Cornish farmer speaks out about hiding his sexuality for decades after fearing he wouldn't fit in

Simon Martyn Matthews has spoken out about hiding his sexuality for decades. Credit: Greg Martin/Cornwall Live

A Cornish farmer has spoken out about spending decades hiding his sexuality because he was afraid he wouldn't fit in.

Simon Martyn Matthews, who lives and works on the Lizard peninsula, said: "I never felt that I could be gay and a farmer in Cornwall. It never once felt like that was all going to go together for me."

Simon has worked on and off on dairy farms in Cornwall his entire life. But the herdsman spent most of his life hiding a huge part of himself, before coming out to his family at the age of 30.

Now happily married to husband Ian Martyn Matthews who he has been with for 18 years, he says he wishes he could have "been himself" sooner.

Simon is now happily married and has been with his husband for 18 years. Credit: Greg Martin/Cornwall Live

The 51-year-old recalled being a teenager and living up to the expectation that he was "mad about women" - when he was really dreaming about boys. He also spoke about his parents knowing he was gay the entire time, and later finding out some of his farmer friends were actually gay too.

Simon says he's been "lucky" with the acceptance he's had from his family, and whilst wondering if he would've had the same acceptance had he come out sooner, he says his experience has made him who he is today.

The 1980s and 90s held huge challenges for the gay community - both those living openly and privately.

Simon remembers well how different it was today, having "no gay role-models" locally when he was growing up, and having never even seen or met another gay man.

The AIDS crisis during this time also had an impact on him.

He said: “During my mid teens was also when AIDS had started and there was the tombstone advert and subconsciously, that was in the back of my mind."

"I thought that if I came out and had sex with men that I was going to get AIDS and that I was going to die. So I just kept trying to shove it to the back of my mind.”

Simon has worked on and off on dairy farms in Cornwall his entire life. Credit: Greg Martin/Cornwall Live

Simon recalls one time he was sat at home with his parents, watching the television, when Eastenders aired the first gay kiss on a British soap in 1989 and thinking that one day that would hopefully be him.

Whilst his family admitted to knowing what was going on, people around Simon say they had been fooled by his attempts to hide his sexuality.

He said: "Years later, a farmer who used to milk with me when I was younger also came out as gay and admitted that he was mad after me but said I wouldn’t shut up about women.”The catalyst that lead Simon to feel he could come out was when he went to Torquay to watch a show his female friend was taking part in. She had forewarned him that quite a few of her friends were gay, but she had no idea Simon was at the time.He said: “I remember thinking I was actually going to meet a load of gay guys.“These were just ordinary people. They just had ordinary jobs, they were plumbers or shop clerks and I realised they could be just like everyone else but gay at the same time. "Until that point, I never felt I could be gay, and a farmer, and in Cornwall. It never once felt like that was all going to go together."

Simon said he was bullied at school for preferring singing to sport. Credit: Greg Martin/Cornwall Live

Simon says hiding his sexuality was "very lonely" - but when he finally came out to his family, they showed a lot of support.He said: “They supported me all the way. A few months later I had even met a man who was having problems coming out with his family and my parents were so good they even let him move in.”He added: "A lot has changed since then obviously. The biggest thing being people's attitudes.

"I cannot imagine how I would have come out when I was 20, or even if I did, I definitely don't think I would have been able to stay in Cornwall at the time.

"Luckily my mum and dad backed me and it does take time. You can't force it and I certainly wouldn't have liked to have been born twenty years earlier, but perhaps if I had been born at a later time, like some of the guys I know now, then it could have been easier."