Jason Smith is a dairy farmer from south-west Victoria who has recently gained a lot of attention for speaking out as a gay farmer.
“My intention is not to be known as the ‘gay dairy farmer’. It is just to let other LGBTI people within the industry know that it’s okay, that you can stay on the farm and be who you are,” he said.
The fifth-generation Victorian farmer has been a strong advocate for LGBTI rights since coming out as gay, travelling to Canberra to address politicians and even appearing in television ads.
“Has been a huge day at Parliament House but I gotta get home to calving cows now!”
Smith has been quick to point out, however, that his award win was for farming and not for his advocacy work.
“Being gay has only ever hurt my chances/possibilities in agriculture in the past, not helped it,” he wrote on Facebook.
In an interview with The Age last month, Smith said legalising marriage equality would be a big step towards breaking down anti-LGBTI prejudice in Australia.
“It’s another barrier to young gay people feeling OK,” he said.
Smith said he was the first gay person he knew of in his small town, and experienced homophobic discrimination when he came out 11 years ago.
“When I first got a partner—we were together for eight years—when he first came to town there were people who wouldn’t shake his hand,” said Smith.
“It was just a matter of proving that there’s no difference and we were just farmers like everyone else.”
He said many gay friends in the farming industry couldn’t be open about their sexuality.
Smith is confident that Australia will legalise marriage equality but disappointed at the length of the process.
“It will happen, but I just can’t get over how long it’s taking, and how many people need to be hurt and partners die without that ability to marry the person they’ve been with for 50 years,” he said.