LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with Emily Borgmann

Title

LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with Emily Borgmann

Subject

Queer Omaha Archives
Sexual minorities -- Nebraska -- Omaha
Interviews
Oral Histories (document genre)

Description

Click here to access the interview, LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with Emily Borgmann

Mx. Emily Borgmann, poet and educator, was interviewed by Luke Wegener on March 28th, 2019 in Omaha, Nebraska. Borgmann shared information about growing up in small-town Nebraska, being raised in the Evangelical Lutheran Church, experiencing childhood abuse, using reading and writing to cope, their long educational journey, teaching poetry to at-risk youth and coming into their queer identity.

Biographical Sketch 

Mx. Emily Borgmann, born in Norfolk, Nebraska, is a white, queer, non-binary poet, educator, advocate, instructor in Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (2017-), writing consultant (2015-) and adjunct instructor (2019-) at Metropolitan Community College. 

Borgmann grew up in the small Nebraska village of Hoskins, later moving at age eight to Norfolk, Nebraska. After graduating from Nebraska Evangelical Lutheran High School (Waco, Nebraska) in 1999, Borgmann briefly attended the University of South Dakota at Vermillion, Coe College (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), and Northeast Community College (Norfolk, Nebraska) before settling in Omaha in 2001 to attend the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO). Borgmann graduated with their BFA in Poetry and Fiction from UNO’s Writer’s Workshop in 2014, and their MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) in 2016.  

From 2013-2018, Borgmann created and ran a community-based writing program at Omaha nonprofit Youth Emergency Services (YES), where they taught poetry and emotional expression to homeless and at-risk youth. Borgmann was also the organizer, curator, and host for the Introducing Reading Series (2015-2016), a collaboration that paired established writers from UNO’s MFA in Writing program with student-writers in the YES Community Writing Program. In 2016, Borgmann worked as a teaching artist at the Nebraska Writers Collective, where they facilitated creative writing workshops at correctional facilities, schools, and community mental health organizations.  

Borgmann’s work has been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies, such as Copper Nickel, The Laurel Review, Green Mountains Review, Salamander, Alligator Juniper, and Skidrow Penthouse. They are the recipient of the Champion of Youth Advocacy Award from Youth Emergency Services, the 2014 Helen W. Kenefick Prize in Poetry from the Academy of American Poets, and in 2018 received a National Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship in Literature.  

As of April 2019, Borgmann resides in Omaha with their partner. 

Interview Summary 

Mx. Emily Borgmann, poet and educator, was interviewed by Luke Wegener on March 28, 2019 in Omaha, Nebraska. Borgmann grew up in the small Nebraska village of Hoskins, later moving at age eight to Norfolk, Nebraska. As a child, Borgmann grew up with an unstable home life, surrounded by alcoholism and experiencing sexual abuse at a young age, but learned to survive by voraciously reading and writing. 

Borgmann had no knowledge or awareness of their queer identity in childhood and adolescence, as being anything other than heterosexual was not an option or “real way of being.” They were raised and educated in the Evangelical Lutheran Church, where they received homophobic messages at school from teachers, and were told that if they ever had a friend who was homosexual and could not “be converted,” they had to cut them out of their life. Borgmann attended Nebraska Evangelical Lutheran High School (Waco, Nebraska) from 1995-1999, where students could be expelled for the mere suspicion that they were gay. During their teenage years, Borgmann was struggling with heavy drinking, an eating disorder, hallucinations, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other issues stemming from childhood trauma. Borgmann tried to get sober several times during their teenage years, and by age 20, had successfully quit drinking. 

After graduating from high school Borgmann briefly attended the University of South Dakota at Vermillion, where they experienced psychosis, were hospitalized, and had to move back home with their parents. They later attended Coe College (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) and Northeast Community College in 2000, where they met poet Neil Harrison, who encouraged them to pursue writing. Borgmann moved to Omaha in 2001 to attend the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), where they took one class at a time while managing bouts of psychosis and mental health issues. In 2014, they earned their BFA in Poetry and Fiction from UNO’s Writer’s Workshop, and in 2016, their MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry).  

Borgmann had their first relationship with a woman in the early 2000’s, but did not come into their queer identity until their second relationship, where they began to learn more about diverse sexualities and gender identities. They came out to their mother at one point in their first relationship, but she told them that “women can’t have sex with each other.” They did not discuss their sexuality again. In 2019, Borgmann came out to their friends and community as non-binary. 

Borgmann works as an instructor in Creative Writing at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (2017-), as well as writing consultant (2015-) and adjunct instructor (2019-) at Metropolitan Community College. From 2013-2018, Borgmann created and ran a community-based writing program at Omaha nonprofit Youth Emergency Services (YES), where they taught poetry and emotional expression to homeless and at-risk youth. Borgmann was also the organizer, curator, and host for the Introducing Reading Series (2015-2016), a collaboration that paired established writers from UNO’s MFA in Writing program with student-writers in the YES Community Writing Program. In 2016, Borgmann worked as a teaching artist at the Nebraska Writers Collective, where they facilitated creative writing workshops at correctional facilities, schools, and community mental health organizations. Borgmann is currently working on a memoir about their emotional relationship with their mother and “learning to love via confusion.” 

Borgmann’s work has been published in numerous literary journals and anthologies, such as Copper Nickel, The Laurel Review, Green Mountains Review, Salamander, Alligator Juniper, and Skidrow Penthouse. They are the recipient of the Champion of Youth Advocacy Award from Youth Emergency Services, the 2014 Helen W. Kenefick Prize in Poetry from the Academy of American Poets, and in 2018 received a National Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship in Literature.  

As of September 2019, Borgmann resides in Omaha with their partner. 

In this interview, Borgmann also discusses their mother’s death, the role of trauma in self-actualization, the importance of education, and their thoughts about being a life-long Nebraskan. 

Interview Notes 

Trigger warning for sexual abuse, self-harm, eating disorders, and death. 

Date

2019 March 28

Creator

Luke Wegener

Publisher

University of Nebraska at Omaha Libraries

Relation

LGBTQ+ Oral History Collection finding aid available at https://archives.nebraska.edu/repositories/4/resources/604

Interviewer

Luke Wegener

Interviewee

Emily Borgmann

Duration

2:39:49

Files

EmilyBorgmannPhoto.jpg

Citation

Luke Wegener, “LGBTQ+ Voices: Interview with Emily Borgmann,” Queer Omaha Archives | UNO Libraries, accessed December 2, 2020, https://queeromahaarchives.omeka.net/items/show/3310.

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