Ty Wyss: Beloved Son, Gentle Iconoclast
Based on what he saw growing up, Tyler (Ty) Wyss thought being male meant you liked to hunt, fish, farm, work on cars, use women, and drink beer. But he wasn't interested in any of those things. The male world felt strange to him, and he was more comfortable relating to his mom. He knew what his anatomy was, though, and somehow adopted the idea that he was a sorry excuse for a male.
When he was nine, an older boy started sexually abusing him. It was repulsive, but he found himself returning to situations where it could happen again. It felt good to be "loved" that way, and it gave him a feeling of connection with the male world that had always felt so strange. One day in junior high, he was walking to lunch when he stopped dead in his tracks. Oh God, he whispered to himself, I'm gay. And since he knew he hadn't chosen to be gay, he figured he must have been born that way.
The abusive relationship continued until he separated himself from it at age sixteen, and about a year later, he came out to a friend through an online chat session. When his mom saw the open chat window, she came to his room. "Ty, why are people calling you gay?"
"Because, Mom," he said, dropping his voice, "I am."
Did he really just say that? It was a heavy moment, and Ty knew he'd crossed a Rubicon. He couldn't take it back even if he wanted to, which he did not. Either way, life would never be the same.
Out & Ousted
That all happened on a Thursday. Ty's parents were good parents who loved their son, but they were not okay with this news. Often they would go to a local bar on weekends, but the following Sunday, they went to church. Mostly, they wanted the pastor to talk to Ty, but something different happened. They became believers in Jesus.
For Ty, coming out provoked a crisis as well. For years, he'd been carrying on two different lives, and now, suddenly, the inner and outer worlds he'd been vigorously keeping separate had collided. He'd been a model kid—a straight-A student, active and successful in extracurricular activities, and overall a respectful oldest child who never gave anybody any trouble. He was used to applause and being on the inside of things. Overnight, all that changed. Although his parents were upset, they reaffirmed their love for him, but the rest of the world was another story. He got called fag and sissy and queer. He found himself a complete outcast—not just on the outside but pushed out because he was hated, and people didn't want him around. It was a hard reality for a seventeen-year-old to come to terms with.
And then there was the God factor. Ty had always believed in God, and when his parents started going to church, he often went with them. But this provoked a whole new level of existential bewilderment. Somewhere he heard it said that gay people automatically went to hell. Why would God make me gay and then tell me to go away? he wondered. Gay was the only way he knew how to be. He'd even prayed to God, as best he knew how to pray, and asked him to take it away. When it didn't go away, what was he supposed to do? Was God unable? Did he not care? Or, was he not even there?
Out & Proud
Answers were not forthcoming, and when Ty caught himself flirting with suicide, he came to a decision: Enough of this. I'm gay, and it's just going to have to be okay. Better to be alive and gay than to die trying to be straight. He called his parents, their new pastor, and some Christian friends around him and put it to them straight. "Look," he said, "I'm gay. And I'm sorry, but I'm not going to try to change that about me."
And with that resolve, he went in search of a place where he could belong. By this time, he'd taken some comfort in gay characters he saw on sitcoms; at least he was not some alien creature alone in the middle of Ohio. He searched online and found plenty of porn and gay chat rooms that were mostly sex-oriented, but he wasn't sure what to do with them. What he really wanted was community.
As he cast about, trying to understand what it meant to be gay, he eventually found acceptance and a new kind of freedom in the gay community. He was only living one life instead of two, and everything that used to be shameful was now celebrated. More importantly, he found there the male affirmation he'd always craved. By the time he started attending Ohio University, he was full-on into the gay scene—marching in gay pride parades, going to gay bars and clubs, even holding hands with his boyfriend outside of gay venues—all in all, totally out and proud.
Out & Conflicted
Well, almost. In college, he was out in every area of student life except one—the Cru Bible study he went to on Tuesday nights (he knew what the church taught about homosexuality). He really wasn't trying to live in two worlds again. He was just still, curiously, interested in God. Before going to sleep at night, he would sometimes "check in": Are we okay, God? If I've done anything wrong, would you please forgive me?
