November 19, 2019

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Signs of Fall in Iowa

The monarch butterflies are gathering in our trees to begin their migration to Mexico-and making Doug and me think about a winter migration there as well-and the songs of the cicadas remind us in Iowa that the first frost is not far off. 

It was a busy summer. Read on for a recap and more!

-Loren A. Olson MD

Author of Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight


Cruisin' to Barcelona

I was fortunate to have traveled with Cruising Polar Bears on their inaugural trip from Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona. Some of the voyagers were with partners, some were solo, and some were starting over after having lost a long-term partner. Chris MacLellan planned an incredible event for us and is now working on other cruises, notably another transatlantic cruise in April 2020. If you love to cruise-or even if you have never done it-join me and Chris. Make great new friends. Have an adventure.

A trip to Toronto

I traveled to Ontario for book readings of Finally Out in Kincardine and Toronto. I also met with the Gay Fathers of Toronto, a support group for fathers either still in a heterosexual marriage or transitioning to a more open gay identity. This support group has been active for over forty years.

A similar support group in Des Moines, Iowa, eased that transition for me almost 35 years ago; I believe that these groups are no less important now. Coming out isn't easy for most of us, and it is particularly complicated when trying to figure out how to be both gay and a good father.


Support groups

Photo by Zach Vessels on Unsplash

We fear two things as we age: loss of people we love and loss of bodily function. As I have traveled, I have met more and more older men who have been in long-term same-sex relationships who've lost their partner. As I wrote in "Loneliness Is a Killer. Why Don't We Talk about It?" loss is inevitable in all relationships, and returning to being single can be very challenging.

Whether you're a gay father or a bereaved person, a support group can be very helpful. The facilitators in Gay Fathers of Toronto have had training, but groups can be initiated by a small number of people who share a common bond. "Six Tips for Starting an LGBTQ+ Peer Support Group In Your Community" describes how to start such a group. Here's a resource for those who might wish to be a facilitator

Intergenerational perspectives

Are you queer?

I may be one of the few in my generation who embraces the word queer, but for many young people, the terms lesbian, gay, and bisexual are too limiting. GLAAD says this about the word queer: "Once considered a pejorative term, queer has been reclaimed by some LGBT people to describe themselves; however, it is not a universally accepted term even within the LGBT community."

Many in my generation hate the word because it was hurled at us as kids, but I've become comfortable with it because I have come to believe there are an infinite number of expressions of gender and sexual orientation, and no other word is so all-encompassing.

I recently discovered an uncopyrighted diagram, "The Genderbread Person," that I have found useful in discussing variations in gender and sexual orientation. You can find a discussion on the subject here.

Coming out to your kids

This comment was left on my Facebook page: "You have my sympathy, but not my respect. It's beyond me how you could live your life not being true to yourself. It's beyond my comprehension of how you could do this to yourself and others."

I'm often asked when I speak to groups, (1) how did your wife take it? and (2) how did your kids deal with it? I've written about my wife's reaction in Finally Out and also in a piece for Psychology Today.

My daughter, Dr. Whitney Olson Carlson, who is also a psychiatrist, really nailed the answer about kids' reactions in an interview for a Graying Rainbows podcast.

The Lavender Scare

Have you ever been asked, as I have, "What took you so long to come out?" The question usually comes from a much younger member of the LGBT community who has no idea of what our lives were like back when we were first exploring our sexuality. A recent documentary and book offer clarity to that question: The Lavender Scare directed by Josh Howard, and Ike's Mystery Man: The Secret Lives of Robert Cutler, written by Peter Shinkle.

"No matter how familiar you may be with the history of the modern gay rights movement or the domestic discontents of America in the Cold War, Josh Howard's incisive documentary The Lavender Scare offers a stirring depiction of gay travails during that era that's as shocking as it is illuminating." -Roger Ebert Reviews