The Secret Life of Gay Farmers

Video by Matt Houghton


From: The Atlantic

In the United Kingdom, there is only one hotline for gay farmers. It’s run by Keith Ineson, a retired chaplain who was himself raised in a rural farming community. Growing up gay in a community that prized traditional masculinity, Ineson felt isolated. But he knew that other people bound by the same circumstances must be out there.

Landline, a short documentary from Matt Houghton, features the voices of gay farmers who have called into Ineson’s hotline. In the film’s recorded telephone conversations, gay British farmers share their candid and often shocking experiences. Houghton reconstructs haunting imagery to depict the emotional essence of their stories—half-obscured faces, a foggy landscape, a dark road at night. Many of the farmers describe a life plagued by isolation, secrecy, and shame.

“You want to scream out what the problem is, but you can’t,” one farmer says in the film. “I’ve got all these feelings of guilt from what I was doing, and feared that I would lose friends, family, my home—everything.”

“I grew up in a small rural village of West Wales,” a different farmer says. “There were rules about behavior that was tolerated. There was no such thing as a gay farmer.”
Despite having conducted thorough research on the topic, Houghton told me that he was surprised by what the farmers told him. “The film hangs totally on the honesty and openness of our contributors,” he said. “Without their generosity, it wouldn’t have been possible.”

“I’ve done a lot of interviewing in my career,” he continued, “but I was often very surprised at how quickly the people I spoke to were willing to talk about some of their most intimate experiences. That was definitely not what I expected. I think a big part of it is that, in some cases, they’d very rarely had the chance to speak freely.”