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8 August 2011, 4:00 pm 3 Comments

Personal Narratives: Coming Out…Of the Closet…Of the Barn…Over and Over and Over Again

Crossposted with permission from Luke Hall, pasture-raised queer


I came out of the closet about 11 years ago. Told my friends, told my parents, and for the most part the closet has been in my past. Though one thing that is common about coming out narratives is that you are never completely out. As you go along in life and are in new situations you constantly navigate the closet and how and when you disclose information to new co-workers, people on the bus, or family members in the dark.


While my life is pretty much an open book, I routinely catch my inner conscious navigating what terminology to use to describe people in my life and the implications it has on my position in or out of the closet. When do you refer to your “partner,” “boyfriend,” or “your friend?” Or when does holding hands out you in the wrong neighborhood? Never more have I been more aware of it then when shooting the breeze with Amish farmers that I have worked with over the past year. Inevitably, the question about a wife comes up; I do have a beard after all.


This past year I have found myself in a different closet- actually less of a closet, more of a barn. And just like the closet, I find that I am repeatedly outing myself as a farmer over and over again. Just like a fear of what people will think if they know I like men, “as more than just friends,” before I tell someone that I quit my job as a lawyer in DC to be a farmer, I often pause. I am familiar with the awkward silence — why would you do something like that? — and confused look that many give me.


I first came out to my family a week after I graduated from college. My dad and I were on an eight hour drive to Washington, DC. I was going to start an externship at a non- profit there. I was driving and mentioned my boyfriend at the time by name. Over the past few months his name had come up multiple times. My dad must have known something was up and asked, “so who is this Aaron guy?” I responded, “he’s the guy I have been dating for a couple months.” In retrospect, popping that on my dad two hours into an eight hour car ride was not the opportune moment.


People say, once you come out once the rest gets easier and easier. That may be true for telling your family you are gay, but so far, the two times I have come out of the barn as a farmer have been hard for me. I wait and wait and wait to tell my parents. Then before I press dial on my phone I take a few deep breaths. Same is true of co-workers. But let me tell ya, once I come out of the barn I feel so much better.


Last year, when I first quit my lawyer job to do an internship on a chicken, turkey, and pig farm I came out. Then at the end of the season, with my tail between my legs, I returned to the city to a life of drudgery chained behind a desk.


When I left the farm Brooks warned me that I had been spoiled: that once a farmer, always a farmer. Brooks’ words quickly rang true. I soon realized, after a summer of constant movement and physical labor outside, that I was spoiled. I could not return to an office building, stale air, and sedentary desk work. Eight hours of sitting behind a desk in front of a computer was torture, compared to hard physical labor in the searing heat 12 hour days on a farm. Farm work, challenged me, stimulated me, and helped me find a new path.


So after a bleak urban winter of dormancy, as the crocus flowers were shooting up above the soil, I knew that I had to return to a farm. I could not last a spring and summer in the city. I needed dirt under my nails, sweat on my brow, and the satisfaction of a drop dead sleep due to exhaustive work during the day.


Here I am, back at the barn doors, coming out. No longer a desk jockey, I am back to farming. This go around I am working on a produce farm in Central Pennsylvania. I’m here I’m queer, I’m a farmer…again. The pasture-raised queer returns to the field.

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  • Christopher in VA said:

    A small piece of unsolicited advice: speaking as a queer who ran his own farm and community supported agriculture program for two years, let me suggest that you continue to fill that agricultural hankering by working on farms owned by *others*… Don’t let the beauty and romance of the country seduce you into thinking that you’d be best served by running your own operation. There are ways to make small farms financially viable, but being responsible for the total operation (and the profit or red ink) is a heavy, heavy load to carry. Sate your agrarian yearnings with internships, and make my words: you’ll be a happier man!

  • Christopher in VA said:

    er, mark, not make:-)

  • Adrienne said:

    I am a gay farmer as well! My wife and I are saving for the day we can have our own small farm. Keep up the good work!