Micheál Cullinane works full-time on his family’s beef and dairy farm. Growing up he always knew he was gay. Taking the step to come out has seen a major weight lifted off his shoulders.
A YOUNG farmer from Rosscarbery said he’s proud to be able to represent the LGBTQ+ community in rural Ireland.
Micheál Cullinane works full-time on his family beef and dairy farm, having previously worked as a support worker for CoAction in Bantry and Dunmanway. Growing up, he said, he always knew he ‘was different’, that he was gay.
Studying social care in Waterford allowed him to live two separate lives, he remembers. ‘I could be one thing while I was away during the week, and something else when I came home at the weekend, when I was firmly back in the closet,’ said Micheál.
He went on to study a healthcare course at the College of Commerce campus in Skibbereen but with his mental health ‘taking a dip’, he knew he had to be true to himself.
Eventually, at the age of 21, he told his mother Una, during evening milking time in the parlour. There were tears, he remembers, but also lots of understanding.
‘It was very difficult, coming from a traditional farming background, there was a sense of shame. My nana wanted me to be the priest of the family! But my mum said she always knew, and she told the rest of my family and relatives for me.
‘The relief was huge, it really wasn’t as big a deal as I’d thought. The weight off me was just immense. And there’s been nothing but understanding and support since,’ he said.
In a previous Instagram post he said that ‘growing up in the countryside in Ireland, I thought being gay was wrong and illegal … I thought that I would be an old-aged bachelor living by myself. But knowing that I have friends and family who love me for who I am … I am the happiest I have ever been in my life.’
The third generation farmer has a strong social media presence, with 29,000 followers on TikTok and over 1,100 on Instagram, and numbers growing all the time.
His content is primarily farming-related and he also reinforces the message that it’s ‘ok to be gay and from rural Ireland.’
Fortunately he’s never experienced any negativity in any sphere. ‘But things would still be quite conservative around here, perhaps a little judgemental, and I don’t know of any other openly gay West Cork farmer,’ he said.
He recently contributed to a Macra panel with MEP and LGBTQ+ activist Maria Walsh, where he shared his story, and was inundated with messages afterwards, from people saying he had helped them take the step, to come out.
He joined Kilmeen Macra last November, another welcoming space, and recently represented Carbery at the Mr Personality Festival in Clonmel.
He has also just completed his green cert and is responsible for milking the family’s herd of 280 cows. ‘I’m up every morning at 5am and milking that number of cows usually takes up to four hours,’ he said.
‘We plan to upgrade from our 10-unit parlour to a 50-unit rotary parlour shortly, which will be life-changing!’
The past six months, he said, he’s been living his best life. ‘The weight of coming out has been lifted off me. ‘I’m enjoying life on the farm, and have more balance with a good social life,’ he said.
His advice to anyone struggling with their identity is to be true to yourself.
‘Also remember to take your time, there’s no pressure to do it. ‘Surround yourself with people who accept you. And remember there are professional supports are there if you need them.’