Baa-lind Date: Meet the gay farmer looking for love on BBC’s rural dating show
Dating isn’t easy at the best of times, but when you live miles away from cafes, bars or even neighbours, it can be even trickier.
That’s why BBC Two’s new programme Love in the Countryside, presented by farmer’s daughter Sara Cox, aims to help eight rural singletons from across the UK find companionship, setting them up on a series of blind dates.
Richard, a gay 39-year-old sheep and cattle farmer from Dumfries & Galloway in southern Scotland, spoke to PinkNews about why he went on the show – and what dating in rural scene is like.
“Meeting somebody is very hard – there’s not a lot of single people in the area,” he says. “Being gay is even harder because there are less gay people to meet too.”
Far from a short hop on a train or bus, Richard is a two-and-a-half hour journey from the nearest gay scene – which makes meeting for an impromptu coffee more difficult.
“The distance to meet someone is completely different from a city. If you meet someone online you might be 100 miles away, but if you’re in a city, you are 10 minutes away.”
Although Richard went on the show to meet someone, he also hopes to make new friends.
“I think it’s also to show people that being a gay farmer is no different to being a straight farmer, we are still the same,” Richard adds.
In April, a powerful segment on BBC’s Countryfile explored the high rates of mental illness and suicide among gay farmers in Britain, as a result of stigma that is still rife in rural communities.
Statistics cited on the programme show around 50 farmers a year end their lives. Reasons range from low market prices to stress and poor harvests, but homosexuality also appears to be a significant factor.
Acclaimed film God’s Own Country recently explored the life of a farmer who has come to terms with his sexuality, but in reality, the stereotyping of farming as a “macho” profession – and the accompanying expectation to “marry the farmer’s daughter” – leads many to repress their sexuality.
“A lot of people are frightened to come out,” Richard says. “It’s very hard, you think, ‘Am I going to be accepted?’ That’s hard to take. I can totally understand why people don’t come out, or move to the city to have that life.”
“You are terrified about how you are going to be treated. I can see why suicide is probably higher in the rural areas because some people – not everyone – will have the isolation and loneliness of being a farmer, but also the added pressure of knowing that you are not being true to yourself.”
Richard says he decided to come out when he was in his early 30s, after he started dating someone.
“At the time I was very low, I thought will I be accepted? What will people say? What is my family going to think? How will my family be treated? That puts a lot of pressure on it.”
“I just wanted it out there,” Richard says, adding he wanted to put a stop to any gossip.
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“I put a comment on Facebook saying if you have heard the stories and rumours, yes, it’s true, I want to live my life and be myself. And from that, my goodness, it was two days of phone calls and messages. The support was unbelievable.”
That isn’t to say he hasn’t experienced unwelcome comments from some people. “I’ve had the negative side as well, but you just have to pick yourself up and go on,” Richard adds.
Dating in any scenario requires a fairly high level of confidence – and airing your love life on national television certainly isn’t for everyone.
“It took a lot of consideration to do, because you are putting your personal life out there and I do like to keep my personal life to myself. And it’s opening up not just to your friends,” Richard says.
But still, he adds, you have to embrace life.
“You only live once. I am doing this to try and meet someone, or to try and make friends, but also if it gives one other person the confidence to come out and be themselves, that’s better.”
Love in the Countryside airs on Wednesdays on BBC Two