Incoming Southern Utah University freshman Liesl Darger won a scholarship from the American Civil Liberties Union, in part, for the following essay, according to a post on her family’s blog.
Darger is the daughter of Joe and Vicki Darger. Joe has two other wives: Alina and Valerie. The essay is reprinted with permission of the Darger family.
Being born into a polygamist family has had its many ups and its numerous downs. I have three moms, one dad and twenty-three brothers and sisters that I would not trade for the world. In Utah polygamy is a third degree felony and is an unconventional way of living and considered outside of societal agreement.
I was taught to keep my head up and not be ashamed or embarrassed of my family. However that has not always been easy for me. My parents decided to write a book about their story and their struggles so people could look at our life through a different eye and so we could decriminalize polygamy.
With their publicity they gave me a choice of participating or not. I believe we deserve civil liberties like everyone else. I have also come through this experience to see how important our constitutional liberties for all Americans whether I agree with them or not.
To be a civil liberties activist you have to be proactive instead of reactive. At first I was defensive of who I was, but I have learned to stand up for your liberties you have to be a leader, an example and dedicated to equality and creating not only opportunities but possibilities to those who are not able to speak up for themselves. Once my parents finished writing their book a lot more opportunities came up for our family to be on interviews and shows to speak up and share our life to the public eye. I had a hard time with being so public initially because I had always kept that aspect of my life hidden. I never wanted anyone to know about my family or that I was not “normal”.
I had problems with polygamy my entire life outside of the family; being in elementary school having a rock thrown at my head and being called a “polygamist!” It was so demeaning the way people used it. Even being in high school I had girls writing on social media sites about “polygamist bitches having sex with their dads.”
Being bullied discouraged me at first, but now it motivates me. I realize that I am who I am and that is never going to change and that I love who I am and my family. I found that those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter. My family and home is a place of love and understanding.
Mindsets can cause transformation. I discovered that all I have is right now to speak up, I had all these opportunities to be a leader and a positive example and that I could have an effect on people, the law, and the world! I did multiple interviews with my family including Dr. Phil, 20/20 and the TLC TV series Sister Wives, as well as our own special. My participation has already sparked conversations at my high school about tolerance and acceptance not only towards polygamy but other misjudged cultures.
I helped organize and also performed in a talent show with fundamentalist Mormons to help women affected by domestic violence. I participated on a panel sponsored by the Safety Net Committee, an organization sponsored by the Utah Attorney General Office. I talked in front of one hundred people about my life and how growing up in this life style has had an effect on my education through the years and how criminalization and negative stereotypes hurt people from plural families.
I have a newfound confidence in who I am and I realize the power I have and the use I can put it to. The voice I have that others do not have. The words others want to say but are too afraid to. The opportunities some wish for but have not had the chance to. I get to be a leader for them, I get to be a part of creating a nation of equality, and my plan is to continue to speak up and inform others as I get into college. I am going to Southern Utah University where stereotypes of plural families are negative and I want to find ways to speak out and give a voice to all those who do not fit the mainstream.
My family has continued to do interviews via radio, television and anything else that we can do to be an example to the world. In the same way that there is more tolerance towards the gay and lesbian culture, and other controversial ways of living that are becoming more acceptable–we wish for that same right one day. Those living a polygamous lifestyle are often viewed as abnormal or different, even abusive. All we seek is tolerance. I don’t expect everyone to agree with the polygamous lifestyle, just to allow people the right to have that choice in their life, without fear of persecution or prosecution.
In college I plan to continue my activism and take any opportunity that is opened up or available to me in order to accomplish my goal. This is my life and this is who I am. I will not stop fighting for what is right until it is made right. All Americans were born with certain unalienable rights. I am committed to making a difference and defining our liberties as Americans and fighting for the rights that were given to us so many years ago. I am committed to equality. I have learned that how we do anything is how we do everything, and how a country treats the least of us is how it treats all of us.