Articles by Loren Olsen, MD

Am I Too Old To Love Again?

The Good Men Project, December 3, 2020

Years ago, we had friends with a young son. He always called me, “Loren and Doug.” He didn’t see know me as anything except as a part of a couple.

My husband and I have been together now for thirty-three years, so perhaps I don’t see myself as anything but “Loren and Doug,” too. I don’t believe in that overly romantic ideal that two lives become one. But if and when I’m alone again, who will complete my sentences for me? Who will spoil my jokes by telling the punch line when it takes me too long to get there? Read more>>

I Was Sued for Malpractice and I Won

Medium, November 28, 2020

My office manager, Cathy, called my office and said, “There’s a man at the front desk who wants to see you. He says it’s important.”

Cathy’s call irritated me because I was busy, and I don’t like unpredicted interruptions. But I detected a tone in her voice that was different, so I went. Read more>>

Cowboy Up: Gay Men in Rural America

The Good Men Project, November 26, 2020

Several old men wearing seed corn ballcaps sat around in the feed store in St. Charles, Iowa, drinking Folger’s coffee out of Styrofoam cups. Although Doug and I never heard this conversation, I imagine it went something like this:

Have ya’ seen what those two sissy boys that bought the old Palmer place are doin’?

Isn’t that the darndest thing you ever saw! (Good Baptists didn’t say “damn.’) Read more>>

Give the Gift of Forgiveness

Medium, November 24, 2020

Are You Afraid to Love for Fear of Loss?

Medium, November 20, 2020

I never expected to live as long as I have.

When a person reaches midlife, he or she begins to think, more days lie behind me than days left in front of me. I began to have those thoughts as a child.

My mind always defaulted to loss. Read more>>

3 Steps To Achieve Lasting Self-Esteem

The Good Men Project, November 19, 2020

You don’t need someone’s permission to live your own life; you must seize it.

Throughout my long career in psychiatry, I have had many patients say to me, “I just want to be happy.” It’s as if I were going to dispense some magic potion that suddenly would make them feel good about themselves. Read more>>

Is Intermittent Fasting the Right Diet for You?

Medium, November 17, 2020

“Well, Loren, You’re healthy for a fat man.” That’s what my doctor said when I went to see him to discuss intermittent fasting.

I loved him for saying that even though telling someone fat that they are fat is a bit redundant. It’s not like I didn’t know it. I love his honesty. I know that he will always tell me what I need to know, not what he thinks I want to hear. Tell me like it is. Read more>>

Why Do Married Men Watch Porn?

The Good Men Project, November 12, 2020

If I told you that I only watch porn for research in sociology, you’d likely call bullshit. And you’d be right. My husband and I have been together for thirty-three years. We have what sex advice columnist Dan Savage calls a “monogamish” relationship.

Passionate sex in a new relationship has a shelf life of about one year for all couples. Our story is no different. The things that drew us together still hold us together. Neither of us has any desire to change that. Read more>>

Body Dysmorphic Disorder: Obsession With a Flaw Interferes With Life

The Doctor Weighs In, November 10, 2020

Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental disorder in which a person can’t stop thinking about some perceived flaw in their appearance. It may be a flaw that doesn’t exist or is so minor it isn’t noticed by anyone else. It leads to feelings of embarrassment and shame.

Sometimes people with the disorder avoid social situations because they feel their “defect” will be on display. A fairly common example is a person who has had multiple rhinoplasties to fix their imagined nose defect. And yet, after each surgery, they are always dissatisfied with the results. Read more>>

3 Steps to Forgiveness

Medium, November 9, 2020

I should be an expert on betrayal. I’ve been both the betrayed and the betrayer.

We have no control over how others hurt us. The ones we love — parents, lovers, and children — inflict the worst suffering.

A betrayal of trust by someone you love inflicts excruciating pain on us. It disrupts our inner world, and it bleeds into our outer world as well. It’s difficult to concentrate on anything other than our pain. Read more>>

What Do You Call a Man Who Has Sex with Men?

Medium, November 5, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls men who have sex with men, “Men who have Sex with Men” (MSM).

