A Gay Exorcism
July 27, 2012
by Clinton Shane Bradley
For a few years now, I have been considering telling my story and gathering the courage to do so. My intent is to illustrate that if a person can just hang on and get through the worst of circumstances, he or she can find strength, love, joy, acceptance and maybe even a little humor.
I feel like this is where I can quote the beginning lines of Memoirs of a Geisha: “A story like mine should never be told.” But my story isn’t something we haven’t heard before. Stories like mine, however, may be more real than we realize. So, without further ado, I give you “On the Edge of Crazy ... Confessions of a Severely Depressed, Baptist-Raised Gay Man with Borderline Personality Disorder!”
Yes, I grew up in a small, conservative rural community on a small horse and cattle ranch, graduated from a public school (with my class of 20), and was raised by my extremely fundamentalist Baptist parents. As a gay man, I was diagnosed with severe depression and borderline personality disorder after being admitted to the mental ward of a hospital for attempted suicide. But where does my crazy story begin, and how can anyone find positivity, strength or humor in any of it?
Well, I guess I’ll begin when I first told my parents that I had gay tendencies and was attracted to men. It was my junior year at Free Will Baptist Bible College in Nashville, where I was faithfully studying to live out my parents’ dream of becoming an evangelist for God. I dreaded making the phone call, but I did it to finally be free of the guilt and torment I was going through. I talked with them, and we decided it would be best for me to drive home and talk face-to-face with the family and begin the road to “de-gay” me.
After a two-hour drive, while, of course, listening to my “non-gay” Celine Dion CD, I showed up at my family’s ranch to see the entire family and church board parked in the drive.
With much anticipation and fear, I stepped inside the house to find deacons, deacons’ wives, the minister, the minister’s wife with her Tower of Babel beehive, and all my family ready to intervene and cleanse me of my sin of homosexuality.
Tears began flowing as I couldn’t look any of them in the eye -- I felt such shame. They had me sit in a chair in the middle of the room, laid their hands on me and began praying. I looked up at my parents and saw such anger and hatred in their eyes. Looking through the tears at my parents, I said, “Sorry.” My dad said, “I’d rather hear you’re dead than gay.”
Nothing but emptiness swept through my body, and before I knew it, I was the centerpiece for the church’s
exorcism of my “gay demon.”
Through the gibberish of prayers and Scriptures, and the repeated words of the minister with his hand on my forehead — “I cast you out in the name of Jesus!” — I could hear my mother constantly asking for the demon’s name. I’m not sure what she was expecting me, or the demon, to say, but in hindsight, having a voice not of my own making say something like, “Hi, I’m Ryan Seacrest” would have been epic.
Afterward, I just sat there with a blank look and confusion I had never felt before. I was scared and all alone, or at least I thought I was. It’s been seven years since I finally told my family I was living my life as a gay man. Seven years, and they still believe that accepting me as their son would be turning their backs on God.
Now, instead of building my life from a foundation of conditional love from my biological family, I learned how to rebuild one from the unconditional love of my friends, my true family. I have heterosexual best friends whom I call brother and sister. I have been able to fill the emptiness left inside from a rejection that should never have happened to anyone. I filled it with honesty, loyalty, commitment, happiness and unconditional love and acceptance from my true family.
So if you ever find yourself all alone, don’t ever give up. Keep hanging on. Someone is out there, ready to be your family.