On Monday, June 2, 2014, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer bloggers, their family members, and allies from across the U.S. and around the world will celebrate the ninth annual Blogging for LGBTQ Families Day. The event, developed and run by the award-winning LGBTQ-parenting site Mombian, and sponsored by Family Equality Council, aims to raise awareness of LGBTQ families, their diverse natures, and how current prejudices and laws have a negative impact on their lives and children.
My name is Jacob Rudolph, I am an LGBT teen, and this is my story:
Back in middle school, probably around 7th grade, I started to think that I may be attracted to guys in addition to girls. The thought really scared me, and I began to ignore it altogether. In fact, I strongly gravitated toward having close female friends because I was so afraid that I would only set myself up for failure by hanging out with guys; I knew they would reject me if they found out, so why bother?
I didn’t tell anyone about my sexuality until 9th grade when I had my first real girlfriend, Katie; and, at the time, she was someone I trusted fully. When I told her that I thought that I might be bisexual, she totally surprised me by saying the same thing about herself. So there we were, boyfriend and girlfriend, both struggling with our sexualities. We really helped each other through the most confusing period of an LGBTQ person’s coming out: acceptance that they are not straight. Katie and I could talk about everything, and the feeling of being able to say, “Katie, that guy is damn good-looking” was so liberating I just wanted to feel that way all the time. But coming out was out of the question; it’s social suicide! (Fun fact: Katie continues to be one of my closest friends.)
Growing up, my parents instilled in me a deep appreciation for diversity. They always told me to not only respect all people and diversities, but to embrace them. But, regardless of how open-minded my parents were, I still couldn’t stomach the thought of telling them their oldest son was bisexual. It took me until my junior year of high school to divulge my deepest secret. One day, rather nonchalantly, my mom flat out asked me if I was attracted to guys—she and I have a very open relationship with each other. I told her the truth even though part of me just wanted to lie through my teeth. Then about 6 months later, I came out to my dad. I sat him down in his room, and it took about 5 minutes of sitting in complete silence for me to utter the words I had feared for so long: “I’m not straight.” To which, my dad simply replied, “And?”
Although in the beginning we didn’t often talk about my sexual orientation, I knew that my parents were accepting of me and just wanted me to be happy. I came out to my younger brother Ben (15-years-old now) on January 18th, 2013.
It was the day before his birthday and the night that I came out to everyone I knew.
January 18th was the most important and decisive day of my life. That date, the night of the senior superlative awards (Most Likely to Succeed, Class Couple, Nicest Smile, etc.), that I went from being an ordinary high school student to an LGBTQ youth advocate.
I knew in advance I would be getting the award for Class Actor because a friend of mine who knew the results told me I had won. That was when the irony dawned on me. Here I was getting an award for acting on stage when I had actually been acting since middle school as someone I was not.
My friends saw me every day acting the part of “straight” Jacob, even though I knew I was bisexual. And I hated not being able to outwardly be who I really was. And so I decided that I would not simply wait for it to “get better." I realized that I had the power to shape my own identity on my own terms. When my name was called at the ceremony, I accepted the award and used my acceptance speech to come out as an “LGBT teen” in front of more than 300 of my peers who were in the audience.
When I was finished with my speech, I instantly knew I had made the right choice. I had been hoping for maybe some quiet, polite applause, but what I got instead was a standing ovation. The overwhelmingly positive reaction my coming out received shocked me. And that’s when I decided I wanted to help other LGBTQ youth to become proactive. A video of my speech was uploaded onto YouTube where it went viral. It now has over 2,000,000 views.
Since my coming out, hundreds of people have asked me about my negative experiences as a bisexual man and, fortunately, I do not have much to tell them. In fact, I have had so few negative experiences, I feel an incredible guilt, a survivor’s guilt: My parents have supported me, my friends did not desert me, I am not homeless, my religion did not discard me, and the list continues. As a result of the positive circumstances surrounding my coming out, I have put so much effort into advocating for the many LGBT youths who are not as fortunate as I have been. Such a large portion of LGBT news stories cover heartbreaking instances of kids and adults alike enduring unnecessary pain solely because of their sexual orientations.
The positivity that my coming out story holds has been a light for less than fortunate LGBT people. For example, during the height of my video’s internet popularity, I was receiving hundreds of Facebook messages daily. In fact, five of these Facebook messages detailed a similar, yet terrifying, scenario: that of a child who had crossed over the dark line of despair and had not only drawn up a suicide plan, but was perhaps only days away from following through with it. Five kids, not one of whom new any of the others, all living with the exact same pain and fear. Five kids ready to take their own lives. Five kids who each told me that seeing the video of my speech gave them a hope that they had thought abandoned them, and decided instead to live.
Coming out like I did in front of everyone would have been a distant fantasy had my parents been unsupportive of me. My mom's unconditional support and my dad's fervent encouragement have enabled me to be comfortable with not being straight. My parents' open-mindedness and sense of love have opened doors for me on so many levels, but because so many LGBT youth do not have the kind of support that I have been lucky enough to have, I will continue working for LGBT youth until coming out no longer inspires fear or danger and until marginalization becomes a rarity. Parents are the key to their children's success and I've hit the lottery because of mine.