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In a day and age when people are coming out younger than ever before – some even identifying as gay or trans pre-adolescence – it’s become harder to imagine someone waiting until middle age to come out. Yet for various reasons, many still do. Such was the case for Loren A. Olson, M.D., who came out when he was 40.
“You could call me naive,” said Olson, whose book, “Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight,” was released as a second edition in April. “You could call me stupid. You could say I missed a lot of clues. I think what happened to me is I was married to my wife. I was married for 18 years and had two kids and was living what a lot of people think is the perfect life. Then I met a man, fell in love and discovered a different dimension of loving someone that I hadn’t known before. And I just couldn’t put it away again.” Yet even after discovering a new dimension of love, Olson was hesitant to let go of everything he had built – his marriage, family and career.
“I had always been a very committed and invested father,” Olson said. “I had made all of my marriage vows in good faith. I had expected that my wife and I would be married forever. So I felt as if I was abandoning my children and kind of ruining my wife’s life. … So all I could think about was the losses that I might experience and not about what life might be like afterwards.
“Still, even with that I could not stop myself from moving toward a place where I felt a sense of moral integrity and whole heartedness and I was at peace with who I was and who I presented myself to be.”
After successfully coming out, Olson felt inspired to help others take the same unsure steps he had taken. To that end, he wrote “Finally Out.” The first edition of the book came out in 2010.
“The book is written for not only men who are considering coming out but also women,” said Olson. “It’s also written for family members who love someone who’s made that decision. It’s written for therapists and clergy who are counselling these people. I think it has some interest for people who may wonder what gay life was like in the early and mid-last century. I think a lot of young gay people really can’t imagine the life that many of us lived at that time, during the McCarthy era when there were witch hunts for people who were gay. I think in many ways that makes things a little frightening now when you see what is going on in our current political environment.”
Yes, for all the progress the LGBT rights movement has made since “Finally Out” was first released, Olson said it’s possible now that the pendulum might start to swing the other way.
“There have been really dramatic changes in so much of what’s happened within the LGBT community, not the least of which is marriage equality. That was something that was not even imaginable when the first book came out. Then, I suppose more recently, the pushback with the bathroom laws that are being proposed and some concern about what’s going to happen under the current administration. I think in many ways a lot of us were very complacent when marriage equality was passed thinking at last we’ve got all of our rights and it’s done. I think now things will swing back the other way to the point that it looks a little frightening that we’re going to lose some of the ground we’ve gained in the past several years.”
Still, it’s as good a time as ever for folks to make the leap and come out. Unlike many who see sexuality as a spectrum, Olson said he sees it more as a matrix.
“One of the things that I talk about is we have sexual desire, sexual fantasy, sexual behavior and sexual identity,” Olson explained. “And all the those things are not always consistent in the same individual. If I look at my own life again, I was labeling myself as heterosexual but my fantasies were homosexual. All of those things did not come together and I think when I became comfortable is when all of those four things came into alignment. That’s when I really felt at peace with my sexuality. Other people, I think, may see things in a different way but that was my own experience. It all aligned finally in my life when I was comfortable with it.”