As part of the Pride in Agriculture series, it’s important we include diverse perspectives knowing LGBTQ+ issues impact many family and friends in agriculture and rural communities. So I am excited to have several allies share their stories. Today, I want you to meet another great friend, mentor, and ally in agriculture, Janice Person.
Janice always works hard to bring joy to the room and uses her talents in communications and advocacy to help everyone in agriculture and rural communities. You don’t have to wait long to find out that Janice loves traveling, and meeting new people, and her absolute favorite crop is cotton (a.k.a. @JPLovesCotton being her online persona). You can find Janice on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.
Janice Person, Ally in Agriculture
When Ryan mentioned his pride series to me earlier this spring, I could see it would be amazing. When he asked me if I would contribute, I was both surprised and honored as he explained he wanted allies to be part of the series and my heart grew three sizes.
As someone who has worked in agriculture my entire career (and at this point we are talking decades), I have seen people dig in and have seen people shamed. I’ve tried to do the right thing but having Ryan say he had seen me…. Well, that’s why Pride Month is so important and why it’s important for allies to be active beyond the month of June.
Most moments where I’ve been an ally have just been part of friendship and family relationships. I’ve been lucky to have a really diverse circle of family and friends throughout my life and remember seeing some vulnerable and offering my support as I would for all friends. Sometimes that support was visible to others and other times likely invisible.
But I remember a moment when the visibility really shifted because I had started blogging and sharing things more routinely.
Sharing Thoughts on Gay Marriage
As family and friends finally got legal relationship status of getting married, I was lucky enough to see the celebrations of love in my circles. I had never needed the piece of paper to welcome the new spouse to the family, but the legal coverage it offered and the chance to really celebrate their love through ceremony. That was something that demanded I be more public in my support of gay & queer friends, so I wrote a blog post about 25 Years of Love, A Month of Marriage: My View of Gay Marriage.
I confessed at the time that it felt strange having to proclaim my support publicly, but as I thought about it, I had been public in support of untold unions previously. Showing up at weddings, hosting showers, etc, and more recently sharing the experience on social media. And yet so many people were demonstratively opposed to others marrying the person they loved. I needed to speak up.
Having Conversations Makes an Impact
The blog post and the other things inspired others to join in sharing glimpses of their view in the comments, but what stands out in my memory of that moment in 2015 was the private conversation with a farmer friend in Alabama who messaged me that the post meant a lot to him. As a child, he almost never got to see an aunt whom he really enjoyed spending time with. He never quite understood why.
It wasn’t until he was an adult that he realized some in the family had made it clear lesbians weren’t welcome. While he found it hard to take on older generations, he made sure the aunt knew she always had a place with him. I frequently think about how much that had to mean to his aunt and how his actions had impacted other family members and set a different tone as he started his own family.
That’s something to be proud of for certain!
How to be an Ally in Agriculture?
You don’t have to wear rainbow clothes and go to marches in June to be an ally, but feel free to do it. It can be a lot of fun to be around that much positivity of self. I certainly enjoy it at times. But showing people you love them? That is always in season.
The Pride in Agriculture series highlights voices from LGBTQ+ people and allies in agriculture to feature the diversity and leadership within our industry who work to make our community a better place for everyone. To have your LGBTQ+ or Ally story featured, contact Ryan Goodman here.
Consider making a contribution this month to the Cultivating Change Foundation, whose mission is to value and elevate LGBTQ+ agriculturists through advocacy, education, and community.