A YouTube video of a New Jersey teenage coming out as gay in a school ceremony has gone viral, drawing praise for the boy's courage.
Jacob Rudolph is a talented musician, playing both the piano and the trumpet, and has done some acting. But it was the real-life acting he'd grown tired of, so when his peers awarded him with a best actor award for the class of 2013 at Parsippany High School last Friday, Jacob stepped onto the stage and out of the closet.
"When you see me every day, you see me acting the part of straight Jacob, when the real Jacob is LGBT," he told some 300 classmates at the ceremony.
The 50-second speech changed Jacob's life, and he's hoping it will change the lives of others.
"Being who you are isn't defined by anybody else but yourself, and societal pressues are something that deters a lot of people from acceptance," he told NBC 4 New York Thursday.
"I know for a fact that I have impacted people. Some of my friends have even come out of the closet as a result of my video, and that's exactly what I wanted," he said.
Jacob had told his family he was gay one year ago. His mother said she and her husband were stunned by the classmates' reaction.
"It was an immediate standing ovation," she said. "My husband and I sat there stunned. It was instantaneous."
It was Jacob's father John's idea to post the video on YouTube. They'd weighed the pros and cons.
"My friends wouldn't be my friends anymore, nobody would appreciate what I did or my message wouldn't get through," Jacob feared.
But with over 200,000 views less than a week later, the message is getting through, with the reaction overwhelmingly positive.
"If I can inspire people, that means other teenagers my age who have the same capabilities," he said.
Jacob said it wouldn't have been possible without the love and support from his family.
"As a parent's rule, we get what we get for our children," said Jacob's mother. "We have no choice, we have no say in it. They are who they are going to be. It's the responsibility of a good parent to love and support them."