Editor’s note: In today’s column, David Ramsey talks with a Colorado Springs resident who is critical of President Donald Trump. In Thursday’s column, Ramsey talks with a Springs couple who supports Trump.
About 9 p.m. on Election Night 2016, Alycia Erickson had to escape her television screen. She was too upset to accept the inevitable.
Donald J. Trump was on the brink of being elected president of the United States.
She worried then, as she does now, about Trump’s treatment of America’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) community.
Erickson is pastor of Pikes Peak Metropolitan Community Church, 1102 S. 21st St., a congregation she describes as 60% LGBTQ. She lives in Colorado Springs with her wife, Judy.
“I had to leave,” she says from her office. “I couldn’t sleep that night. The next couple days were just … ”
She fails to finish the sentence.
“There were many people who started crying that night. It really took me a couple of days to absorb the news and to really begin to grapple with what that would mean for our country.”
Trump speaks Thursday at the Air Force Academy graduation. Erickson takes care in a 45-minute interview to refer to the leader of the free world as “President Trump.”
She says she believes Trump has “legitimized” the “tolerance of hate against various groups.” Since his election, she says, she worries more about her gay congregants’ safety. The Trump administration is, she says, “damaging for the people in my community.”
She looks around her office, searching for the right words. She often takes these long pauses.
“To have the president come to our city, where many of the folks already feel that precariousness — to have the person here with the ultimate power to enact these policies — it’s devastating.”
Erickson has lived and preached in Colorado Springs since 2015. Her congregation also has a growing number of straight families.
“They want children to be part of a congregation that is welcoming and really means it,” she says.
“Many churches say they are welcoming, but they put an asterisk there, a caveat to it.”
At many churches, she says, women cannot be leaders “past a certain point” or cannot be ordained. Gay members cannot be ordained or baptized.
“There are a whole lot of things where you’re welcome, but … Our congregation really tries to live out that welcome we believe Jesus offered to everyone.”
When she decided to move to Colorado Springs, many friends wondered why. Those friends saw the Springs as an American stronghold of intolerance.
She says she’s been surprised and encouraged by her new hometown.
“I think the perception of the Springs is that it’s a very conservative city, not gay friendly. … The reality is, I have found there is a vibrant progressive community here, which I think is growing by the minute.”
But the gains of recent years, in Colorado Springs and the U.S., are precarious. A backlash, she says, developed after the 2008 election of President Barack Obama and the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that the Constitution guarantees the right to same-sex marriage.
Trump, Erickson says, leads that backlash.
What would she say if given the chance to talk with Trump?
She responds with spirited, prolonged laughter.
“It’s hard to believe that he actually would listen meaningfully to someone like me. … I would want to tell him that what he says and does as president, even the off-handed tweets and comments he makes, that they have a profound effect on the lives of everyday Americans and sometimes disastrously so. He bears responsibility for his actions and his statements and for the way those actions and statements legitimize hate and violence against people who don’t fit in his base or fit into his idea of what America is or should be.
“He has a responsibility to all Americans, and not just to Americans who watch a certain news network or voted for him. He seems to hold a good portion of the country in contempt and has no respect for them.”
Erickson will not attend Thursday’s speech. She says she’ll be pondering, as she has since Election Night 2016, the meaning of Trump’s presidency.
“He tapped into a part of America that Americans don’t want to admit is as big as it is,” she says.