If you ask some MSM, “Are you gay?” they will respond, “Absolutely not.” If you ask them, “Have you ever had sex with a man?” the response is apt to be “Well, maybe.” Read more>>

Without Intimacy Your Partner Will Look Elsewhere

Medium, October 30, 2020

“Michael” was desperate when he wrote me this:

I’ve been married for over thirty years, and I have two sons and a daughter. A couple of years ago, I had an affair with a man. Will my wife ever get over it?

My wife and I have hardly had sex in the last ten years, and when we have, she always says something like, ‘Ok. But let’s hurry up and get it over with.’ It makes me feel like she thinks I’m raping her. I’ve always wanted more sex than she does. Read more>>

I Did Drag Once and That Was Enough

Medium, October 30, 2020

After coming out in 1986, my first gay friends were a group of men I met in a support group for gay fathers. In those days, being a “gay father” almost always meant you’d had children with a woman to whom you’d been married.

I had joined the support group to help with the transition from straight to gay. My closest friends from the group and I were all in our early forties and beginner-gays. Read more>>

The Fear of Sacrificing Everything to Come Out

Medium, October 26, 2020

A few years ago, I gave a talk about men who come out gay later in life to a group of about sixty mostly grey-haired gay men at an LGBTQ community center.

A man I’ll call “David” sat near the back of the room. David appeared to be in his mid-fifties. Nothing about him gave any inkling that he was a gay man. He was large and powerful, a very masculine man with the calloused hands of a tradesman. Read more>>

Why Do Married Men Watch Porn?

Medium, October 26, 2020

If I told you that I only watch porn for research in sociology, you’d likely call bullshit. And you’d be right. My husband and I have been together for thirty-three years. We have what sex advice columnist Dan Savage calls a “monogamish” relationship.

Passionate sex in a new relationship has a shelf life of about one year for all couples. Our story is no different. The things that drew us together still hold us together. Neither of us has any desire to change that. Read more>>

Is It Cheating if it’s with Another Dude?

Medium, October 23, 2020

Sometimes we don’t want to want what we want.

I used to tell myself All I want is a blow job. To achieve that goal, I was going to have to look for it. First, I had a lot of questions: Who does what to whom? How is that negotiated? Where do I go to find it? What would be expected of me in return? What if I like it too much? Read more>>

Seizing Permission to Live Life on Your Own Terms

The Doctor Weighs In, October 21, 2020

When I was a young boy in small-town Nebraska, I knew what everyone expected from me. Tribal values hung over Wakefield like a tornado-producing dark cloud that could drop a twister upon you at any moment.

I followed all the rules, and damn, I was good at it! Yet, I never felt good about myself. Read more>>

How to Deal with the Illusion of Truth

Medium, October 18, 2020

Every story has a back story. In doing research for a previous book about my coming out when I was forty, I was often asked, “How could you not know you were gay until you were forty?”

It is a question I had asked myself many times. I had found some psychological explanations in my father’s death and growing up in small-town America, but I knew there must be more. Read more>>

Is Fitting In Enough for You?

Medium, October 16, 2020

When I was nine-years-old, I called my widowed mother at her work and sobbed, “I can’t get the lawnmower started again.”

She responded, “Of course you can. You’re a man, aren’t you?” How does one answer that question? Men fix machines; I can’t fix mine; I must not be a man. I felt as if she’d ripped off one testicle. Read more>>

Don’t Let Gravity Pull You Down

Medium, October 11, 2020

Life for my brother, “Lefty,” was a continuous battle against gravity.

Until the age of sixteen, his primary battles with gravity were on the baseball field. Lefty was passionate about many things, but nothing exceeded his enthusiasm for baseball. He practiced it, played it, read about it, and listened to it on the radio. Read more>>

Being a Man Doesn’t Demand Being Toxic

Medium, October 9, 2020

When I was about nine-years-old, I tearfully called my widowed mother at her work to say, “I can’t get the lawnmower started.”

She responded, “Of course you can. You’re a man, aren’t you?” How does one answer that question? Men fix machines; I couldn’t fix mine; I must not be a man. Read more>>

5 Steps to Increase Your Empathy

Medium, October 7, 2020

When I attended the University of Nebraska, one of my jobs was as an orderly at the student infirmary. I worked every other night from 11:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m.

