By Sarah Musick
I had a lovely childhood. I sincerely did. My parents were hardworking, god-fearing, loving people with big imaginations. They taught my siblings and I that “If you can dream it, you can find a way to make it happen.” They took the twenty acres my grandfather gave them and built a stunning log cabin. It took them five years to complete. They cut 115 straight, tall, poplar trees to build our home.
In hindsight, they wanted their children to be like those poplar trees. Straight. And tall.
I aspired to follow in the footsteps of my father and my father’s father and become a Southern Baptist preacher. I couldn’t because I was a woman, so I settled on being a missionary instead.
I attended Jerry Falwell’s, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia: leader of the Moral Majority, a voice for the extremist conservative movement, a man who attacked the Purple Teletubby and Spongebob Squarepants for being gay.
Coincidentally, I also met my first girlfriend at Liberty University, while saving my virginity for my husband, of course.
My roommate and I were Resident Assistants. We were like dirty cops, writing girls’ tickets for short skirts and being late for curfew while sharing silent orgasms after the lights went out. Things were complicated. It ate away at me like a dark cancer. I dressed myself in guilt, shame and confusion daily.
I lacked authenticity in every way.
Eventually, I confided in our Resident Director about the relationship and she reported us. We were brought before the Dean of Women, separately. Scholarships were pulled. Our leadership responsibilities dissolved. We were both placed in corrective therapy with strict orders to have absolutely no contact with each other.
I completed my Bachelor’s degree quietly and with my head down in December of 2004.
Then, in January after a painful confession of my “sins” to my parents I was sent cross country to none other than Colorado Springs to receive ex-gay therapy at Focus on the Family. My parents felt this would protect my father’s reputation in his church and allow me to seek the help they thought I needed.
I was cooperative. I even tried.
My early days here were spent with a Gender Issues Analyst at Focus. I came here to be de-gayed through corrective therapy. I often joke that I flunked out of the Focus program. It’s simultaneously funny and horrifically sad.
During and after my time at Focus I came out to my parents at least three times. Finally, I told them how I was going to live my life and they chose to have no part in it. This realization was painful beyond belief.
Why do you live in Colorado Springs? You wouldn’t believe the reasons that bring us here. AND the reasons that keep us here. This too is what makes our community beautifully vibrant.
In 2006, while working at my first full time job and racing mountain bikes I meet the woman of my dreams, in the 7-1-9.
I fell in love instantly but, truth be told, I was still a disaster. Erika’s perseverance, courage and kindness astounded me at every turn.
My now wife, whether recognized by law or not, is the most remarkably beautiful person I know.
In May of 2010, I attempted suicide. It was grand and by most measures I should not be here speaking to you. I spent that summer in an in-patient psychiatric unit. The doctors diagnosed me with severe, chronic depression due to an existential crisis – their clinical analysis was spot-on, but it was my now wife who truly saved me: she found me just before I left this world and she pumped air back into my lungs and blood back into my heart, without breaking one rib..
Once I was through the worst of it I began to learn the power of community.The authenticity I had lacked for so long began to regenerate me from the inside and pieces of my life started to follow.
Something happens when you choose death over life and then fail. If you can get through the darkness, the color on the other side is brighter than you could ever imagine. Following months of hard work on myself I started looking for places to plug in. Ways to give to the community in which we had decided to remain and raise our family.
You’re here today because you or someone next to you values the work of Citizens Project. That’s why I’m here too. Over a year ago, I applied for a non-profit position with the Pikes Peak Equality Coalition. Around its table are a number of influential organizations with amazing missions and visions. Citizens Project is a among this group. My ability to turn twenty years of service in my father’s church into a future of service to this community, with no pretense, has been one of the biggest healing pieces I’ve experienced.
Openly professing my love to a woman has been another, and that too is something Citizens Project fights for: equality, diversity, and pride.
In May of 2012 Erika and I gathered with nearly a hundred family, friends and our brilliant son Jack to vow our love and lifelong commitment. Then, in November of 2013 we welcomed our gorgeous daughter, Wren, into the world. We know our family is a valued part of Colorado Springs and we devote ourselves to giving back to this community.
I, with the support of each of you, overcome much adversity and live an authentic life now. How vital it is to protect our rights of equality, diversity, religious freedom and simple humanity and to guard it for the next generation. You and I can create a better world. I know this because I am becoming whole. I belong here.