Emily Cheramie is proud of her sexuality. She is a gay woman. Being a Husker student-athlete has given her a platform to promote change.
She went to a Christian high school in Georgetown, Kentucky, where she tried to hide her sexuality. The junior member of the UNL Rifle Team has since found her home at Nebraska.
It took years to find her sense of belonging.
“Growing up it never really felt right, but it wasn’t until high school that the idea was introduced,” Cheramie said. “Then I thought, oh well that’s what you call it; that makes a lot of sense.”
She told her close friends her junior year of high school and they were unfazed.
“They didn’t miss a beat, it was like, ‘Oh cool, but what did you get on number four on the math test,’” Cheramie said.
She also told her mom Leslie Cheramie about this same time.
“I was happy she finally told me. She’s still my daughter and I love her, so just because she told me this news didn’t change anything,” Lesley said.
Cheramie said she kept a lid on her identity until a member of her high school’s football team outed her.
She said peers at Lexington Catholic started to bully her and administration discriminated against her.
“It bothered me, but I never turned and punched a guy; even though I wanted to,” Cheramie said.
The bullying amplified as more peers learned.
“They started making fun of my friends, so I did punch a few of them,” Cheramie said.
She was reluctant to seek help or tell her mom about the situation.
“Emily never told me; I didn’t know she was bullied during high school,” Lesley Cheramie said. “I wish she had.”
Cheramie said she wanted to handle it on her own. She didn’t want her mom to worry.
Despite trying to handle the situation by herself, Mark Batson, one of her former teachers who has since passed away, fought for her rights.
Cheramie said her school’s administration tried to ban her from wearing pants to prom. The teacher went to the administration and demanded she be allowed to wear pants.
“That was nice for someone else to actually stand up for me,” Cheramie said.
She wore pants to prom.
A few other teachers started looking out for her and her friends.
“Someone would be making some stupid comment in the halls and they would write them up or give them detention,” Cheramie said.
She is grateful for those who helped her and aims to prevent others from suffering as she did. Cheramie is a member of UNL’s Chancellor’s commission on gender and sexuality and a member of athletic outreach groups including, N-Volved and Inner circle. She wants to create a safer, more inclusive world for all.
She said the process is slow, but she feels compelled to protect others.
“I personally have more peace of mind, because I know what I am capable of,” Cheramie said.
She is 5’10 with a muscular build.
“I’m taller, bigger and stronger, but I fear for others; for those who can’t protect themselves,” Cheramie said.
Despite her confidence in herself, during the last presidential election, she was terrified.
“I remember very distinctly seeing the polls as I went to bed and the fear in my stomach and then the terror when I woke up,” Cheramie said.
Cheramie’s fears have not subsided and have grown worse. She said violent hate crimes like the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting where a gunman killed 49 victims are increasing.
“No one overseas is hurting us here, it’s our own people,” Cheramie said. “I wish it didn’t happen.”
She is working toward her wish.
She spoke at UNL’s 2018 Diversity and Inclusion Summit. This Summit promotes acceptance amongst UNL’s student-athletes.
Teammate Maddie Korthas says Cheramie is brave for speaking out.
“She came out to literally everyone there,” Korthas said.
Lesley Cheramie said she is impressed by her daughter’s courage.
“I’m very proud of her for being involved and stepping up and being a leader, volunteering and using her voice to try to make a difference,” she said.
Cheramie told the entire student-athlete population of over 700 individuals her story at the Summit. She spoke not only about how she has embraced her sexuality but about how she overcame adversity to compete for UNL.
In her high school career, she participated in track and field along with Rifle. During her junior year of high school, she ruptured her arm throwing shot put. She had surgery in June and was unable to compete at nationals, fall qualifications and other USA competitions.
“I missed a lot of chances to get noticed by schools,” Cheramie said.
Cheramie took a leap of faith and came to UNL as a Rifle walk-on. She said the idea of not knowing if she would compete actually put her mind at ease.“I could just do what I wanted,” Cheramie said. “It was more relaxed.”
However, as her freshman season progressed, Cheramie grew anxious about expectations.
“I felt like I had a chip on my shoulder,” Cheramie said. “I felt I needed to be to practice early, stay late, go that extra mile to prove I belong.”
All of her hard work paid off and Cheramie qualified for NCAA Nationals during her freshman year. She placed ninth in the Smallbore division. She has since shot a personal record of 585 in Smallbore and 593 in Air Rifle.
Cheramie has made an impact on and off the range.
“It’s always just good to see her because she’s a really fun person to be around,” Korthas said. “She is really dedicated to the team and she’s very inclusive.”
Cheramie said she strives to continue helping the LGBTQ+ community. One of her short term goals is to organize a pride night, an event for the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community, at UNL.
She said she can’t force everyone to be inclusive.
“I can still feel the looks from older people, but so what?” Cheramie said.
Despite this, she is thankful for those who believe in her.
“I have the support from my mom and my friends and my teammates and that’s all I need,” she said.