‘College has been my escape, somewhere I can be truly and unapologetically myself,’ Emma Hoffart says.
I wish I had one of those inspiring coming out stories where I was courageous and authentically myself, but that’s not exactly how it went down for me.
My first LGBTQ+ experience was a bit of a cliché, but in a romantic kind of way. My senior year of high school in suburban Omaha, Nebraska, I fell in love with my best friend who also happened to be my teammate. We were a pitcher-catcher duo on the field and a completely closeted couple off. We dated in absolute secret for just over a year, disguising ourselves as “best friends” and nothing more.
Living that lie for as long as we did was the most emotionally exhausting thing I have ever done. I had a constant fear of someone finding out and them telling others. But the only thing scarier than that was the thought of having that conversation with my parents and the rest of my family.
As time went on, we began sharing our secret with more and more of our trusted friends until we were “out” to almost everyone except our families. In October 2017, just months into my freshman year of college, my luck finally ran out.
My mom had learned my secret before I got the chance to tell her myself. I happened to be home from college for the weekend, which meant it was time for that brutal conversation. A year’s worth of built-up emotion came pouring out of me and all I remember is sobbing through the entire conversation to the point where I could barely get any words out.
My mom was in shock and comforted me in the best way she knew how. She struggled coming to terms with the fact that I am a lesbian and she had concerns just like any parent would. But the way my family is regarding my sexuality is where it gets tricky and it’s honestly hard to find the words to describe it.
The way I see it, there are two extremes to the “coming out” spectrum. There’s the horrible end of it where LGBTQ+ people are completely disowned by their parents and on the other end there are the parents who embrace their children’s sexuality with love and acceptance. My story lies somewhere in between.
I grew up in the suburbs of Omaha, with a very conservative and Catholic family. All my life I had been exposed to passive-aggressive homophobia. I was always hearing judgmental comments and offensive jokes towards members of the LGBTQ+ community coming from my family and friends.
The thing about my family that’s strange is the fact that I know they all are aware that I am a lesbian, yet it has somehow become this subject that is never to be spoken of. Since that dreadful night with my mom we’ve had maybe two partial conversations about my sexuality and there have zero conversations with my father. My family’s love for me has not changed and they treat me the same as they used to other than the fact that they avoid the topic of my love life like it’s the plague.
College has been my escape, somewhere I can be truly and unapologetically myself. I have been out since the day I got to Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph’s and I have been accepted with open arms by my coaches, my teammates and fellow athletes on campus. I am so lucky to attend a university that embraces diversity and makes everyone feel welcome.
I fully believe that one day when my family sees me genuinely happy with the love of my life, they will be able to celebrate that with me. In my situation it just takes time, and I am willing to wait for them to come to terms with it on their own.
At the end of the day, I am very blessed to have a family who loves me because I am reminded all the time of how much worse it could be by stories of other LGBTQ+ kids. But I will always be an advocate for those who are stuck in the middle like me and feel like they don’t deserve to be hurt by their family’s silence because of how much worse it could be.
Emma Hoffart, 22, will be graduating from Missouri Western State University with a master’s in general business. She serves as the head captain on the softball team and will be working at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. She can be reached by email (email@example.com), Twitter or Instagram.
Story editor: Jim Buzinski
If you are an out LGBTQ person in sports and want to tell your story, email Jim (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Check out our archive of coming out stories.
If you’re an LGBTQ person in sports looking to connect with others in the community, head over to GO! Space to meet and interact with other LGBTQ athletes, or to Equality Coaching Alliance to find other coaches, administrators and other non-athletes in sports.