Meanwhile, he also went to his parents' church every now and then, often still in the clothes he'd worn to the club the night before, and there two strange and wonderful things took place. First, contrary to the prevailing narrative about small-town churches rejecting gays, he was wholeheartedly welcomed. Kind people, many of whom were well aware of the life he was living and what he'd been doing the night before, would embrace him with a genuine, "I'm so glad you're here."
Second, given an atmosphere where he felt welcomed enough to stay, something supernatural started coming on. Sitting next to his dad, no words having passed between them, Ty felt the presence of the Holy Spirit fill his heart so full he didn't know what to do. It was something he couldn't have resisted even if he tried. I didn't ask for this, God, he thought, white-knuckling the pew in front of him. I don't want anything to do with you. I don't even know why I'm here. Would you please just go away?
Meanwhile, life outside church was getting out of control, too. Sexual relationships with men made him feel loved and affirmed in the moment, but then disgusting, dirty, and used afterward. As he went from partner to partner, looking for just the right one that would satisfy his heart, the relationships got shorter and shorter until one morning he woke up next to a complete stranger. He had no idea how he got there and no idea how to get home.
Back in his dorm, he had a "come to Jesus" talk with himself. "You are disgusting, and I cannot stand you," he said to the face in the mirror. Being gay wasn't the issue. He was fine with that. The problem ran deeper than sex: out of the poverty of his own heart and soul, he had been reduced to just one face in a blur of broken, needy people using other broken, needy people, with none of the souls behind the faces ever finding satisfaction. I'm a slave to this, he realized.
At that point, he cried out to God, not because he wanted to be straight, but because he wanted a new master. More than that, he wanted that fullness that had come to him in church—whatever that love meant, even if it meant surrendering his sexuality, was what he wanted. God, I don't know what you want to do with this. It's a pretty broken life, but here it is. I just want peace.
And the peace that passes all understanding flooded in. No condemnation, no scolding, just the love of a Father ready to satisfy the desires of his son's heart. It was as if God were simply inviting him to know him and to walk with him without shame. My God, he thought, what have I been missing my entire life?
Nothing else changed. The attractions didn't go away. The mess of a life was still there, but God became, from that time forward, his ever-present help in time of need.
Free at Last
He finished his freshman year at Ohio University and enrolled in Masters Commission, which is a discipleship program with the Assemblies of God. After five years with Masters Commission, three as a student and two as a staff member, he completed his undergraduate degree at Liberty University and got a master's in counseling at Indiana Wesleyan University.
During the Masters Commission years, God brought Rachel into his life. Ty wasn't in the market for a female companion. He wasn't even particularly attracted to women, but there she was. And even after he told her his whole backstory, she was still there, drawn to him in large part because she saw his intimate relationship with God. And Ty felt his own heart opening up to love her, despite himself. If God had a gift in mind for him, who was he to reject it? They were married in 2008, and as God began to heal areas of masculinity in him, he grew to more fully appreciate the feminine beauty in her, which was so different from him.
Today Ty divides his time between private counseling and Walls Down Ministry, which he launched in 2013 to help conservative churches love and serve LGBT people well. He refuses to say what many people want to hear him say—that God delivered him from same-sex attraction. Because same-sex attraction wasn't his biggest problem. The problem, he insists, was the idolatry of heart that was seeking fulfillment in something other than God. "When I surrendered my sexuality, I gave up my idols."
All of us are prone to disordered desires and idolatry of the heart. "And freedom," he tells people, "is not the absence of struggle." Freedom is when God is Lord over that struggling area of your life.
An ever-so-gentle cultural iconoclast, he doesn't identify as gay or straight, either. Rather, he identifies as a son—a redeemed son of God whose heart has been set free.Terrell Clemmons is a freelance writer and blogger on apologetics and matters of faith. This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #48, Spring 2019 Copyright © 2019 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo48/shame-free