When you look back on Jake Bain’s life and experiences into high school, he is living that “all American” kind of life, with being athletic since he was a kid. Growing up in a household built around football, it was in his blood. His grandfather, father and 2 older brothers all going on to become strong players, Jake spent his childhood hanging out with his brothers at practice and games. Everything from water boy and attending the football camps. It was even joked that Jake “popped out of the womb wearing a Borough’s helmet.”
As he entered high school, it was quickly apparent that Jake would become one of the strongest players on the team. With excellent leadership skills and athletic talent, Jake became a well respected and popular kid that his peers looked up too. For a while he was even considered a “ladies man.”
Despite all this success, Jake felt like he was living a life that simply wasn’t him. Feeling like he had to live up to the “macho man” kind of a standard, he was always seen with a girlfriend on his arm. However, despite all appearances, that’s just who Jake wasn’t. It started to eat away at him, but the more he realized who he truly was; the more he tried to live up to that standard. But who was he? Well that’s exactly the question Jake was asking himself.
Summer of 2016, just before his junior year and coming off a state championship, Jake took a chance and came out of the closet as openly gay. Expecting the worse, Jake was quickly embraced by his family who welcomed his news with open and accepting arms. His grandfather, Jim stated…
“We are so happy that he’s the type of person that he is — that he’s kind to others, a good leader with how he treats people. And he has a lot of strong qualities as an athlete and as a person.”
And thus Jake entered his Junior year of high school confident and proud, but he still faced much struggle ahead of him. It started with text messages from unknown numbers. Filled with slurs, derogatory language, threats of violence. Soon players on opposing team started harassing Jake at games and on social media and Jake had a tough time with it.
“That’s the hard part about it — it’s something I’m born with. It’s like the color of our skin, I can’t change it. So the fact that people can attack you over something you can’t change?”
However with the love and support of his family, friends, teammates, coaches and boyfriend. Jake kept moving forward and playing with his best effort, overcoming the harassment and bullying. It was a challenge that Jake certainly was capable of taking on. His leadership skills served him well when given a platform at a school assembly his senior year. On National Coming Out Day, Jake made a heartfelt and emotional speech about his experiences in the closet, coming out and continuing to move forward to the entire student body in his class. After the assembly, 5 other students came to Jake and confided in him that they were gay too, facing the same struggles of self-identity but found themselves looking up to Jake to show them that everything will be okay.
Shortly thereafter, Jake had a meeting with Curt Mallory, head football coach at Indiana State University and talked about Jake coming to play for the Sycamores. Jake, loving Coach Mallory and his vision for the team was on board but had to have a specific talk with Coach Mallory first…
“Before I commit here, I want to let you know that I’m openly gay, and if that’s an issue at all, then I understand, and we can go our separate ways.”
And just like that, Jake soon found himself wearing the blue hat of the Indiana State Sycamores. With his coaches, family, friends and teammates embracing the diversity of their whole community. Jake found himself right at home, able to continue being himself and pursuing his passion without having to worry about being someone he isn’t.
References: St. Louis Today
By Dirk Smith