Jason came out at age 16 while living in New York with his mother, Linda. He attended a private school and said it was “no big deal” when he revealed his sexuality. He did acknowledge, though, that from that point forward, he “felt out of step with his peers,” leading him to seek opportunities such as volunteering at New York’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis that would allow him interaction with other gay people.
Jason’s acknowledgement of his homosexuality was no surprise to his mother, Linda. “I was just waiting for him to confirm it,” she now says. But, despite her suspicions and early acceptance, the seriousness of his revelation took some time to sink in.
“It wasn’t important to me at the time,” she says. “But later, I realized that my son was a member of an often despised minority group. I was worried about him.”
Jason admits that he, too, struggled. As a young gay teen, he had few role models and had trouble imagining his life as a gay adult, even though he lived in on New York’s Upper West Side, where being out and gay was basically mainstream.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do when I grew up,” he says now as an out and confident 26 year old consultant. “I didn’t know what grown up gay people were like.”
Jason nor his mother recall exactly how the rest of his family found out he was gay. There was no ‘coming out’ discussion, they say. It just was what it was.
“I’m sure at some point I told my sister, (Ben's mother) but I don’t recall the conversation,” Linda says. “Our families were always very close, so it’s possible everyone just knew.”
Jason does not have older siblings and spent a lot of time with his cousins, Ben and Casey Affleck.
“They were like older brothers to me,” Jason says. “Me being gay just never was an issue for them. We’re closer than ever now. I was one of the lucky ones.”
But Jason and his mother know others are not as fortunate, which is one reason Jason chose to be a part of the Stay Close campaign. While he knows his story is affirming, he acknowledges that the inverse is true for many gay people.
“People do have stories of self loathing, of being cast out and cut off from their friends and family,” he says. “My hope is that this campaign will change hearts and minds and will send a message that it’s acceptable to have a gay person in your life. People need to know what we can accept people and love them, but we can’t change them.”
Going public with his story is a risk for Jason, who by his own admission is somewhat shy. It’s not that he’s concerned about people learning he’s gay. For him, he says sheepishly, the concern is that people will find out he’s got a famous cousin.
“It’s a sort of ‘coming out’ for Ben and me both,” he laughs. “He announces he has a gay family member, and I admit he’s my cousin.”
His mother knows how hard her son has struggled and, despite his success, knows that being gay isn’t easy. But, for her, it’s all about perspective, which she sums up quite simply.
“I’d like to think I that if I were gay, I’d have the courage to be out.”