APPEARING half naked in the 2013 Irish Farmer Calendar is a brave decision for all the men who took part but not for John James Hickey.
He made a much tougher one when he came out as gay almost 10 years ago.
“There are gay farmers out there but it is bit like anything in a rural setting - there isn’t as much support out there. I’m out since I was 19 or 20.
“Coming out was important to me because it reflects who I am. You can’t be honest with everyone else unless you are honest with yourself,” said John, who is from Ballina, Co Tipperary.
He got 100 per cent support from his mum and dad, Anne and Patrick, and siblings, Padraig and Marian.
John works as a civil servant in Limerick city, is secretary of Limerick Pride and chairperson of the Red Ribbon Project.
He still finds time to work on the family suckler farm at night and weekends.
“We had Chaorlais’ but we have moved over to Limousins in the last number of years. I help out my dad and brother.
“On a family farm you’re born in to it and you can’t get out of it! Some things don’t work to the clock and farming is one of those jobs,” said James, who becomes the first gay farmer to appear in the calendar, which is in its fourth year.
He says it is important to have positive role models for young gay men in rural Ireland: “I’m involved with Limerick Pride to help the visibility of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people. The calendar is something completely different and it challenges stereotypes. There is nothing better than challenging stereotypes.”
He adds the national LGBT number is 1890 929539.
“For any farmers or anyone within the rural community it is there if they are looking for confidential support and want to talk to someone. If it helps one person reading this I’ve played a small part in that,” said John, who poses with a pig as Mr March.
“I think the pig and I went to the same tanning salon! joked John, who is ready for the slagging from friends. I had seen previous calendars and it looked like good craic but it was more about the charity. The calendar’s chosen charity is Bothar,” he added. John certainly went above the call of duty as he wrestled with a pig in the mud.
Creator of the calendar, Ciara Ryan, said they have received orders from the US, Australia, UK, Germany, Poland and France, Hong Kong and South Africa.
“Interest in the calendar this year is far exceeding previous years and the feedback has been tremendous,” said Ms Ryan, who added that they were delighted to have their first gay farmer in the 2013 calendar.
It is now available from www.farmcalendar.com for €10 and will be in shops from October.
Gearoid Hickey, Ballyneety and Stephen Fitzgerald, Croom appeared in the 2012 calendar.