I’ve played amateur footy every season since I was five – almost all in the Yarra Valley league. I was raised in a household that lives and breathes the game. But when I realised I was gay the idea that my teammates might find out was terrifying.
It’s a blokey culture — and gay slurs are a regular part of games and training. It’s a horrible reminder that you’re different, reviled and unwelcome. It felt like the footy club would be the one place I could never come out. Whether it’s intentional or not, the reality is that the culture of the AFL is hostile to fans and players like me.
Young gay people are up to 6 times more likely to be depressed, to self harm, or to contemplate suicide. I was 12 when I realised I might be gay, and footy was my life. It was a really hard time for me and if I had known of positive gay role models in society, in football, it would have made a world of difference.
The AFL has done amazing work tackling racism — now it’s time for the AFL to take real and substantive action to build a culture where people like me are welcomed and supported – and where homophobia is simply not acceptable.
Read the full petition via CHANGE.ORG
Watch an interview with Jason Ball via ABC