Out She Came

Illustration by Emily Buford

Illustration by Emily Buford

It would be an understatement to say that I was a dithering ball of anxiety as I shuddered at the head of the dining room table. I lit each of the candelabra’s many limbs with a shaky hand. To my family, however, this hesitant behavior was normal; I was a typically nervous girl. What they didn’t know was what I was building myself up to announce, my mouth gaping, desperately searching for the words my mind didn’t know how to say.

It was a regular day in the Nelson household: October 5th, 2015, as the Halloween fanatics of the family, Kyle, my older brother, and Gillian, my mother, discussed the importance of cobwebs as the sconces’ flames flickered at the center of the table. The conversation was rather bland in my opinion, but I had bigger things to think about.

“Emma, what are you doing?” my mother questioned, only just now noticing my odd hand motions, as if I was trying to pull the words out of the back of my throat with a thread.

“Nothing! Nothing,” was my anxious response, my fingers knitted together and my eyebrows furrowed.

This sudden affirmation caught my family’s attention. They looked at me oddly, but chose not to question me because it would only make my obvious anxiety worse. 

Continuing their conversation on how to make fake cobwebs with which to decorate our high ceilings so we would not need to bring in real spiders, my nervousness built. My fingers twitched like the disconnected tail of a lizard. My mind span faster than a top.

I knew I could say it, I just didn’t know how to ease my family into this; we had never discussed such a topic before. I did not answer when my father, Steven, asked me questions, for I was unaware of him speaking. I was only thinking within the limits of my building worry. My eyes, unblinking, stung as though preparing for the worst, ready to leave black streaks down my red, puffy face.

I was as ready as I’d ever be. The thread connected to my words was bound about my neck, and I knew that if I didn’t spit them out soon I would no longer be able to breathe. I attempted to dust the cobwebs that my family had been discussing off of the surfaces of my crowded mind.

There were many ways that I could have gone about this, like discussing the concept with them, or leading them into making the discovery themselves. But no, those were not the types of choices that people who are choking on their own words make.

When one is choking, their airway is cut off; consequently, they are not able to think as clearly as before. My genius method of how to talk to the people I trusted most was like giving myself the heimlich and the slobbery mass of chewed word got stuck on my individual family members’ foreheads.

“I’M BI!” I wailed, before clasping my hands quickly over my mouth, unnecessary tears already welling up like puddles in the depths of my dark brown eyes. Only I knew that I was not, in fact, bisexual. That, however, was not the point of the current conversation that I had just started in the most abrupt way possible.

I just wanted my family to be aware that I enjoyed the company of other young women a bit more than I  had previously let on.


My parents were neither questioning me, nor confronting me for my sudden statement. I had not spoken at all throughout their meal. My outburst had been fast, and extremely loud, so they did not immediately understand.

I, however, took this simple one-word question a very different way. The sobs that emitted from the back of my throat were hoarse due to my prior self-deprivation of oxygen.  I could only see the blurs of confused faces and the flickering of the candlelight. My mouth was washed clean with the salted fluid that ran from my eyes, drowning my untouched dinner.

Kyle, my eldest brother and role-model, spoke up from the other half of the table:

“She said she’s bisexual,” he clarified, seeming to have lost all previous table manners as he spoke with a mouth full of Mexican rice. His voice rose the dead from inside of me; the simple act of having my brother speak motivated me to remove my now clammy hands from my eyes and look into those of who I loved most; nevertheless, I did not cease my cries.

My body still shook. I felt as though my world had ended with my sudden outburst of only two words. Fear and depression was all I felt, but compassion and love was what my family saw.

The middle child, Sean, was the first to laugh. Not out of malice, but because my family hadn’t even had a chance to react and I was already sobbing.

It was 2015. My family was very accepting of all people, and gay marriage was already legalized in Oregon, still I blubbered.

“Emma, honey, are you sure?”

No, I was not. I was confident that I liked girls–they were perfection in my eyes. Boys, however? Well, I just did not know. Yet.

“Y-yeah,” I whimpered, sniffling and hiccuping like a cornered animal. 

“Baby, it’s okay.”

“We love you.”

Everything after was just a blur. My parents were accepting, though shocked and confused. This sudden revelation of mine was one to get used to, and it would take time. My two older brothers could only laugh and smile, happy that they now had a new array of jokes they could make at my expense. 

Later, while talking to Sean, and further explaining my process of coming to the realization, he confirmed to me that he was very approving.

“How could I not be? Have you met me? I’m in theatre, all of my friends are gay.”

The night was full of tears, laughing, love, and sexuality-based puns. Only one thing remained unclear to my parents about the night’s ordeal:

“Is that why you lit the candles?”  

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Emma J (15) was inspired to further her writing when she saw her older brother, Kyle, read his piece at Mother Foucault’s bookstore in Portland, Oregon.

Emma J Nelson