After I completed my early rounds, I could go to bed in one of the hospital beds and sleep until the nurse called me. If someone came in as an emergency, I was called to assist. In the morning, I checked vital signs and passed water and trays to those hospitalized. Read more>>

5 Steps to Increase Your Empathy

Medium, October 7, 2020

When I attended the University of Nebraska, one of my jobs was as an orderly at the student infirmary. I worked every other night from 11:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m.

After I completed my early rounds, I could go to bed in one of the hospital beds and sleep until the nurse called me. If someone came in as an emergency, I was called to assist. In the morning, I checked vital signs and passed water and trays to those hospitalized. Read more>>

What You Should Know About Getting Old

Medium, October 2, 2020

I once spoke to a group of older men in Houston about aging. When I finished, “Don” stood up, raised his hands in the air, and said, “I’m 82, and this is the best time in my life.”

I thought, What does he know that I need to figure out?

I then realized that what Don had said about aging was far more important than anything I had said about it. Read more>>

After Divorce, Rethink the Definition of “Family”

Medium, September 29, 2020

My ex-wife, Lynn, and I would have been married now for fifty-two years. But I’ve been with my husband now for thirty-three years; we married as soon as the law allowed.

I love my husband, and I love Lynn.

Although we’re no longer married, I often refer to Lynn as my wife. Read more>>

In Making Decisions, Do What Feels Right

Medium, September 27, 2020

I realized today that am exactly halfway between 65-years-old and 90-years-old. It’s the same day I decided to accept an offer to work in New Zealand for three months.

“What? At your age! Why are you still working?” Read more>>

If You Liked the 2016 GOP Platform, You’ll Love This One

Medium, September 26, 2020

At this year’s Republican National Convention, the RNC took the unusual step of adopting the 2016 platform unchanged. American Family Radio’s response was, “the truth is the 2016 platform is just fine the way it is. In fact, it is great the way it is. This is the platform that put Donald Trump in the White House.” Read more>>

I May Be Gay but Don’t Call Me Homosexual

Medium, September 19, 2020

Recently someone asked me, “If ‘homo’ means same, and ‘hetero’ means other, why is it wrong to use the word ‘homosexual?’”

It’s a fair question.

“Homosexual” and “homosexuality” have long been associated with pathology, mental illness, and criminality. They imply that being gay is sick, diseased, or wrong. Read more>>

Lord, Make Me Chaste, Just Not Yet

Medium, September 16, 2020

I masturbated for the first time on camera several years ago when I was on an out of town business trip.

While driving through this small town, I spotted a sign on a 1950s era motel that said, “Free Internet Access.” As I went to the desk to check-in, I could smell the curry dinner of the East Indian family who owned and operated the motel. Read more>>

Survivor’s Guilt: The Invisible Loss

Medium, September 13, 2020

The sign that welcomes visitors to my hometown of Wakefield, Nebraska, said, “Pop. 1030.” The number never changed for the entire eighteen years that I lived there.

The people who lived in my hometown haven’t changed much either.

Although a few new people did come to town from time to time, they never stayed long. Read more>>

Survivor’s Guilt: The Invisible Loss

Medium, September 12, 2020

Before telling you how to address masturbation with your sons, let me first give you some background about how masturbation has been dealt with in our society.

My first exposure to masturbation was when I was twelve-years-old when a boy about three years older than me slept over. After we got into bed, he said, “Hey, Loren, I want to show you something.” Read more>>

Do You Miss Your Grandkids?

Medium, September 7, 2020

Of all the things that frighten me about this pandemic, not being able to see my children and their children has been the most difficult.

I’m in an age group considered high risk. I’m old. I’m in relatively good health. My doctor said, “Loren, You’re healthy for a fat person.” (I love him for saying that. It convinces me that he will be honest with me about anything that he needs to share with me.) Read more>>

How To Tell Your Children About Sex?

