Eighteen-year-old Jacob Rudolph was voted “Class Actor” at Parsippany High School in New Jersey. He decided to use his moment in the spotlight, while he was accepting his award, as a chance to come out to his fellow students. His mother told the Daily News, “It was the irony of being an actor in plays when he felt like he was acting every day of his life,” She said that he originally planned to stay under the radar until he graduate high school. But when he heard he was going to be “Class Actor” his “heart told him that the time to stop acting was now.”
He tells an auditorium filled with 300 high school students:
“So, I would, uh like to thank everyone for voting me Class Actor. Sure, I’ve been in a few plays and musicals, but more importantly, I’ve been acting every single day of my life. You see, I’ve been acting as someone I’m not. Most of you see me everyday. You see me acting the part of ‘straight’ Jacob, when I am in fact LGBT…. So take me, leave me or move me out of the way, because I am what I am, and that’s how I’m going to act from now on.”
I graduated high school in 1991. There wasn’t a single student in my school that was out at that time. The thought of that kills me now. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to go through the already tough high school years completely hiding who you are from your friends – or worse yet, trying not to become fodder for brutal bullying. We all know this kind of alienation can have tragic results.
I know that this took place in a major metropolitan city and might not be representative of the reaction he would get all over the country. But it gives me hope. Hope that we are moving into a time when LGBT teens get the respect, love and support they deserve. I’m going to watch this standing ovation a few more times. It makes me happy.