The exorcism was over in 15 minutes but nothing changed’ – LGBT life in Nigeria

On Feb 21, 2017 The Guardian reported: After going through Christian rituals in an attempt to change her sexuality, Bree found a way to reconcile her faith and same-sex attraction

A pastor spits out prayers as his subject falls to the ground, writhing and contorting after a 30-day fast. Ministers form a circle around the emaciated man and douse him in anointing oil and holy water. When the prayer tsunami ends, a hovering calm ensues. A hologram glides through the man’s atrophied body as he springs to his feet, professing his salvation. So goes the standard script for a deliverance session or exorcism in Nigerian film.

Bree, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, said her first deliverance session in 2004 had none of this Nollywood drama.

“The pastor acted like it was pretty normal and routine. It was a quick 15 minutes, and nothing changed,” she says, stifling a laugh. “I felt like he didn’t realise it was a big spiritual issue, and he didn’t treat it with the weight it deserved.”

Bree, who identifies as lesbian and Christian, has been grappling with reconciling her faith and sexuality for most of her life. Growing up in a conservative community where the two identities were considered mutually exclusive, her sense of God’s disapproval and abandonment had taken its toll. Her meandering from unstable to abusive relationships only confirmed her belief that her sexuality was wrong and something that would continually punish her.

In 2009, while attending a Pentecostal church service with her girlfriend at the time, the pastor asked women who wanted to be delivered from the spirit of lesbianism to approach the altar.

I finally had a conversation with God saying that if this is who I am, ‘you made me, then you fix me’
Bree
“I was so tired of feeling rejected by God. I just wanted peace,” she says of her decision to step forward. “I was so conflicted. You go to church and keep hearing about how lesbians and gay people are an abomination, how they are going to hell, and you don’t understand why God is rejecting you before you even had a chance to say, ‘I don’t want this’.”

This time around, the pastor laid hands on Bree and her girlfriend. Believing they were entranced in spirit, the women rolled on the ground and were surrounded by ministers. “It was intense, and I was hopeful this was it, maybe we had been cured. I needed to not be gay anymore,” Bree says.

After a tearful breakup from her partner following the deliverance session, they got back together a week later, both exhausted from acting “healed.” “I finally had a conversation with God saying that if this is who I am, ‘you made me, then you fix me’,” Bree says.

Bree believes one of the burdens religious exorcism places on sexual minorities is the need to “perform” – pretend to be straight. She reminds herself to switch feminine pronouns to masculine ones when discussing past relationships with work colleagues and when writing on her blog. Once, when a colleague gave her a suspicious look for staring admiringly at a woman, Bree invented a quick fib about having previously met the person.

Read more at ‘The exorcism was over in 15 minutes but nothing changed’ – LGBT life in Nigeria | Global Development Professionals Network | The Guardian

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