Coming out as LGBT is rarely easy, which makes Jacob Rudolph's story all the more impressive. When the high school student in Parsippany, N.J., came out, he did so in front of the entire school. His classmates responded with a standing ovation.
During the presentation of senior class awards, Rudolph was given the Class Actor award, an irony not lost on him. "Sure I've been in a few plays and musicals, but more importantly, I've been acting every single day of my life," Rudolph said. "You see, I've been acting as someone I'm not."
Most of you see me every day. You see me acting the part of "straight" Jacob, when I am in fact LGBT. Unlike millions of other LGBT teens who have had to act every day to avoid verbal harassment and physical violence, I'm not going to do it anymore. It's time to end the hate in our society and accept the people for who they are regardless of their sex, race, orientation, or whatever else may be holding back love and friendship. 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.
Footage of Rodolph's speech and its positive reception was uploaded to the Web by his father, who noted on the video that it "took more guts to do than anything I've ever attempted in my life."
Rudolph spoke with NJ.com about his speech and the aftermath. "The more leaders who pop up in the LGBT community, the more it inspires others. It just becomes a whole domino effect," he said.
"It felt like this immense weight was gone," he added. "I'd been carrying it around with me for years. It affected me academically, emotionally, socially. It's like my life is now before and after. I think that explanation is what made this whole process make sense."
[Related: Jodie Foster's full Golden Globes speech]
The reactions have been across-the-board positive, including on Twitter. Anthony G. Watson tweeted, "#Jacob #Rudolph Gay New Jersey Teen, Comes Out During School Award Ceremony! We are all very proud of you!"
Ben Rudolph wrote, "I don't think I'm related to Jacob Rudolph (not this one, anyway)...but I'm still proud of him."
And another supporter wrote, "Things That Make Me Smile: Teenager Jacob Rudolph comes out to his parents, teachers, and his whole class..."