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New Jersey teen comes out during awards ceremony -- to cheers

January 24, 2013|By Matt Pearce

There are a lot of ways to come out to people as something other than totally straight, but most of them fall under two categories: Person by person, where the ritual of admission is repeated as much as it needs to be, or all at once.

The latter -- the big reveal -- can be a dramatic gesture both large or small, whether it's Anderson Cooper sending an email to a famous blogger, or Jodie Foster coming out (well, sort of) in front of a massive TV audience. And even though big comings-out can carry social and political heft, there's still a single confessor at their center. "Harvey Milk always said that this was how the revolution would happen: one lonely kid at a time," Alex Ross remarked in a recent feature for the New Yorker.

This time, in Parsippany, N.J., the lonely kid was 18-year-old Jacob Rudolph, who was voted Class Actor by his classmates at Parsippany High School, and who, in a story that's becoming more and more familiar to the public, was holding a secret he wouldn't keep close anymore.

"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 in accepting his honorific at a speech Jan. 18.; the audience of students chattered happily and had to shush itself to hear. "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 -- lesbian gay bisexual transgender."

There were no boos, just cheers, at the end of his speech, in which Rudolph begged for love (or to move out of his way). Rudolph's notes of activism -- "It's time to end the hate in our society and accept the people for who they are" -- were echoed by his father, Jonathan Rudolph, in a video he first posted of his son's speech on Facebook that he later released on YouTube under the title "High school senior publicly tells 300+ students he is an LGBT teen," the account's only upload.

"The reaction of the students is testimony to the progress we've made in our society to respect everyone," said the text on the video uploaded to Jonathan Rudolph's YouTube account. "But we still have a long way to go. Jacob made his statement where he made it and when he made it to let other LGBT teens know they're not alone and that sometime not too far, we hope, down the road, no kid will ever have to act as someone they're not to avoid being bullied, harassed or assaulted."

Jacob Rudolph had come out to his father months earlier, according to NJ.com: "His exact words to me were, 'Dad, I'm not straight,' " Jonathan Rudolph recalled, "and my response was, 'And?' "

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