Beyond Ex-Gay

Hope Deferred

by Tom O'Toole, Jr.


Screen shot from Myst game

Are you a video gamer? A great friend of mine (also an ex-gay survivor) recently introduced me to Myst Online URU, a game where you explore new worlds and solve puzzles. A few days ago, my bud and I entered the world of “Eder Gira” and solved a very interesting puzzle. As you journey through this world you encounter several holes in the ground that are venting steam. Each hole is equipped with a device that you can activate to cover the hole and stop the steam from venting. As you cover some of the holes, pent up steam vents with increased power from holes that are not yet covered. When explorers reach the final hole and cover it, they are frustrated to realize that the steam trapped in the ground cannot be contained. Its power erupts, causing all the devices covering the holes to disengage. Explorers then find themselves right back where they started, wondering what the heck to do with all that venting steam. Lucky for me, my buddy is an engineer with a strong, analytical brain. He walked me through a rational approach to solving this puzzle based on the properties and power of steam. I’ll get back to that in a bit…Picture of venting steam

Can you see how this little virtual journey relates to those of us who have tried to change our sexual orientation, but failed? For me, same-sex attraction was and is a powerful force in my life. Unfortunately, I was taught from a very early age to see this force as destructive and something that must be eradicated from my life at all costs. And so, I journeyed earnestly from one ex-gay experience to the next, hoping with all of my heart and soul to prevent the force of same-sex attraction from expressing itself in ways that were unacceptable to family, friends, church and society at large. At times I sincerely believed I was making progress, covering “ground” neatly, carefully and prayerfully with therapy, healing prayer, conferences, programs, confession, accountability and transparent disclosure to trusted others. But just when I thought I had the puzzle solved… BAM!!! The pent up force erupted with a vengeance, and I repeatedly found myself right back where I started… frustrated, depressed, full of self-loathing and despair.

One thing I remember from therapy is the difference between guilt and shame. A guilty person says, “I feel like shit!” A shamed person says, “I AM shit!” At those times when I felt powerless to combat my same-sex attraction, I truly felt tremendous shame. I felt like a piece of shit… something you just want to flush down the toilet as quickly as possible.

Let’s get back to my video game analogy. I don’t want to disclose exactly how to solve the puzzle in Myst Online’s world of “Eder Gira”, but I will give you a bit of a hint. In the context of the game, you must accept the fact that the steam cannot be stopped, and by harnessing its power, you will advance to new levels of play. If you keep trying to stop the steam from venting, you will stay stuck in a narrow little slice of a HUGE virtual reality.Photo of Tom O'Toole Jr.

Proverbs 13:12 says: Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Since ending my fight to cover up my same-sex attraction I have become more of a lighthearted guy. I no longer feel all that powerful pressure boiling inside me. I no longer feel like a waste product. I feel a deep sense of freedom to be the man God created me to be. I feel a strong sense of God’s delight in me as His son. I feel a great sense of fun and adventure as I explore the possibility of finding a life partner. I feel peace and contentment as I allow the longings of my heart to be fulfilled.

I’d like to close with a little worship song I wrote a number of years ago. May it be the voice of God Himself to all of my GLBT brothers and sisters - His sons and daughters who feel alienated and estranged from Him…
Sons and daughters, hear my voice:
I’m your Father, in you I rejoice
I call you my own. I call you my child.

Lonely orphans, hear my cry:
I’m your Papa, I won’t pass you by
I call you my own. I call you my child.