With Love from the Prodigal Daughter

"I believe he can’t know how powerfully he hurt me."
01/14/2017 07:34 pm ET Updated Jan 15, 2017

The following article was originally published on AL.com, with support from John Archibald. What follows below in italics provides context and is from a piece written by Archibald, which can also be found on AL.com.

Rick Burgess of the Rick & Bubba Show was asked this week to comment on his daughter’s choice to speak out about her bisexuality. He declined, saying “God has given me my own platform in which to clearly state my views on this issue that is impacting our society and the church.”

He and his wife, Sherri, addressed the issue on the radio show this morning.

The comments were largely focused on scripture, and Rick said he hopes his daughter, Brandi Burgess, finds her way back home to God. He said he and Sherri have “taken on the role of the father of the Prodigal Son.”

A letter for my father, with love from the prodigal daughter:

I have always believed stories carry healing powers. Bible legends of heroes and outcasts. Fables with neatly packaged morals. That friend at every gathering who lit up the room with fantastical tales, the one who left my sides hurting and my eyes streaming and made me think, “my god this is my life, it is so ridiculous and wonderful”.

My first memories are of me sitting under my father’s radio desk, listening to him talk. Rick Burgess has built an entire career sharing the stories of his life. He has amassed an incredible following, because he speaks his truth. People love him. People hate him. His boldness has always inspired me.

As I grew older I became a prominent character in his stories. I was the exuberant softball player whose passion got her thrown out of games, the angsty teen late to church, the young woman in Israel almost traded in marriage for 40 camels. I was a punch line, a glittering prop, a cartoon.

Then I failed him.

Gone were the stories of my boyfriends being taken down “to the hunting room” before first dates. I was erased. Recently, I’ve returned, cast as the prodigal daughter.

The story my father tells is one of a lost lamb, covered in shame. In his public musings, he speaks of my sin. Without my consent, he uses me as a cautionary tale.

For the past three years, my father and I have been debating God’s stance on homosexuality. It started with my Instagram post at a Pride parade. A picture of a mother holding a sign saying “I love my gay son”. I got a text demanding its removal: “How dare you compromise my platform!?”, “Remember who you represent.”, “Are you a gay?”

I have been praying, researching,and meditating on the many emails, sermons, verses my dad has sent me. I always come back to the same conclusion. Love is love. I shared this with him. “I love you. I’m sorry. I still love God.” I promised to be discreet.

This led to a constant barrage of shame. “You think you’re so mod, so special. But you’re nothing. You’re typical”.

I blocked everyone in my family from my social media because it was “killing my grandmother”. I grew silent. I mourned my family. I believed I was selfish, a fraud.

I visited home this summer. I wasn’t allowed too close to my siblings, for fear of infecting them with my queerness.

My stepmother took me out to lunch. She told me about a recent vacation with my father. “He couldn’t go in the water. You know he has panic attacks around water ever since your brother drowned.”

Why didn’t I know that? Why couldn’t my father let me hold him, tell me his fear. I would have given him rest, said, “Me too, dad. When I babysit, I have to tell the parents that I can’t take them to the pool. I know exactly how you feel”.

As I was pondering this, Sherri asked me “are you seeing anyone?”. I took a deep breath, and held on to hope. The Greek word for hope means “cord”. My dad taught me that.

“Yes. I am. I am deeply in love. It is....not with a man.” I had my speech ready, about fluidity, non-binary queerness, Lin Manuel Miranda quotes, etc.

“No. You choose this or you choose us. After all your father’s done for you, how could you do this to him”?

I was whisked away to the Rick and Bubba office. Dad was waiting, bible in hand.

I believe that my father’s actions were intended as love. I believe he can’t know how powerfully he hurt me.

My story is not that of all queer people from an evangelical home. I have the privilege of now belonging to a safe community. Yet, I let my father’s message of shame define me. I hated my body, sabotaged relationships, believed I was unworthy of love.

I am writing to the young women who feel like they don’t belong in their bodies, to the boys who want to kiss boys, and those on the spectrum between:

Perhaps you have heard my father on the radio and it makes you want to go to sleep and never wake up.

I love you. Your worth is untouchable. Find a good friend. Invest in therapy. Dance in the middle of the night and hold yourself accountable to the life you’ve always wanted. At the root of all this hate speech is fear. This is not your fear to carry. Release it.

I am redeemed. I have surrendered to the beautiful mystery of God’s love, have witnessed its vast complexity.

My partner whispers to me as I fall asleep: “Your worth is intrinsic, your beauty immeasurable”. Their love is divine, it is of God. I know this in my bones.

I am telling you this because I can no longer avoid my own eyes in the mirror.

I am praying for my father. I am holding onto hope, and it is outstretched toward him. Perhaps he will take hold. Perhaps we will find we were holding the same cord.

Brandi’s latest theatre production was in the world premiere of Time is on Our Side, by R. Eric Thomas, a story of Philadelph
Simpatico Theatre Company
Brandi’s latest theatre production was in the world premiere of Time is on Our Side, by R. Eric Thomas, a story of Philadelphia’s secret queer history.
Brandi as a teaching artist. She has facilitated theatre making to myriad populations in US and Europe.
Prague Youth Theatre
Brandi as a teaching artist. She has facilitated theatre making to myriad populations in US and Europe.
Brandi acting in “This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing” in Prague Fringe Festival. She produce and starr
Prague Fringe Festival
Brandi acting in “This Girl Laughs, This Girl Cries, This Girl Does Nothing” in Prague Fringe Festival. She produce and starred in this production.
Brandi Burgess
Brandi Burgess
Brandi Burgess
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