Dr. Loren A. Olson writes from the heart and from experience. As a psychiatrist who came out of the closet in his 40’s, Dr. Olson has many years experience both as a man who came out in his middle years and as a psychiatrist who has dealt with many issues related to sexuality.
Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight, a Psychiatrist’s Own Story is not always an easy read. I don’t mean that it is badly written, far from. Nor do I mean that the material is dense or hard to understand. Quite the contrary. What I do mean is that it hits home for many who will be reading it today and in the future. Dr. Olson, writing from the heart and from a good amount of experience, tells you what is going on in the hearts, minds, and even the souls of many older men who are coming to terms with their sexuality.
Like many good story tellers, he tells you what he knows, what he has lived and experienced. Starting with personal details about his own childhood and his coming to terms with the loss of his father at a very young age and moving through his college career and into his marriage and professional life, Olson tells you not just what he experienced, but what he has learned from others and by stepping out (literally) into a world that is not always friendly to older gay and bisexual men.
I was introduced to Dr. Olson through a Facebook group created by a good friend of mine. Gay Men Over 40….and The People Who Love Them provides a venue for men (and women) who are coming to terms with their own sexuality, wanting to reach out and make friends with others, and sharing the support that so many can bring in a safe and friendly atmosphere. Though I am not over 40, I do know and love many people who are (straight, gay, bi, male, female and transgender). It was because of GMO40 that I have met many interesting and unique people and been afforded the opportunity to learn from so many different perspectives. In GMO40, I saw a posting regarding Finally Out and took the step to contact Dr. Olson and go from there.
We quickly started sharing bits of information and talking about the work that he put into his book. Not too far into the conversation he offered to send me a copy of his book for review on this blog and we began negotiations for having him visit with Corwin and I on Lavender Hill at Lincoln’s KZUM radio. That visit has yet to be scheduled, but through no lack of communication! The day the book arrived in the mail I began reading it and kept reading until I was done. A copy of the book will be made available as a premium giveaway during one of KZUM’s upcoming fund drives (summer 2013).
But back to the book…..
Many gay men of my generation know little of the history of the LGBTQ movement, let alone those in the younger generations. Reading through Dr. Olson’s account of how he came to understand that he was gay, after being married for years, fathering two children, and establishing himself in a career, takes the reader through decades of the movement. Harvey Milk, ACT-UP, the early years of the AIDS epidemic and the more recent murders of Brandon Teena and Matt Shephard. By referring to these people and events, the book helps establish a timeline for the reader to have a better understanding of when things happened in Dr. Olson’s life.
Throughout the book, Olson also provides information on studies and other people who helped him to better understand himself. Including his own (not scientific) survey that he used to launch some of the research he conducted as the skeleton of his work. The flesh and clothes he puts onto that structure will provide the reader with a better understanding of what it means to come out of the closet as an older man. The personal anecdotes will also help the reader to get into their own shell and get a glimpse of the heart ache and emotional pain that can come about for everyone involved when a person comes out, be it at a young age or in their middle or later years.
There are many books out there for teens, young adults or 20 to 30 somethings who are coming out to themselves and their loved ones, but this book is unique in focusing on the over 40 segment of the LGBTQ community. It is the hope of Dr. Olson that his book helps smooth the way for some of those people. And it is my hope that if you read the book you appreciate the heart and soul that it takes to make that brave step, no matter your age.