Medium, September 3, 2020

On the way to hockey practice, my grandson said to his mother, “I don’t think I’m in puberty yet. I haven’t had a wet dream.” His comment was as innocent as if he were discussing his hockey practice schedule.

My grandson attends a progressive public school, where sex education is a part of the health curriculum. This would horrify some parents. Read more>>

Are You Cheating On Your Partner Virtually?

Medium, August 26, 2020

Reason is no competition for raw emotion.

Doug and I were like two Sumo wrestlers, locked in a tight grip, as we searched for an advantage that would allow us to throw our adversary to the mat. This sparring had gone on for days, perhaps weeks, and although we grew weary, neither of us would surrender. Read more>>

It May Surprise You But Old People Have Sex

Medium, August 22, 2020

When I was 32-years-old, my mother re-married after nearly thirty years as a widow. The night they were married, I suddenly sat straight up in bed and said to my wife, “Oh my god! Do you think they’re doing it?”

Most adolescents have a similar reaction when they think that about their parents having sex. Without a father, that thought — like many others — didn’t enter my brain until I was much older. Read more>>

My Disappointing Introduction to Gay Sex

Medium, August 22, 2020

My curiosity about sex with another man began to grow while I was a Flight Surgeon with the U. S. Navy; it was prior to today’s easy access to porn sites on the internet. I picked up a copy of Blueboy magazine at the local book store in Maine, carefully sandwiching my copy between copies of Architectural Digest and Psychology Today to avoid detection.

The magazine became my ticket to explore the adult bookstores and movie theaters that showed gay films in New York City. Read more>>

How You Can Improve Your Writing With Bubbles and Squares

Medium, August 18, 2020

New converts often proselytize. I don’t mean to imply that I have figured everything out. I haven’t. But I have had some success. Two ideas have helped considerably in achieving that success: Bubbles and Squares.

I’ve read a lot of stories since I began, and although I am not an editor, in some of the items, two things leap out at me: the story seems to lack a central organizing theme, and they tend to ramble. Read more>>

Gay Husband, Straight Wife: Can It Work?

Medium, August 17, 2020

Often enough people have asked me with some skepticism, “How could you not know you were gay?” I used to wonder that myself. Then there’s the followup question, “Weren’t you hiding behind your wife?”

I guess you could say I was in a “mixed-orientation relationship” (MOR) for eighteen years. But neither my wife nor I knew that we were. When my wife and I divorced, we were homo-naive. I don’t remember others talking about MORs until much more recently. Read more>>

A Husband Or A Dog? Don’t Make Me Choose

Medium, August 13, 2020

Doug and I had been dating for about a year, and we decided to move in together. Doug lived in an English-cottage-style home with a half-acre of gardens that he had lovingly restored.

“I want to get a dog.”

“No dogs!” Read more>>

Are You Magnifying The Negative?

Medium, August 12, 2020

I’m facing a big decision. I have an opportunity to work overseas for several months, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

But I am 77-years-old.

Am I too old to be working overseas? Working anywhere? It’s a long way away and not easy to return home in case of an emergency, and at my age, emergencies are more likely. Read more>>

Are You Keeping Secrets in Your Therapy?

Medium, August 9, 2020

We all want to present ourselves favorably, but in therapy, we have different rules about that than we do in social discourse.

After reading Timothy O’Neill’s excellent story, When You Lie To Conceal The Full Extent Of Your Illness”, I thought it might be useful to write about what transpires on the other end of that couch. Read more>>

Do Cardinals Appear When Angels Are Near?

Medium, August 5, 2020

A few days ago, my husband and I were sitting outside on our deck when a bright red male cardinal landed in a shrub nearby. I said to him, “I always feel like my mother is nearby when I see a cardinal.” He smiled. They loved each other, too.

Sitting on the deck near us, was a concrete lawn ornament, crudely shaped like a cardinal, the paint peeling as if the cardinal is molting. I acquired it from my mother’s things after she died over twenty years before. It has no value except for its sentimental significance. Read more>>

Are You Fat Or Just Gay Fat?

Medium, August 1, 2020

I have man boobs.

