Today in the Pride in Agriculture series, meet ally Britany Hurst Marchant (she/her) lives in Firth, Idaho with her husband, Luke. I first connected with Britany during her time working with Idaho cattle ranchers when I was invited to speak at one of their meetings in Sun Valley and I’m excited to hear her perspectives on allyship in agriculture. Connect with Britany on Instagram (@britanyahm) and on Facebook.
How are you involved in the agriculture community?
I grew up in rural Idaho, but not in agriculture. After college, I lobbied and directed environmental policy and communications for the Idaho Cattle Association and now do communications and grower outreach and education for the Idaho Wheat Commission.
Why are you proud to be part of the agriculture community?
Agriculture is the backbone of America, and the men, women, and families raising and growing food for the world are some of the very best people I know. They work hard but don’t take life too seriously. They are down-to-earth, passionate, committed, and connected to the planet. It’s intrinsically rewarding to be part of something so much bigger than oneself and agriculture is the epitome of that.
How have you felt or seen support for LGBTQ+ people in agriculture and rural communities?
I grew up in rural Idaho, where one was either a White Protestant or a Latinx Catholic. However, I had the great opportunity throughout my life to travel outside of rural America often, which from a young age made me realize that rural America is not where you go to find inclusion of diversity and, as a result, rural communities are missing out.
It is my nature to defend/protect/advocate for friends, family, neighbors, peers, etc. who don’t have a voice, and there are a few moments, conversations, and events that have been turning points in my effort to be a better ally of the LGBTQ+ community.
One was several years ago when a national meeting I was attending for work happened to coincide with the host city’s pride celebrations. I found myself in many conversations where the general idea was that pride was unnecessary because we don’t celebrate straightness.
Those conversations made me realize that we need more allies and advocates and more support in agriculture and rural America for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Since then, I have heard heartbreaking stories of suicide completion in rural areas and agriculture because of the way LGBTQ+ members are treated. I love seeing the ways Daren Williams or Maggie Malson and Ryan Goodman, to name a few, champion and support the LGBTQ+ community in agriculture, but we need to do better.
How do you consider yourself an ally?
Where I live, which is colloquially referred to as the ‘Mormon Corridor’, there is a devastating amount of pushback to LGBTQ+ allyship. I don’t want to say that this has anything to do with a particular religion or group of people, because there are a lot of really wonderful allies and advocates in my region who are standing up and speaking out on LGBTQ+ issues in a positive way. I look to them as examples of how to be better and I appreciate their voice and their courage.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who have been told and who have chosen to believe that the LGBTQ+ community is to blame for XYZ social issue. These aren’t bad people, they’re just ignorant and believe what their circles of society have told them to believe.
At first, it was uncomfortable for me to speak up in opposition to these views and ideas, to support the LGBTQ+ community, to call out ignorant, bigoted, homophobic, archaic, and unfounded ideas, but I can’t sit silently in those conversations, either, and the more opportunities I take, the easier it gets.
I am certain I don’t always say the right things or express my thoughts the way I want to, but I believe saying something is better than saying nothing.
What can people in the larger agriculture community do to be strong allies of LGBTQ+?
You don’t have to start with a big, grand gesture. Start with the basic foundations of respect. You can practice allyship, even if it’s uncomfortable.
Use preferred pronouns, especially when someone asks that they be used – a small but mighty gesture to be more visible as an ally. Don’t ask a colleague about another colleague’s sexual orientation. Treat members of the LGBTQ+ community as you would others in your circles.
Find things you have in common rather than differences and focus on those. When you hear someone making or sharing homophobic “jokes” or memes, call attention to the inappropriateness of those actions and stop them.
Show respect for others and understand not everyone lives in the same way you choose to live.
These are just a few examples of actions in conversations that can make a big difference. Basically, be a decent human and treat people with respect. Treat everyone the way you would want them to treat your kid, your best friend, your parents, your sibling, and your partner.
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.