Welcome to !Hola Papi!, the advice column where John Paul Brammer helps people work through their anxieties, fears, and life's queerest questions. If you need advice, send him a question at email@example.com.
I have a big life decision coming up, and I need a queer perspective. I grew up on a farm in rural Kansas, and like a lot of gay boys, I saw my dad come home seven days a week, dirty and tired, and went, "Nope!" However, now that I've had about a decade of college, travel, and work outside of my hometown, I'm realizing that going back and farming doesn't sound half bad. In fact, leaving middle management for the farming lifestyle closer to family, friends, and "home" sounds pretty great.
I came out to my family and friends after college and they were all pretty chill about it, so while I know there is a chance that some good ol' boy will bash my head in, I'm willing to play the part of the gay guy that I could have used as a role model as a kid.
My concern here is that while I have traveled and lived across the U.S., I haven't really had a gay time. The places I've lived since I came out have been more conservative so there's not really a gay scene. The thought of going to a bar alone when traveling is mortifying, and basically all my friends are straight so they take me to straight bars when I visit. And of course the Great Plains isn't really a hotbed of LGBTQ+ activity. I would be moving relatively close to civilization, but when I pull up Grindr at my parents' place, travel times range from 20 minutes to two hours. Even my mother, with whom I have a pretty broad "we're not discussing that" policy, has brought up that while she would happily have me move home tomorrow, she is also worried that I never lived in a big city. And while I would love to deuce out to Chicago for a couple years, this kind of career change doesn't really afford me that opportunity.
I guess I'm just worried I'm having to choose my dream career and life I enjoy over Being Gay(tm), and I'm looking for assurance that I'm not going to turn into that lonely, creepy 60-year-old old guy on Grindr that regrets never going to Folsom, getting married, or whatever else I may or may not do. I know that neither you nor anyone can really do that, but I'll take whatever you got.
Dorothy in Oz
"I know [you] can't really do that."
Oh, how you underestimate me, dear Dorothy. I know it's been five whole minutes since I've mentioned it, but I'll have you know I was raised in the countryside. I was born a coal miner's daughter. I remember well the well where I drew water.
Now I don't do this for everybody, but I thought it would be fun to go the extra mile for you here. Which is fitting, considering all the extra miles you'll be driving to harvest dick in the nearest city to your farm. Grindr hookups shouldn't be a major factor in your move, by the way. I live in New York City, and let me tell you you're not missing much on that front besides poppers-induced headaches and the brief thrill of wondering if you're about to die.
Anywho, you know what I done gone and did, Dorothy? I tracked down a real life gay rancher to offer some perspective on your dilemma. I'd love to do it myself, but I famously fled rural Oklahoma with nothing but my bindle and my vague notion of what a "Uniqlo" was and now I'm a rat with blisteringly fast WiFi who lives under the M train in Brooklyn.
This is Max Kruemcke, a self-described "gay space cowboy" who is a cattle rancher in Bastrop, Texas. I asked him some questions on your behalf (your anonymity has remained intact because we here at !Hola Papi! believe in ETHICS) and wanted to include some nuggets of wisdom from him, since he's living the lifestyle you might soon be inhabiting. The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity and comedy, why not.
Papi: So LGBTQ+ people exist in rural America, right?
Max: Surprisingly, Bastrop has a pretty lively queer community. Our mechanic is a trans woman named Vivian, and her wife, JoAnn, raises pigs and cattle. We have a dinner club that meets up once a month that consists of other gay ranchers and farmers and older retired women. We share equipment and knowledge between all our farms.
Papi: What are your thoughts on wanting to live in the big city to have a big gay life?
Max: Okay, so this is a tough one. I think its worth starting with the idea that the gay experience is not limited to amount of time spent in large cities like San Francisco and New York and just living there doesn't mean that you're going to live the beautiful life depicted in Instagays' profiles.
Papi: True, true, not everyone can be me. So what do you think about the whole "queer lifestyle" vs. "rural lifestyle" dilemma?
Max: I think it's possible to not have to choose between your gay identity and rural life. Queer people exist in plenty of places outside the big cities. There's also a trend of millennials going rural to avoid the crushing cost of living associated with urban life. The question is: Is your hometown one of these places where young people are going?
Max: Is your hometown a welcoming place? Bastrop is relatively conservative as most small Texas towns are, but it has a culture of acceptance. I've met plenty of openly gay men at the local bar hanging out with grungy bikers and townies. Other towns in Texas are not necessarily like this.
If your hometown isn't necessarily growing or welcoming, is there another town in between your parents and a larger city that is? Which aspect is more important: the farming or the family? It's a tough decision to make and I wish I could definitively say "move rural and be gay," but it's a huge risk moving to a place that might make you ultimately feel isolated. Farming is hard and doesn't make a lot of money, and it requires help. You can absolutely have a gay ol' time of it, but you can't do it alone.
Ultimately, I think the idea that you have to choose between gay bliss or rigid traditionalism is the wrong way to approach this decision. I can guarantee you there are plenty of queer people out there that want to farm.
Okay, this is me, Papi, writing to you again, Dorothy.
Wow, Max sure gave some great advice up there. I hope he doesn't launch a competing column about rural living. It would really put a dent in the market I'm trying to corner. But I do hope that was helpful! As for me, I'm going to go ahead and say it sounds like you already know where your heart is. So go out there, plant it in the ground, and see if it grows more hearts.