The story I am about to share is probably the hardest story I have ever had to share. This story is about me, Clinton Jamar White, unmasked, uncovered and unhidden.
I carried this story and the pain that came with it for 20 years. I finally shared it this year because feelings of depression overwhelmed my heart. Even when I was with other people, I could not understand why I still felt alone. Forced out of my comfort zone, I finally had no choice but to face the issues of my past head-on. This is my story of lost innocence, abandonment, humiliation, masked pain, but ultimately triumph in Jesus Christ.
As far back as I can remember, I was a happy child. I loved to sing, laugh and boy, did I love my mom and dad. My mom was an evangelist, choir director and singer. My dad was the Sunday school teacher, disciplinarian and leader of our family. My sister was much older than I and acted almost like a mother figure. My two brothers were also quite older than me. Still, all three were my first friends. My grandparents had a huge impact on my life. They showered me with love and allowed me to flourish greatly. I was the kid who loved to sing and loved going to church whenever and wherever I could. The church is where my whole family spent most of our time.
I saw my family as happy, but it was all about to change. When I was eight years old, my dad decided he no longer wanted that life. He wanted nothing to do with the life that God wanted for him, so my dad left the church and stopped following Jesus. That is when my world would begin to change.
The next part is hard to discuss, because it includes the loss of my innocence. I remember being 8 years old, sitting in my room and hearing my mom and dad fighting. I could hear voices being raised and things being tossed. As time went on I heard my mom sitting in her room crying. This gradually got worse as my dad was no longer only verbally abusing my mom, but also physically abusing her, and I didn’t quite understand.
It’s hard to be a kid and wake up to constant yelling or to the police in your front yard.
I even remember watching my dad hit my mom with a two-by-four piece of wood and busting a can of Pepsi over her head. I remember these things oh so well. I remember the anger I had toward my dad and the tears of sadness that ran down my mother’s face, but mostly I remember the feelings of helplessness because there was nothing I could do about the abuse.
My dad later moved into my grandparents’ home and although it was maybe 300 feet away, it felt like miles upon miles. I remember walking into my grandparents’ home and seeing him on the couch and not wanting to speak.
I was angry, because I didn’t understand how he could leave me or hurt my mom the way that he was.
I developed a sense of not needing my dad and feared ever needing or wanting anything from him. This was because it was too was hard to actually need things from him and then be rejected. For 5 years, until I was 13, I lived feeling angry and abandoned. Eventually, my father gave his life back to Jesus and I was happy, but a lot more than just my dad leaving took place during those 5 years of my life.
When I was 10 years old, I first learned what it felt like to be humiliated. Kids made fun of me for my appearance, and for things that I could not control. Those close to me made me feel very self-conscious about myself, but that was only the beginning. Both kids and and adults took it upon themselves to label me as gay. Most of the time when I was a kid, this is what I was called. It was obviously difficult to be as young as 10 and the object of such labeling and constant scrutiny from those around me.
I didn’t understand what it was about me that gave them the right to label me. The only thing I understood was that it hurt, and it hurt badly. It hurt when I endured it at the age of 10, it still hurt at the age of 13, it hurt when they said it in high school, and on into my early college years. For years upon years, I was made fun of for my image and called gay and it caused me to struggle heavily with my identity.
The words from my peers are what broke my self-confidence; they stole my identity from me.
These years drove me into dark places that I never wanted to face.
My childhood, my teenage years, my young adult life, has been full of torturing pain. My pain has driven me to places I try not to remember. However, I have forced myself to face them for for the sake of freedom.
My pain has forced me to try and prove in as many ways as possible that I am just as manly as the next guy. I tried to prove it through being sexually active and exposing myself to a lifestyle I wasn’t ready for. My pain forced me into relying on pornography. My pain caused me to question my sexual orientation. I thought to myself, “maybe what they say about me is true, and I just don’t see it.”
Ultimately, my pain caused me to question my true identity and there were so many times I had no idea who I was or what I wanted out of this life. I never had a male figure to really show me the way, and I found myself blaming my father for this void.
I struggled with trusting people because in my mind, allowing people to be close to me only meant allowing them to hurt me.
I hit rock bottom a few months ago after constant feelings of loneliness, fear of failure, and turmoil in my relationships. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized how my past was dictating my present, and most likely my future.
I battled depression alone for 3 months. I battled feelings of loneliness, worthlessness, fear and thoughts of suicide. Thankfully, in the midst of my story of lost innocence, abandonment, humiliation and pain, God led me to Sandals Church and to the people who helped me see who I really am. It wasn’t until I spoke with a dear friend and sister in Christ that I finally accepted the reality that I was slipping further into a deep depression. She encouraged me to meet with a pastor at Sandals Church and that conversation helped me face 20 years of stored up pain, feelings of abandonment and humiliation. That day will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the day that I broke free from the pains of my past, and began allowing God to renew me for my future.
I battled within myself to fight off the pain and the way it caused me to react in my friendships and past relationships. I began to battle the hate I held toward my hometown and many of the people there who made me feel less than who I am. I battled the hate towards them for taking my identity and the guilt within myself for allowing them to take it. I forgave my dad and since then I learned that he too was battling things from his past from which he also needed to gain freedom.
After months of taking off the masks and fighting off the feelings of depression, I find myself smiling from a sincere place. I have found joy, identity, and freedom in Jesus Christ.
Sandals Church has become the place where I can worship and thank God for setting me free. I am able to be real with myself, others and God about the struggles I face and watch God use them for his glory. No longer do I have to allow what others think or say about me to determine who I am. I can stand victorious and worship the King of Kings for setting me free and redeeming my life. I am able to be a part of a worship team that allows me to be free and bold before God with a heart of gratitude for breaking the chains of bondage on my life. No longer do I carry the burdens of my former life, but I trust in Jesus Christ, and I find my true identity in him. My search for significance and my desire to belong have all been found in Jesus Christ.
I rest on Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. I AM FREE! I rejoice because I am on a journey of victory!