(Photo Credits: Screengrab from @jackjablonski13’s Instagram Account)
“I am gay,” admits Jack Jablonski in one of his posts on Twitter.
Jablonski was a high school hockey player whose career was cut short after a high school championship game on December 30, 2011, left him paralyzed. He was accidentally checked from behind and went head-first into the boards, severing his spinal cord and fracturing two vertebrae. The catastrophic injuries resulted in paralysis from the chest down and he has since then, been fighting to regain his mobility.
But during the past few months, Jablonski has been fighting a new battle, largely due to a realization brought about by the isolation that came with the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of this realization, he has suffered from depression and suicidal ideation.
Following his social media post was an interview with The Athletic, where the Minnesota native explained how the pandemic has led him to do some “soul searching and deep thinking.”
“I’ve been through so much, and I’ve overcome it, and now I’m battling myself,” Jablonski tells The Athletic. “I don’t know, in my head, I guess in some ways it felt like another crutch. For the longest time, you didn’t want it to be true, because it’s not the norm in the world I live in.”
While Jablonski had no gay role models growing up as he didn’t know any openly gay men, he already had a feeling that he was gay, but this feeling he vehemently denied. Further, he told The Athletic:
At 14, 15, my friend group, stereotypically, was your typical jocks and masculine athletes. So for me, when you have those curiosities or conflicting things in your head, or just not understanding at the time, you’re just like, ‘Nah, whatever. It’s a phase or I’ll get over it or there’s no way.’ I was just like, ‘Well, there’s no way it’s true I’m gay. I’m a four-sport athlete. I have no stereotypical interests in anything that is perceived as quote-unquote gay. I’m not into any of that. I’m masculine.’
For the longest time, you’d go through those thoughts and then suddenly think, ‘All right, it’s done. I’m done.’ You just try to forget that you were even thinking about it. Growing up, I didn’t believe it, because I didn’t know anyone who was gay, so there was no one I could go to. But at the same time, I wasn’t ready to admit it because it just didn’t click.
And then the accident happened and so his sexuality took a backseat. He said, “Everything just got pushed to the back burner for the longest time. It just became denial and ignorance.”
Fast forward to July 2021, Canadian professional ice hockey player and Nashville Predators prospect Luke Prokop came out as gay through an Instagram post. Jablonski sought the advice of Prokop which led to his coming out, first to Zack Hale—his best friend, then to his parents, and his brother.
Now that he’s come out, Jablonski knew he will be able to “move forward with happiness.” He said, “I think it’s just best being able to tell my story, how I got here, who I really am, and then be able to just move forward with happiness and be who I want to be.” Jablonski added, “It’s just a fresh start and happiness in a world of hockey where gay people don’t exist. I’m not here to try to be some poster boy or something along those lines. I’m here to just explain the darkness I’ve felt.”
Lastly, he said, “Looking back, you realize this has been a part of you, that I’ve been gay before I was paralyzed. You just hope that you can make it more acceptable and easier for anyone down the road.”
Jack Jablonski has a charitable organization called BEL13VE in Miracles Foundation. He created it a year after his accident in order to “support research and innovative treatments that will advance recovery for everyone living with a spinal cord injury.” Jablonski, who is a graduate of the University of Southern California, also currently works as a digital media content specialist for the Los Angeles Kings.