As 17-year-old Jace Klein sat in his room sprinkling glitter onto a Batgirl T-shirt, his dad approached him with the question he’d been dreading for months: “Are you gay?”
Two years later, biology freshman Klein’s is out, and for him, his sexuality is just another part of life, as commonplace as talking about the weather.
But it wasn’t always so easy. Before Klein’s dad asked his son about his sexuality, he already knew the answer. Klein’s mother found out after reading her son’s text messages, but neither she nor her husband approached Klein. She wanted him to come to them when he was ready.
Worried that something was wrong with his son, Klein’s dad initially turned to the internet. After heavily researching homosexuality, he was able to accept his son.
“[My dad] cried a little bit,” Klein said. “It was terrifying. Your heart rate goes up, and it’s hard to talk. But every time that I did tell someone, I just felt so relieved afterward.”
Klein began questioning his sexuality in middle school when “The Hunger Games” was released, starring Josh Hutcherson. Klein said he was obsessed with him, but wasn’t sure why.
He thought the feelings would dissipate, but they never did. He went to the internet, where YouTube videos and Google searches taught him more about sexuality. But for the next two years, he was still uncertain.
“I remember one day [my friend] posted something supportive of the gay community,” Klein said. “She was the one who made me realize ‘Oh, well maybe this is okay.’”
Even then, mortified at the thought of being alienated by his friends and family, Klein waited until the summer before his junior year to tell anyone.
First Klein told his best friend, Valerie Hernandez. Over Facebook Messenger, he sent her a GIF that said “I’m gay!”
Shocked by the bluntness of the message, she didn’t believe him at first. But after he reiterated that he was serious, she accepted him instantly.
“The news didn’t really change our friendship,” Hernandez said. “It just made our bond much greater. I was really happy that he told me first because what is friendship without trust?”
Klein and Hernandez grew closer after he came out. As he told more people, he became more comfortable being himself.
“All of my friendships [after I came out] were way better than they were before,” Klein said. “There’s so much less stress in my life now. I don’t have to worry about that. I can worry about other things.”
Looking at colleges, he knew he wanted to come to UT because of its accepting environment. Now halfway into his freshman year, Klein said he has met other people who have had similar experiences and struggles.
“I never would’ve thought that one of the first things I would do in college would be to go to a Pride festival,” Klein said. “It was a really good time. I didn’t feel like I had to drag anyone there with me. I was able to just go with the people I know here.”