Gareth Barlow

BBC Journalist, Newsreader and Presenter

If life’s stereotypes are true, I should never have become a farmer. Growing up in Reading, to a non-farming family amid the splendours of suburbia, it wasn’t the natural career path. But thanks to family friends who owned a hill farm and two brace of vintage Massey Fergusons, being a farmer was all I ever wanted to do.

My break came when, aged thirteen, my family relocated to North Yorkshire. A few years later I did what many of my friends thought was the unthinkable and sold my Xbox. With the proceeds I bought six Hebridean sheep and started my farming career. For the following half a dozen years I finished school – briefly visited university – farmed, worked as a butcher and as a slaughterman.

I was about thirteen when I began to figure myself out and discover the real reason I was watching the rugby. Being gay didn’t really bother me, there were no boys in my life, nor in the village, there wasn’t a reason to say anything. So I didn’t.

By the time I was in my early twenties it had probably become somewhat noticeable I hadn’t shown any interest in the opposite sex. In fact my mother – who has always been sharp – had started saying “when you find yourself a boyfriend or a girlfriend”. I note she said boyfriend first.

When I finally came out I cried with relief, got a few hugs and then life carried on as before. No drama, no welcome pack, no comments. If anything it was slightly underwhelming, but at the same time empowering and exciting. In fact the only constraint of being a young gay man in rural North Yorkshire was that it was pretty easy to exhaust your options on Tinder!

Four years ago I sold the business and went to the work for the BBC. Working for the World Service amid the bright lights of London is a far cry from home. I’ve gone from a place and industry not renowned for its LGBT+ status, to a city and a sector that most certainly is.

There’s been the odd comment, but that’s life. In the abattoir I was asked if I was gay and if I was “then don’t stand near me”. I didn’t move and I don’t think he caught homosexuality… Over the years I’ve had far more comments about the fact I drink my tea black, than about my sexuality.

My boyfriend and I will soon celebrate our second anniversary and I couldn’t be happier. Looking back I’m fortunate to say I wouldn’t change a thing. The rural community back home has always been supportive of my endeavours as a farmer, as a rural reporter for local radio and now as I read the news from the depths of Broadcasting House.

The happy, confident and contented man I am today has been in part formed by my days farming and for that I’ll forever be grateful. If you’re reading this and you’re not out, I can honestly promise you one thing; farmers will care more that you plough straight, than if you are straight. Just be yourself.

Elizabeth ElcoateGareth Barlow