Jake Stallman
Someone Being Bullied
Male | Tipton, IA   United States
Bullied boy turns the tables
Bullying Type: Emotional
Posted By: SummaryX
10/01/13 11:47 PM
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"Your son's a faggot, and we're coming to kill him."

The phone call death threat against Tania McAtee's son terrified her, but she did not want to know who made it. Tipton is a town of about 3,000 people, and McAtee didn't want to put a name and a face to the ugliness. It surely was someone she knew.

After turning the threat over to police, McAtee took her own course of action.

She already had gone to the school board to report that her teenage son was being bullied. After the phone call a year ago, she threw more of her energy into her newly launched anti-bullying campaign, Tipton Against Kids Being Bullied.

It is true her son, Jacob "Jake" Stallman, is gay, and McAtee has known it since he disclosed as much when he was in the 7th grade.

Even though his mom assured Jake then that she still loved and supported him, he thought more than once about suicide.

"It was a 50/50 thing — half that I couldn't take the bullying, and half that I didn't want to face the facts," he said.

But that was then.

Today, Jake Stallman is on top of the world.

A 17-year-old junior, Jake is Tipton High School's first male cheerleader.

It took time and work to memorize some routines and to find the nerve to audition. But it paid off. Two of the four schools the Tipton football team has played this season also had male cheerleaders, which helped. So far, no one has made fun of him.

"It's one of the best decisions I've made," Jake said. "First, you get an amazing workout. Plus, we've really bonded. I throw girls in the air, and they trust that I'll catch them."

Trust is something that long has eluded Jake. Distrust comes more naturally to someone who has spent most of his life being assured by others that he does not belong.

In May, he began writing a monthly blog for the Matthew Shepard Foundation. The Denver-based group was founded by Judy and Dennis Shepard in tribute to their son Matthew, 21, who was beaten, tortured and murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming in October 1998.

Jake is the youngest member of the Matthew's Place blogging team and writes about overcoming bullying and accepting who he is. He also gives advice to other young people.

"Jake’s blog debuted and quickly became one of the most popular offerings on MatthewsPlace.com," said Christine Romero, editor of MatthewsPlace.com. "Our belief and hope is that by Jake telling his story, he grows within his own strength, and others looking for support will find power in a shared experience."

In just a few months, dozens of people have sought out Jake's support.

"When they write to me, probably the most-asked question is whether they should come out to their parents," he said. "I tell them, 'First, you have to know your parents. If you're unsure, don't use the word gay. Ease into it.'"

Just barely a teenager when he told his mom he's gay, Jake recognizes he was especially young to be making such a disclosure.

"I just needed to tell someone," he said. "I'd been holding it in, and I couldn't do that anymore. But everyone should talk about it in their own time."

Although he feels perfectly qualified to talk about the life of a gay teen in a small Iowa town, he knows his limitations.

"If someone started talking about suicide, I would direct them to a hot line," he said. "If it was an immediate crisis, I'd hand it over to my mom."

Although the mother-son bond is tight, Jake admits he was skeptical when his mom called him at school recently (something she never does) to deliver the big news.

"This fairy tale came true," he said. "I believed it only when I saw the actual email."

Sure enough: On Friday, Oct. 11, the Matthew Shepard Foundation will fly Jake and his mom to Denver, where he will receive the Spirit of Matthew Award. The foundation also will recognize actor George Takei, best known for playing Sulu on the original TV series "Star Trek," with the Making a Difference Award for his outspoken advocacy.

Romero said Jake, "a true treasure," was selected for the award in large part because of his resilience.

"His path to coming out has been fraught with struggles, but his hard work to overcome homophobia and make the world a better place for LGBTQ youth makes him a true light that shines into the future," she said.

"I'm really not an inspiration," Jake insisted. "I'm just a teenager who now realizes the power of words."

There is more to Jake Stallman than blogging and cheerleading.

"I'm ready for that ticket out of here," he recently declared.

Asked whether his eagerness to leave his hometown is hurtful in any way, his mom replied, "Oh, no. Not at all. I totally get it."

Harder to get, for mother and son, is why some people have such difficulty accepting people who are different from them.

"If they don't want homosexuality to be part of their life, why do they make it part of their life?" Jake asked. "Most guys think gay guys are after them. I do not have a crush on every guy, no.

"We're all the same. I just like some guys, and I don't want to play football. I love shopping. If I had a million dollars, I'd be at the mall right now. If a girlfriend is wearing a hideous outfit, I'd tell her.

"But we're really not much different. I have one friend who's afraid to talk to girls. I got him a homecoming date. See: We all have our strengths."

McAtee also struggles to understand what motivates people to behave badly toward people who are different, especially when the primary difference is a private matter.

"The only difference between me and Jacob is that he loves someone of the same sex," she said. "So what? I think, in this day and age, finding love at all is pretty amazing. I'm just a mom that will fight for my son, fight for others, believes in equality, supports gay marriage and will do my best so when my son walks down the aisle one day, he will be surrounded by family, friends and he, too, can feel the love and support I did on my wedding day."

Jake's cheerleading coach, Michele Elerhoff, said she also sees a bright future for him, adding that his "cheer sisters" are happy to have him on their team.

"We all are," she said. "He's a great kid."

His confidence just keeps blooming, she added.

"I would say he was quiet (at first)," she said. "We talk about putting yourself out there, being in front of people. That's a good thing. Every week, the team gets more confident."

Sitting sideways in an oversized chair, his long legs hanging over one arm, Jake grew animated as he talked about his future.

"If I win the lottery, I'll go to my dream college (Kendall culinary arts college, Chicago)," he said. "At a college fair, I also learned about a Minnesota college with a good culinary program, and then I could minor in theater. I like acting, and I play the trumpet, and I can sing. You could say cooking is my passion, though."

Added his mother, "He's an amazing cook. The kid can open the cupboard, whip something up, and it tastes incredible. He is appalled when I buy brownie mix."

Smiling at the recognition, Jake turned his attention to his other family members, which includes his stepdad and five siblings.

"I have one sister who didn't want to accept that I was gay at all," he said. "My little sister thought it was cool to have a gay brother. Aren't people funny?"


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Story Details

Name: Jake Stallman
Age: N/A
Country: United States
Location: Tipton, IA
Gender: Male
Zodiac Sign: N/A
Maiden Name: N/A
Relationship Status: N/A
Profession: Other
Education level: N/A
University: N/A
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Tattoos: No

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