It hasn’t been an easy road for Jacob Lancaster.
The teenager in Northern California faced daily teasing and bullying when he was in elementary school, and even in later years.
Now he’s playing offensive tackle on his high school football team and focused on building bonds with teammates that will hopefully result in a successful senior season.
Lancaster said the bullying and teasing started around second grade, when he began attending a new school in West Sacramento. He said he didn’t quite fit in with most of the other boys throughout elementary school, failing to find interest in video games that revolved around sports and guns. He was also big — both his weight and height. He stood out on many levels, and his classmates let him know it.
“It felt shameful for me, Lancaster said. “I’d wake up and go to school and my goal would be to not be called ‘weird’ all day.”
Around fourth grade the kids started calling him something he didn’t even understand: “gay.” As he would spend his time at recess reading a book, some of the other kids pounced. “Oh you’re reading a book during recess? That’s so gay.”
He had to ask his mother what “gay” meant. When she told him, he was surprised at the time.
Since then he’s found a passion for dancing, fashion and Billy Porter.
The bullying was difficult to endure. He tried to focus on finding kids like himself interested in card games, Pokemon, fantasy-based video games and dystopian books like Divergent & Hunger Games.
“It was when I came out that I started overcoming the bullying,” Lancaster said. “When I started having this awakening that if it doesn’t really affect me then I shouldn’t care about it. If someone says something that’s their opinion, I can’t change that.”
He also found that ignoring the bullies worked quite well. They wanted to get a rise out of him, and if he didn’t give it to them they eventually quieted down. Of course, at his size — now 6-foot-5 — there weren’t many kids who wanted to physically tangle with him.
“I overcame the bullying in part by not giving the person that power of getting a rise out of me.”
Despite a lack of interest in sports video games, he found himself knee-deep in football, a sizable offensive lineman who simply wanted to become the best he could be.
Now approaching his senior year in high school, he’s focused on having a great final high school football season. California high school football is currently slated for a January start.
Lancaster said he’s used quarantine to strengthen the bonds with his teammates, and their responses have been inclusive and very positive.
A year after coming out publicly on Outsports, Lancaster has found a place for himself in a society that tries to force young men into different categories. Lancaster doesn’t fit any of them.
“I just keep trying to be myself.”