Hate And Mail – We Talk Postal “Voting” With Jason Ball
Gin not beer, burgers not tacos, yes not no - this is Jason Ball
With just 7 days until the SSM survey closes, we sit down with Jason Ball – 2017 Victorian Young Australian of the year, advocate for LGBTI Community, advocate for mental health, founder of the AFL’s Pride Cup and first openly gay male AFL player.
TTM: Jason! There are only days until the survey is due! Is it true that if you don’t Instagram yourself voting, you didn’t actually vote?
JB: Haha! No… you’ve gotta post about it! But seriously – what has more impact than a TV ad, or billboard, or poster? Seeing your friends doing it, and seeing them vote yes!
TTM: OK, we learnt something today. You’ve worked quite closely with the AFL in recent years – The Pride Cup, and advocating for LGBTI acceptance – do you think they could learn something from the AFLW?
JB: I think the women have shown us how it’s done, definitely. In over 100 years of AFL history, not a single male player has come out at the elite level – it’s reflective of a problematic culture. Change will come from leaders within AFL House and the teams, and some teams are already doing a great job.
TTM: And which teams are they?
JB: St Kilda has show great leadership. In the suburb of St Kilda, everyone belongs – rockstars rub shoulders with homeless people – but it’s also the home of Pride March. St Kilda footy club make a huge impact for members of the LGBTI community who deserve to feel safe and included around footy, just like anyone else.
AFLW players deal with reverse stereotypes – if gay men can’t play sport, a woman playing a rough sport must be a lesbian. It’s not true, all the way to olympic gold medallists. It’s about not wanting to lie in the chalk outline those stereotypes have created, or and feeling that homosexuality not being palatable to a national audience. There are definitely male players in that situation – a 5% chance you wont be received well can paralyze players into staying in the closet. Think how much better players would play if they could just be themselves!
TTM: So how far away are we from the first openly gay, elite AFL male player? Do we just need the postal survey yes, a national tick of approval, for the floodgates to open?
JB: I think a yes votes would help everyone in the LGBTI community, not just AFL players. Knowing you’re accepted by your country, seen as equal in the eyes of the law, will help them feel comfortable in their own skin. But I’m under no illusion of how hard it would be for a player in that situation. We might see the drafting of a player who is already open about their sexuality – like how the NFL had their first openly gay player – rather than a current or ex-player coming out.
TTM: Related to feeling comfortable, in your country or in your team – what are some of the small, probably accidental things said to you that are really quite hurtful?
JB: The use of homophobic language – “gay” to mean bad, or soft, or weak. Words like faggot or poofter, coming over the fence, or from my teammates – not even at me! It was a big part of the reason that it took me over 10 years to come out. Most people who use homophobic language don’t hate gay people, and once they know they’re being hurtful, it doesn’t take too much effort change. If you think something is dumb, or stupid… maybe just say it’s dumb or stupid?
TTM: Being a sporting nation – do you think sport could be where the push comes from, to get us over the line?
JB: Sport definitely has more cultural influence than anything else in Australia, and while it could be part of the solution, at the moment it’s part of the problem. Sport and homophobic attitudes have gone hand-in-hand for years. Apart from anything else, it means that LGBTI people miss out on all the positive parts of watching or playing sport! The AFL have been leaders on social change, like racism or the women’s league (even if they were playing a bit of catch up) – they’re definitely having an impact.
TTM: Away from the field for a second – Junkee named you a Legit Legend – do you think online publishers (ahem!) and new media are pushing harder for equal rights, over mainstream media?
JB: People (and the government) thought young people would be the most disenfranchised in this process – young people that have never posted a letter in their life! But new media have really gotten onboard in big way. The government will be surprised to learn how engaged young people are. There is so much change being driven by youth-run platforms, helping people get their message out there; the message to vote yes.
TTM: And with opinions flying around left right and centre – what’s your advice to members of the LGBTI community in this time? And if the result is no?
JB: It can be hard for people not from the LGBTI community to understand. You wake up and face the headlines, in the paper, online, on the TV – even on the ads between The Bachelorette! You’re getting pumped full of messages that deny your humanity, saying you’re a danger to society. It brings up all the crap – the bullying and taunting – that we thought we’d escaped in adulthood.
The advice I’d give is: it’s ok to switch off, log out, not read the news, focus on what makes you happy for a couple of days. Don’t worry about something out of your control. Take comfort in so many Allies fighting this with us – an AFL players from every team came out in support, and there’s Coca-Cola, QANTAS too. At the same time that we’re being saturated the negatives, we’re seeing the most support. There’s a rainbow poster in every second shop window! People out there have our backs.
TTM: You’ve got a fair bit on – any chance we’ll see you back on the bench with The Greens anytime soon?
JB: Haha! It’s likely, but in what form I’m not sure! I ran in a safe Liberal seat last election, and we were quite proud to get a big swing, to turn that seat into a marginal contest. I know, for myself, that we still need so much reform. Our generation is the first that will feel the impact of climate change, and the last with a chance to do something about it. The current crop of politicians will be dead while it affects our future. We’ll lose the Great Barrier Reef, we’ll lose all our agricultural land. Our lifestyle will be fundamentally changed, and if they don’t take those steps, we’ve got to replace them with people that will.
TTM: And finally: The early polls on the SSM survey are looking pretty positive for the yes vote. Are you feeling confident?
JB: I do feel confident, even though people bring up Brexit, or Trump – the polls were wrong about that, they could be wrong about this too. I have not seen another issue that has galvanised young people the way that this has. We’ve grown up in a time where we’re closer to the issue, with gay friends, gay people on TV. It’s not something we’re fearful of – it’s bewildering to us, why our friends shouldn’t have equal rights. We’re willing to go out and fight for our brothers, our neighbours. Hopefully, we’ll be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.
But, if it’s a no vote? The only thing to take comfort in is knowing what a bullshit process this has been. Photos of people with their mail stolen – this was never going to be a good, scientific, statistical picture of the population. It was an ginormous waste of money. It was never going to be 100% accurate. Regardless of whichever side loses, they will have a legitimate argument that the process has been pretty messed up.
TTM: So at the end of the day, we’re not actually getting anywhere?
JB: Well, the yes vote is not actually going to deliver us marriage equality. We still need the parliament to vote, to do what it should have done in the first place. And they could still vote against it, there will still be politicians who will find a reason to vote against it. We can be proud if we get a yes vote, that we were out there, countering the negative voices with voices of support, love and acceptance. But our job will be turning our attention back to the politicians to do their job.