasing that news, it was rather hard. I had to face the facts and tell some family members. They didn’t care for it and hated it because they worried about how it would affect them. I didn’t want to tell them all that I had found someone who made me happy just yet. This relationship opened so many doors and has continued to do so. As the first year went by, I became more and more comfortable with myself. I began to drop small hints of him and me on Facebook and Instagram. After receiving several messages and comments, I have learned that this is who I am. This is who I have always been, and now is the time to fall in love with myself again and to never let myself fall back to the old and fake Logan. I, Logan, am indeed gay, and this is who I am meant to be no matter what anyone says. This is the life I am choosing to live, and I can’t possibly thank everyone enough for their continued support, even the ones who tore me down, the ones who showed me things I had never seen before, and to my amazing little sister who considers me her role model. I will always do my best to make sure she has one hell of an awesome big brother. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter of my life has in store for me as well as whoever I choose to spend the rest of my life with. Lastly, thank you to my best friends, friends, and my family. Cheers to the future, and I hope you will help share my story so that I too can inspire someone else to be themselves.
After being in college for seven years, I have had so many experiences with people and the way gay men have been treated. I have only been openly gay in three of my jobs throughout my college career. One of them I worked for five years where I first began as an intern. I eventually left after transferring to another college to finish my degree. The company I worked for participated in PRIDE community events and even advertised that they were accepting of the LGBTQ group as well. When I first started there in 2013, they had still been a very conservative management, and I was still so far in the closet that there was no way I would say a word. I have since then gone back to visit my supervisors and my head boss. I recently came out to him, and it was one of the best feelings to know that I had the support from him. I have a very close friend who works there who is a lesbian. She and I have worked through a lot about being open in the workforce. I am not the fake straight Logan everyone seems to know but the fun and loving gay man who enjoys who he really is. The two of us have helped one another immensely about what it takes to stay strong in a rather one-sided industry. While attending Western Illinois University in Macomb, IL, I felt so welcomed and was never judged for who I was and or how I appeared. My first semester as a student I was welcomed with open arms from people who never batted an eye at my sexuality. People who I had never met before until the first Ag family gatherings loved me instantly. My new friends went way out of their way for me as if they had known how much I needed the shoulder to lean on.
Why is this an issue in agriculture?
The agriculture industry has a lot of people who are referred to as close minded or old fashioned. Those two labels are very common to what I had to deal with and still do to this day. Not all of them are that way, and it has been getting better as the LGBTQ community has opened. When you have a company in a small rural area, you usually get a lot of older generation companies that aren’t open about homosexuals. There are often people that get discriminated because of their lifestyles. Companies will often find ways to fire an individual because of their beliefs. They won’t fire them for being gay but find other ways such as being late to work or taking a day off without any notice. Things that you usually only get written up for are what cost you your job. People are often turned down because of their sexual preference. Some companies firmly believe that a person’s sexuality can influence their performance. In most cases this is never the scenario but is similar to judging a book by its cover.
Do I belong?
When choosing a career based upon agriculture I was often told that I wouldn’t survive because I was gay. I have dealt with several battles in my head about if this industry is really where I am meant to be. People would often toss around the idea of me not ever being manly enough or calling me any name you could think of. I have felt as if I am never taken seriously because I don’t like the same sex as the rest of the ag industry. While going through school I learned that I was not the only one who was in this boat. Like most gay men in the industry I get grief and jokes about liking guys which makes me feel better. Humor is one of the best solutions to any problem. You don’t have to be straight to be a farmer, but you do have to be a hard worker with the attitude to never give up. In this industry it was hard to feel like I belonged, but I managed to make it.
I have become part of a gay men in agriculture support group that has helped me in so many ways. Its people from all over the world but more in the U.S. Meeting people who have gone through the same struggles as I have has provided me with so much inspiration. When we have support groups, it provides help and links to resources that can help you better yourself. Everyone comes out at their own pace, but some never do come out and that is their choice. Learning from my experience with FFA back in 2007, we have come a long way. We need teachers who can help pull students in and inspire them to be who they are and to make them feel welcome. Nobody should ever be afraid to be their true selves because of what others think. A lot of things can apply to anyone in the workforce and not only the young adults. I graduated high school in the spring of 2011 which seems like ages ago but really isn’t. I had always debated coming out to my FFA advisor but wasn’t sure. In of March 2017, I attended and helped my advisor with a competition. I sat there on the bus and looked at my phone where I saw the photo of my significant other. It hit me, and I instantly started a conversation with my advisor and told her about someone I had been seeing. I showed her, and she told me how happy she was for me and that I deserve the happiness. The support that I received from her is what needs to happen now more than ever. This semester I came out to two of my professors and one who has been here only a few short months. As easily as they could’ve pushed me away they treated me no different. Both have been the most supportive and encouraging role models through the end of my college career. The future is ours, and we need to make a welcoming world for the children who have yet to arrive. We need to be the supporters to those who don’t have that shoulder to lean on or the ear to listen. You would be amazed to know how many people who are still out there trying their very best to talk about who they really are.
In response to family
Most of you may not agree with how I chose to publicize my news, but I hope you find it in your heart that I had to do it this way. This was the most comfortable way for myself and easiest way to reach everyone without calling a massive family gathering. To those who ask questions, please respect my family and to never show them any judgement. This was not their choice but mine, and if you have any further questions, please feel free to ask me.
I would like to personally thank my best friends, family, my professors at WIU, and everyone who helped shape me into the person I am today. Huge thank you to former teachers and professors for helping me polish my story to help those who may need to hear this.
Need more help?
There is a resource that has had a major impact on many lives called “Cultivating Change Summit.” This is a three-day global agriculture conference that changes its location from year after year. This will feature educational opportunities including workshops, expert panels, networking mixers, and keynotes from prominent agriculture LGBT as well as the ally industry leaders. The purpose of the Cultivating Change Summit is to bring together agriculture LGBT employees, human resources and diversity and inclusion professionals, employee resources group leaders, executives and organizational leaders, allies, and others who are working toward an equitable industry environment for LGBT agriculturist everywhere. Over 200 global agriculture leaders and partners will join to share strategies and best practices to create a community inclusive of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions within the food, fiber, and natural resources industry. More information is available here: http://www.cultivatingchangefoundation.org/about/
NOTE: This post was not created to throw LGBTQ in anyone’s face regarding religion or personal beliefs. This post was created for many reasons to help others find the courage to be who they really are and to remind them that aren’t alone. It was also created to educate people who may not know what anyone in the LGBTQ world goes through in the agriculture industry.
About the Author
My name is Logan Runyen and I am currently a super senior at Western Illinois University in Macomb, IL. If anyone who wants to contact me personally please feel free to comment or shoot me a personal email. I will keep you discreet and do my best to help path your road to success and happiness. My personal email is: firstname.lastname@example.org