'The Farmer Wants A Husband'
It’s going to get so much better… I can assure you it does. Remember, you’re not the problem.”
Published: The Australia Times: SPECTRUM 1st edition
“And then the customer called me a faggot and told me to get a haircut…”
If ever you needed living proof of the often-dangerous concoction of homosexuality and rural life, Sam Hanson, 18, is your man. We sit cross-legged on the bed in his new Balaclava apartment, him having made the move from Shepparton a few weeks prior. Candles line the bedroom; coffee mugs are keeping us warm. We’re cousins. Friends. Gay men.
“Is there a visible gay community in Shepparton?”
“Yeah, nup. Not really. Not at all.”
I listen to Sam as he talks about a toxic, masculine-driven mentality in Shepparton (essentially, football, beers and female-loving). Outside of this category you find yourself susceptible to harassment. Sam, a dancer, was bullied throughout childhood and started seeing a psychologist at 15 to help his anxiety. “Many rural gay men feel restricted from who they want to be. I needed to find myself more. To be more open. That’s why I had to leave Shepparton.”
So, what needs to be done to change this? For Sam, it’s about increased exposure. “A lot of people are confused with how they’re feeling. They need to be educated about what sexuality is; that there shouldn’t be a right and wrong. It’s about being who you are.”
“What advice would you give to a young, country boy, coming to terms with his sexuality?” I ask. “You need to talk to someone. Seek a change,” he says. “It’s going to get so much better… I can assure you it does. Remember, you’re not the problem.”
We pause. He hugs his coffee mug for warmth. I look at my cousin now, and see a defiant, yet bruised, product of a rural community’s inherent homophobia.
Copyright © 2016 Louis Hanson