I was always self-conscious about the size of my breasts. As a teenager, at the swimming pool, I either stood in shoulder-deep water or lay face down on my towel. When that wasn’t possible, I always had a t-shirt handy. There, on my chest, visible to everyone, was physical evidence that I wasn’t quite a man. Read more>>

I Was Robbed By The Marlboro Man

Medium, July 31, 2020

I wanted to be the Marlboro man.

If you’re over thirty-years-old, just mentioning the Marlboro man conjures up an iconic image of manliness: a muscular, swaggered, rugged, durable, virile, successful, and don’t-take-no-shit kind of guy. You may even be singing the jingle about now. Read more>>

What to Do With a Husband Who Cross-Dresses

The Good Men Project, July 30, 2020

The fantasy of submissiveness and dominance makes people whose sexual behavior runs toward the vanilla uncomfortable. For men, the fantasy combines the roles of a dominant woman or man who holds power over the “naughty boy.”

Mutual consent governs the role-play, although the fantasy itself incorporates an element of non-consent. Read more>>

What HIV Teaches Us About COVID-19

The Good Men Project, July 23, 2020

I came out as gay in 1986, the peak of the HIV epidemic. Sometimes this COVID-19 pandemic feels a lot like that.

After leaving my wife and two daughters, I accepted a job as Medical Director of Psychiatry at one of the largest healthcare systems in Iowa. As far as I knew then, only my wife knew about my recently accepted sexual orientation. Read more>>

Age as a Factor in Sexual Orientation

The Good Men Project, July 16, 2020

When asked about sexual orientation, a person typically will respond with the gender of their preferred sexual partner. Is it a same-sex partner, an opposite-sex one, or both?

In a paper called “The Puzzle of Male Chronophilias,” Dr. Michael Seto writes that the age of one’s sexual partner may be as stable an element of sexual orientation as gender. Read more>>

Why Is Doing Everything Right So Wrong?

The Good Men Project, July 9, 2020

When I was young, I followed all the rules, and yet, I never felt good about myself.

Other mothers would say to my mother, I wish my boy would be more like Loren. That never felt good. I wanted to be naughty, the one who flaunted the rules but had adults dismiss it as Boys will be boys.

But I couldn’t risk the disapproval of people I loved. Read more>>

Is There Cake at a Gay Wedding?

The Good Men Project, July 2, 2020

On my forty-fourth birthday, I entered a gay bar called “La Cage” in Des Moines, Iowa to begin my new life as a gay man. I had left my wife and family a few months before.

As the new medical director of psychiatry at a large healthcare system, I knew that I had to hide my gay life. With alimony and child support, I needed that job. It was 1986, and it was still risky to be out as a physician. Read more>>

What the Hell Is a ‘Demisexual’ and Do We Need It?

The Good Men Project, June 25, 2020

“Why am I Afraid to Have Sex? On the rare occasions when I’ve had sex, I can’t think of one that was a positive experience.”

That’s how a letter to me from a gay man in his mid-sixties began. [The message has been edited for clarity.]

He went on to say,

“I want to have an enduring, romantic, and monogamous relationship with another man, but how realistic is that at my age and with my sexual history?” Read more>>

I Love My Husband, and I Love My Wife

The Good Men Project, June 18, 2020

I love my husband, and I love my wife.

Although we’re no longer married, I still refer to her as my wife, because she’s the only one I’ve ever had, and I doubt that I’ll ever be looking for another one. When I hear the term ex-wife, I see wife with a big red slash through it. Read more>>

I Knew I Would Have an Affair. I Didn’t Expect It Would Be With Another Man

The Good Men Project, June 11, 2020

I cannot live like this, feeling this alone in my marriage. Up to that point, this thought was one I hadn’t allowed myself to think. After eighteen years of marriage, I had never been unfaithful to my wife, and I had never thought of ending the marriage.

I’m going to have an affair. The thought had been even further removed from my mind than divorce. It was contrary to everything I professed to believe. I had not yet met the woman with whom I intended to have that affair. Read more>>

Are We Ever too Old to Come Out?

The Good Men Project, June 4, 2020

“When I was struggling to decide between whether or not to come out, I was hurting. Then my wife and little boy were killed in a car accident. I know what I should have felt, but what I felt was a relief.”

