Jason was raised in rural Victoria, and realised he was gay when he was a teenager.
“I was hoping that it was something that I could fight or get rid of or never have to face up to. I had all these fears of my friends hating me, of my family being disappointed in me and just, you know, not having a happy life as a result of it.
“I was so scared of people finding out and I thought that maybe if they did I would end my life.
During that rough stage was a lot of self-loathing, and a lot of negative self-talk.
“Luckily, I ended up talking to someone about it. I reached out to a close family friend. When her reaction was positive, then all of a sudden I had someone to talk to about what I was going through.”
For Jason, coming out to his teammates was unnecessary as they had figured it out for themselves. It turned out there was only so much he could hide, but aside from expecting the worst, his teammates were fully supportive. “It was the one place I thought I’d never be able to come out, ever. I didn’t know any footballers who were gay, so I could only assume the worst, and it scared me.”
Jason's story has provided great momentum for the AFL's push to tackle homophobia in the game, with screening of 'No to Homophobia' advertisements on the big screen and as the driving force behind the AFL's first ever 'Pride Game' played between St Kilda and Sydney in Round 21 of 2016, first of its kind for a professional sporting competition in the world.
Jason now speaks publicly of his experiences and his passion for making a difference in people’s attitudes towards sexuality. “The real heroes of my story are my team mates, how they have been nothing but supportive since I came out. The homophobic slurs stopped, and our football club is stronger because of it”.
As a beyondblue Ambassador, Jason hopes his personal story will help others who are struggling with coming out in sport, or in any other context.
“Hopefully, what I can bring is a personal story of what it’s like to be gay and play football and what homophobia looks like and how it affected me… It’s about stories that change hearts and minds.
“I know if I had known of a gay footballer when I was young, it would have made a world of difference to my outlook on life and my hopes for the future.”
“I think it's important for young people who are struggling to know that there is help available and I just highly recommend talking it out. If you keep these thoughts bottled up in your head it can spiral out of control.”
“Being gay doesn't define me but it is part of who I am. If anything the journey has made me a stronger, more resilient person. My advice to anyone thinking about coming out is don't be afraid to be yourself, because you'll be surprised how accepting other people can be if you actually give them the chance.”