If I'd Seen 'Alone Out Here' As A Trans Child In Rural Australia, I Would Have Felt Less Alone
When I was a child, one of the things that terrified me beyond words was the thought that I’d be alone when I grew up.
As a rural kid who was feeling deeply uncomfortable in their own skin due to both their gender identity and sexuality, that feeling was something that I couldn’t escape throughout the entirety of the 1990s and early 2000s -- right from the moment that I realised that I was different to everyone else around me.
While that may sound like a strange thing to be afraid of for many people today, it’s a feeling that many people from the LGBTI community who live in rural areas still grapple with daily.
Loneliness, like any other powerful emotion, can be devastating to people’s mental health and feelings of self-value if left unaddressed. But while the culture within a lot of rural towns has become a lot more accepting of both gay and transgender people over recent years -- as evidenced partially by the results of the marriage equality survey -- little has been done to address the issue of loneliness.
Alone Out Here, a new documentary streaming on 10 Play, is about a gay farmer who is revolutionising not only how we talk about mental health, but also how agriculture can better handle the economics of climate change -- and it’s nothing short of game-changing.
While Jon Wright might not think of himself as a role-model or a thought-leader, within the first few minutes of the documentary, it’s clear that this is the case.
Speaking with a candour that most people would struggle to replicate, Jon lays bare everything about his life as a farmer who is gay for the entire world to see.
“As sorry as I felt about myself about being a single gay man in the country, the sorry was never strong enough to make me change and go and do something else…” he says. “But that torment came.”
From his dedication to developing a new breed of cattle which could dramatically reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses produced by the beef industry, through to speaking with complete emotional rawness about his own experiences as a gay man in a rural setting, Jon’s story highlights the fact that there's no wrong way to be yourself.
As a shot of a newborn calf struggling to its feet and taking its first steps shows, for people who truly love living on the land, agriculture is as much a part of a person’s identity as the range of people that they love. While Jon could easily have moved to Sydney and thrived within any professional environment given his intelligence, it’s this love of the land and his passion for his cattle which would have made any such move psychologically unbearable for him.
“It’s just pro’s and cons,” Jon says in the documentary. “Do you want the farm, do you want what you’ve created to turn into something? Or are you just going to throw it all away and try and meet somebody in Sydney… And I stuck with it, I guess.”
Over the last 40 years, one of the misconceptions that’s developed about the gay community is that there is only one way to be gay -- and that one way is probably based on stereotypes people have in their heads. But Jon’s body language, ruggedly handsome looks, professional yet practical sense of style and career accomplishments puts that myth to rest (for people who still traffic in those old stereotypes).
As much as Alone Out Here highlights the challenges that still exist for many gay people in regional Australia, it also shows hope for the future when it comes to both agriculture and climate change.
The beef cattle industry is responsible for nearly 10% of Australia’s emissions and a big part of Jon’s work is focussed on proving that lower emissions can come with higher profits, lower costs and fewer environmental impacts.
In fact, Jon’s “Blue-E” (Angus and Shorthorn cross) herd of cattle have arguably provided a blueprint for how to reduce greenhouse emissions without damaging the economy. This line has reduced methane gas levels while also allowing the cattle to put on the same amount of weight with up to 30 percent less food. Thanks to over 20 years of selective breeding, extensive testing, better land management practices and other factors, Jon clearly has a lot to be proud of.
Whether it be personal messages about love, identity and family, or more social-orientated messages about economic and environmental responsibility, Alone Out Here speaks with complete clarity.
I just wish that I could show it to my 13-year-old self so she’d know that she wasn’t alone.
Watch Alone Out Here on 10 Play.