This friend loved his wife and son, but guilt and shame consumed him for betraying them. His pain bothered him to the point he couldn’t bear it, and he had thoughts of suicide. He also knew that despite his many promises, he couldn’t restrain his desire for sex with other men. Read more>>

Monogamy in Gay Couples

The Good Men Project, May 14, 2020

Dr. Olson,

I don’t know how to ask this, not even sure if I should, but I will. Given that there is a difference in sex drives between younger and older men, and you are significantly older than your partner, did that ever create conflict for you and/or him, and if so, how did you resolve it?

You may ask me anything—my life’s pretty much an open book—but I also suspect that you are more interested in your own sex life than mine, and I’m guessing you are concerned about differences in sexual desires between you and either a much older or younger partner. Read more>>

Age Differences in Gay Couples

The Good Men Project, May 7, 2020

Some men prefer older men; sometimes much older. Many inquiries I have received over and over again through the years begin something like this: “I’ve always liked older men, but many gay friends close to my age are critical of me and suspicious of my motives. They don’t get it, but I don’t understand it myself, so how can I explain it to them?” One young man said to me, “If I see a handsome gay man my age, he might just as well have a vagina. I feel nothing.” Another said, “I don’t get aroused if I see some hot young man, but if he’s with his grandpa, I get excited.” Read more>>

I’m Coming Out as Old

The Good Men Project, April 23, 2020

On my 77th birthday, I’m coming out again: I’m coming out as old. That means I’m officially a part of the “old old,” among “the most vulnerable” during this COVID-19 pandemic. I’m now a part of an age group that our society may prefer to be invisible and may feel worthy of being discarded.

But as Oliver Sacks wrote at 80-years-old, “I often feel that life is about to begin, only to realize it is almost over.” He also wrote, “I begin to feel, not a shrinking but an enlargement of mental life and perspective. One has had a long experience of life, not only one’s own life, but others’, too.” Read more>>

Older Gay Men and the Risk of Suicide

The Doctor Weighs In, February 14, 2020

Suicide rates in the United States have surged in recent years, while in other countries the rates have fallen. Although this rise was particularly steep for women, it increased substantially for all middle-aged Americans, a group whose suicide rate had been stable or falling since the 1950s. This article will focus in particular on suicide in older gay men. Read more>>

Is Suicide Ever a Rational Choice?

The Doctor Weighs In, February 25, 2019

My prior post on this site, “Why Older Gay Men Are Attempting Suicide at a Higher Rate,” received a lot of attention. Because of that, Dr. Patricia Salber, the editor of the site, asked that I do a follow-up. I would like to broaden the focus of this essay beyond the LGBTQ community. Read more>>

Transgender Suicide is a Public Health Crisis

The Doctor Weighs In, May 10, 2017

Have you ever felt trapped in a predicament in which you thought there was no possible good outcome? I have. I was a successful psychiatrist, married for 18 years with two young daughters, but tormented with a decision about coming out as gay. The more I struggled with the decision, the more anxious I became. Although I never considered suicide, other mature adults—and there are many—confronting the decision to come out attempt suicide at about three times the rate of the general population, sometimes making multiple attempts. My predicament lasted a relatively short time, and once I made the decision to come out, my anxiety disappeared. Read more>>

The Curse of Attraction to Older Gay Men: The Risks of Loving Significantly Older Men

Thomas Gass, a dentist in California, has survived the curse — twice. The curse? Dr. Gass is a gay man whose only sexual attraction is to men significantly older than he is.

Gass lost his first partner, twenty-eight years his senior, through the slowly deteriorating effects of Lou Gehrig’s disease. They had been together for thirteen years.

After recovering from his grief, he found love again with a man eighteen years older, but he endured another tragic loss when his second partner died of pancreatic cancer after they had spent seventeen years together.

Still a relatively young man, Gass might wonder whether or not to take a chance on loving an older man again. Gass and his friends — all of whom had lost older life partners — have labeled their abiding sexual attraction “the curse of being attracted to older men.”


Sign up for Dr. Olson’s Ask the Doc Posts and Newsletter