Stepping Out of Suburbia and Into Myself: Emily Wolfe Shares Her Coming Out Story

By | June 24, 2021 at 1:00 PM

Photo credit: Beth Garrabrant

In honor of Pride Month, I am sharing my coming out story.

I grew up in a primarily Southern Baptist community in a suburb of Austin, Texas. My family would go to church every Sunday morning up until I went to college, and I distinctly remember sitting through several sermons preached on the sins of homosexuality. If it tells you anything about the time and place in which I grew up, I remember one very homophobic woman doing a guest sermon for the youth group on how Britney and Madonna’s iconic kiss at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards was “an abomination.” The sermon came complete with powerpoint visuals.

Though Austin is a liberal bubble where being gay is celebrated, travel 20 miles outside of the city and you’ll find yourself in a sphere of heteronormativity. It’s a place where being gay is seen as something to hide, an abomination to God, and a lifestyle choice that would ultimately set you up for a life of sin and hardship. Because of the culture that surrounded me, I hid who I was until the age of 20. I never had any boyfriends throughout my years as a growing teen, but the thought of me being gay didn’t cross the minds of my friends or family. I was just seen as the quiet girl who loved music. I intentionally made myself invisible so I wouldn’t have to suffer through the pain of revealing my true self. I was an outlier, to say the least.

“I was just seen as the quiet girl who loved music. I intentionally made myself invisible so I wouldn’t have to suffer through the pain of revealing my true self. I was an outlier, to say the least.”

I walked the halls in high school feeling a constant sense of insecurity and discomfort. In my mind, everyone around me had it all figured out. The timeline of their lives would go as follows: graduate, marry your high school sweetheart, go to college together, have kids, work, and die—all while celebrating the life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. At age 18, I was fully prepared to live my life by that timeline. My plan was to find a guy I could be friends with, marry him, and keep my true self hidden from everyone for the rest of my life. My plan was to never come out. But after my parents sent me to college and I broke free from the hellscape of Christian suburbia, everything changed.

Now that you have some context, here is my story.

In college, I met my first girlfriend but I was not “out” yet. One day, my parents stopped by my dorm room to surprise me, and saw my [then] girlfriend and I studying together. We weren’t doing anything particularly “gay” but I somehow felt that they knew after seeing us together. My parents and I went to lunch and I was sick to my stomach the whole time. I knew I had to come out to them because, in my mind, they already knew. I didn’t say a word throughout the whole lunch, my parents could sense something was very off. I got up and went to the ladies room to work up the courage to actually do it. 

Releasing a record during Pride Month is something very special to me. Pride is about bravery and celebrating who you truly are. It’s about not hiding from anyone, even if it means feeling like an Outlier.”

Then, I received a text from my sister saying, “What’s wrong with you? Mom and Dad think you’re pregnant or something.” At that moment, I knew I had to reveal myself. I couldn’t hold on to an identity that wasn’t mine, by following an expected timeline imposed on me by religion. I came out to my sister via text message in a bathroom stall at a Chili’s. She was the one who encouraged me to come out to my parents. After I finally came out to my whole family, there was an adjustment period, but my parents are now beyond supportive. I realize that I am very lucky to have a supportive family. Most people don’t have that when they come out.

Releasing a record during Pride Month is something very special to me. Pride is about bravery and celebrating who you truly are. It’s about not hiding from anyone, even if it means feeling like an Outlier. As part of the LGBTQ+ community, I want to recognize how far we’ve come. Seven years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to marry the love of my life, but I’m now happily married to her. Though there is so much work left to do, Pride Month gives us a time to celebrate each other and help one another continue to normalize differences in sexual orientation and expression.

Listen to our premiere of Emily Wolfe’s new album Outlier.

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