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New Idea – "Jaason’s Soulmate"

March 10, 2008 Leave a comment


After quitting Baywatch, Aussie TV star Jaason Simmons did a lot of soul searching – now he’s about to marry his boyfriend and become a dad!

Baywatch hunk Jaason Simmons has revealed for the first time that he’s gay – and that he plans to wed his lover, Irish actor John O’Callaghan, and together raise the boy John rescued from an African orphanage. Jaason’s handsome face lights up with happiness whenever he’s in the presence of John, his partner of eight months. And his smile increases when six-year-old Odin, the Ugandan boy John adopted two years ago, comes home from school and joins them. Clearly they are a real family unit, and it will soon become official. John proposed a few months after they met and Jaason immediately said ‘yes’. When the two men wed later this year, Tasmanian-born Jaason will officially become Odin’s second father.

It’s a long way from flirting with bikiniclad babes on TV’s Baywatch in his role as bad boy lifeguard Logan Fowler, but privately Jaason was miserable riding that wave.

So in 1997, after three years on the show and with two years still on his contract, he quit, turning his back on Hollywood. He spent time in a Buddhist monastery in Wales, then returned to the limelight to make independent films like Mad Cowgirl and do theatre in London.

Jaason met John, a charismatic stage actor who has appeared in the TV series Stargate Atlantis, over coffee in Los Angeles in August 2007. A friend played matchmaker, and it was love at first sight for both. ‘When you get older you know what you want faster,’ says Jaason, now 37, explaining how quickly they fell in love and committed themselves to one another and to raising Odin. Because gay marriage isn’t recognised in California, they plan to wed in Canada, one of just five countries where same-sex marriage is legal, as John has dual citizenship. For Jaason, this readymade family feels like coming home after years adrift.

While the actor’s sexual orientation isn’t news to his close friends and family, nor to the woman he married when he was 20, TV viewers and fans weren’t aware. But being openly gay on Baywatch was impossible – as impossible as it had been for him growing up in Tasmania, where homosexuality wasn’t decriminalised until 1997. The saving grace for Jaason was that with his Baywatch castmates he was among good friends who knew the truth.

His emotional crisis during the show wasn’t solely to do with having to hide his sexuality – although that was part of it. After losing his father at the age of seven, Jaason had felt empty inside, and the fame of Baywatch, which had over a billion TV viewers, and the trappings of success left him feeling surprisingly hollow.

and he has since been active in trying to save the endangered Tasmanian rainforests. In 1995, as his unhappiness built, he found solace in a loving – but platonic – friendship with Baywatch actress Alexandra Paul. Suddenly they were tabloid fodder, being portrayed as a glossy Hollywood romance. In reality Alexandra, whose twin sister is gay, understood Jaason’s predicament and was his first confidante on the set. They’re still close friends, and Alexandra has met Odin. John’s journey was quite similar to Jaason’s. He was once engaged to a woman, and was openly gay in private with those he trusted, but feared being stereotyped if he came out professionally. Like Jaason, he had worked steadily in TV and theatre, but he wanted more from life than the Hollywood dream.

John met Odin when he spent two months in Kassese, Uganda, accompanying a documentary filmmaker friend. The small town’s orphanage housed 50 children and one
caretaker. Odin, then three, had malaria. He wasn’t HIV positive – although even if he had been, John says he would have been undeterred, because he felt such a strong pull to the child. ‘I felt he was my son,’ he says. ‘I just fell for him right away.’ Initially his adoption attempt failed, as Uganda has a threeyear residency requirement. But after multiple setbacks, John eventually broke through Uganda’s red tape. He passed FBI checks and completed the required home study course, and after nine months he finally got to take his son home. Jaason and John are sharing their story in the hope that more people will be inspired to adopt from sub-Saharan Africa, where there are 34 million orphans.

Jaason, how did you meet John?
JS: A friend texted me saying: ‘I’ve met your soulmate!’ I knew she wouldn’t say that lightly, she knows I’m a very spiritual person and don’t have time to muck around, and I’ve never been into dating. We met at a coffee shop, and the minute John turned around, you know they say you hear love poems and music playing? I’d never really felt that, but I finally understand it now, at 37! John told me he went to church on Sundays and had a son. I was like: ‘That’s cool!’ For him to adopt Odin, I knew he was a man of integrity. And he was an actor. We’d both struggled and gone through the same things.

What happened after that first blind date?
JS: We haven’t been apart since, and we haven’t stopped talking since. People said: ‘Isn’t it too quick?’ Fair enough if you’re in your 20s. But it’s different when you’re 37 and you’ve gone through the mill and been kicked around and learnt stuff. If you both want the same thing and are on the same journey, and you’re together until you pass, then what’s too fast? If you know, you know. Gay marriage isn’t legal in California, where you live.

Why do you want to marry?
JS: We’re doing it for our family and for my soon-to-be son. Although you don’t want to typecast yourself, you have to take responsibility and ownership and move humanity forward out of bigotry. Our son needs to see we can stand in front of family and loved ones who are going to support our union through the good times and bad.

Does Odin know other kids with gay parents?
JO’C: We take him to a monthly gay parent event, and I have gay friends with children, so we all hang out. Part of coming out is my belief that the more I’m proud of myself, the more he’ll grow up proud of himself, and not in any way ashamed or hurt by homophobia.

How has being a parent changed you?
JO’C: I became a man with adopting him. I was a kid, a free boy, flying to New York and Paris, going to lots of parties, and suddenly I had to stop. It was hard, but it was amazing to grow up and understand that responsibility and have someone depend on you. To love someone, and experience unconditional love.

Why did you adopt?
JO’C: People say: ‘Who’s his real father?’ I am. Birth parents are a little overrated. The father lived alone in a mud hut; lot of alcohol, he could barely look after himself. He didn’t visit Odin. But he was a lovely man. He said: ‘I give you my son! He’s a child of the nation!’ and was so excited he had a chance to go to America. We both cried. If I’d left Odin, I’d have regretted it the rest of my life. The first time he had a hot shower was amazing. To see the fear in his face, then the joy. Seeing him discover things is incredible. The sweetness of jam. He loves chips and spaghetti. He came to me with nothing, just a bunch of rags.

How long did it take to get him to the US?
JO’C: Literally nine months. I felt like I was pregnant. I even had cravings for weird food. I was on an emotional rollercoaster.

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