A gay kid in the country

Sep 30, 2019
Mitchell Phillis
Brisbane, Australia
Photo credit to
Ulrich Piel

There are no gay guys in the bush

I think the easiest observation of gay guys living in rural areas is that we don’t. We make up between 2.5 and 5% of the general population and yet we don’t exist in rural areas. It’s been speculated in the past, most famously by Kennedy MP Bob Katter, that there are no gay guys in the bush. That we just aren’t born that way out there. It’s obviously false but that perception is held by many and it hampers the progress of recognition and acceptance. I'm pretty sure we have the same rate of homosexuality as anywhere else in the world, the difference is that we’re not empowered to identify as such. As a result, the most common practice is to live in the closet until we can move away to a larger city.

'People got better at concealing their sexuality, going so far as marrying and having children.'

However, It’s not always easy. Our lives and identities have foundations in these small rural communities. For some, the urge to accept their sexuality and live according to it is outweighed by their sense of duty to family, community or religion. If that person’s chosen occupation doesn’t exist in larger cities, such as farming, and they can’t trust that they’ll be accepted as gay in their own community, then their only real option is to live deeply closeted. Rumours run rampant in small communities and 'witch hunts' to weed out gays have been observed. At the time they only really had to suspect you of being gay and you got ‘sorted out.’ So people got better at concealing their sexuality, going so far as marrying and having children.

How is this still a thing?

This persistent culture of homophobia could be attributed to a combination of closed-mindedness and outrage culture. One of the negative aspects of social media is its ability to quickly spread misinformed political statements which take advantage of small minds. It’s these vulnerable people’s narrow world views that prevent them from being able to separate fact from opinion and recognise when their values are being twisted and applied to a person who happens to be gay. Examples of this behaviour were apparent during the Same-sex Marriage Plebiscite in 2017, where we got a shameful insight into the opinions of the many on the freedoms of the few. Campaigners against the legal redefinition of marriage abused the naïve public’s opinion by demonising Same-Sex Marriage as a gateway to the degradation of Australia. They were successful. While we may have won the right to marry by a pathetic 12% margin, they successfully associated Same-Sex Marriage to 'the end of freedom of speech.'

Times are changing

'Culture is a reactive societal utility.'

But culture is a reactive societal utility. The perceptions of the next generation will be largely shaped by the lessons learned by this generation and generations prior. It’s easy to explain homophobia away as human nature responding to unknown territory, but underpinning it is a lack of desire to understand the unknown. If we instilled in our youth the desire to get curious instead of furious, to try to understand before judging, we could erode the foundations of homophobia. Social progressiveness may run slower in small towns but who knows. In a generation or two they’ll catch up and then we can finally start seeing more cowboys on Grindr…

Mitchell Phillis
Brisbane, Australia

Mitchell was born and raised on a cattle and grain property south of Emerald in Central QLD. He likes candlelit dinners, jogging, and listening to the anguished cries of his enemies as they perish, all the while working in Airline Flight Planning. Connect with him on Facebook or Instagram to talk about being a country kid!

What I learned...
  1. Political ignorance can fuel homophobia and segregation in small towns.

  2. The 2017 plebiscite revealed that many people still don't see homosexuality as normal.

  3. We should educate every successive generation of kids to be curious instead of judgemental.

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