Coming Out After 40
Photo courtesy Olson.
Dr. Loren Olson has been with his partner Doug for 25 years.
“He is a third grandpa to my grandchildren,” Olson said. “We were legally married in Iowa 3 years ago. We underestimated the acceptance we found from the vast majority of Iowans.”
That journey to living his life authentically came after an 18 year marriage to his wife. Olson, a psychiatrist came out in middle age and says that gay men magnify worries and fears of being out.
“We suffer because we magnify the potential losses and minimize the potential gains of living life authentically…” he said. ”There are losses and one of the big ones is giving up heterosexual dream.”
Olson shares his story in his new book “Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight” and during a visit to Richmond this weekend.
GAYRVA.COM: Tell me about how your personal story led to your writing this book?
OLSON: I was married 18 years to a woman and have two kids and six grandkids. I didn’t come out until I was 40 and really didn’t consider myself gay until I fell in love with a man I had an affair with.
Then I had to confront that it was more than just sex I wanted, I wanted a man physically and emotionally. It was a painful struggle to sacrifice all of the advantages of being “heterosexual” and I also worried about damaging my career.
Fortunately, my family (including my ex-wife and kids) are all very supportive and none of the professional concerns ever materialized.
I was moved to write the book because so little is available about the struggle of middle aged men who find themselves caught between gay and straight. I wanted to give hope to those who find themselves in that situation and to suggest that there is no universal solution. We must all work out our own.
At what moment did it finally “click” that you needed to face your sexuality?
The line in the book is, “Then he kissed me. I went gay all of the sudden.” Like many men, I thought I only wanted a blow job, but that didn’t satisfy my continuing need for the touch of the heart and body of another man.
You address fears about coming out affecting your career – did coming out have an impact on your practice?
Simple answer is no. We always magnify the losses we think we’ll experience. In 1986, one doctor threatened to “out” me so I talked to my hospital administrator. (I was Medical Director of Psychiatry). They said, “We knew when we hired you.” I had no idea because I thought I had guarded the secret so closely.
I was once being considered for a rather important administrative psychiatry job in another state, and they suddenly dropped negotiations with me. I suspect they found out I was gay, but I have no proof of that; however, I am confident enough of myself professionally to know that there was unlikely to be another explanation.
I have lived as an openly gay man for nearly 25 years now. I don’t tell my patients, but if they ask, I do. It is good to be free.
Since writing the book have you found a lot of men who have shared a similar experience?
I hear all the time, in fact one today, “You have written my story.” I also hear from others, “I am in so much pain because (for a variety of reasons) I don’t think I can’t come out.” Many of those men are depressed and hopeless. It is most satisfying to me when I hear from them, “You’ve given me hope. You’ve changed my life.”
In your conversations, what have you found to be the identifying factors for those coming out later in life?
Most struggle against potential loss of family, religion, and profession. Many of these men are dedicated fathers who fear they are abandoning their children. I felt the same way. I am not the father I once envisioned myself to be, but there is no doubt in my mind that those kids and grandkids are mine and that they see me as their Dad and Grandpa.
I asked my daughter what she would tell her children about my marriage to Doug. She said, “I’ll tell them that two people who love each other are getting married.” She told my granddaughters, “We’re going to Iowa because Grandpa and Doug are getting married.” One asked, “Who are they marrying?” My daughter answered, “They’re marrying each other.” Then she responded, “That’s weird,” and after a beat, “Will there be cake?” In her mind that was the critical issue.
What do you hope readers take from this book?
First of all, I think that both the gay and the straight world are pretty unaware of our existence.
Second, I think few are aware of the complexity and how painful it can be to consider leaving a wife (whom you may love the best way you can) and especially your kids.
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