Literary and Other Resources

There appear to be plenty of novels regarding the coming out process for gays in one’s teens, but are there any that focus on the coming out trials of the much older man? I have yet to find any such invention. Do you know of any? If there are none, wouldn’t a skilled novelist articulate our difficulties and form a powerful commonality among those I imagine you encounter? Now in my sixth decade, I find myself most times in lonely despair.

Thank you for your nice comments about Finally Out. Many people share our story or something very similar to it.

I am concerned about your lonely despair. Even at your age, you can still successfully get through this process of coming out. In my research, the oldest man I came across was in his nineties when he came out, and he was living with his gay lover when I met him. The most important thing for you to do today, however, isn’t to seek out a lover but find friends, gay or straight, who accept you as you now have revealed yourself to your wife and, more importantly, to you.

These friends do not have to be gay friends—just friends who will accept you. Those people exist wherever you live. There are “open and affirming” churches and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), Prime Timers Worldwide , and Advocacy and Services for LGBT Elders (SAGE) chapters. If you live in a rural community, it may be more difficult, but the internet can give you access to some of the available resources. But the internet can be a trap, too, if you never come out from behind your computer. Use it as a resource to find things that are available to you.

The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) can find you a referral to a gay-supportive doctor, and the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists (AGLP) has a referral directory for gay-supportive therapists. Some therapists are using the internet to do psychotherapy about coming out issues via Skype and other online communication networks; I have recently begun doing that, too.

You are right about not finding much in the way of fiction about older men coming out; that was the reason I wrote Finally Out. Although the book is not fiction, I knew that in writing it I had to include stories about myself (with some discomfort) for readers to know I understand the conflicts. One of the challenges for writers and publishers is to market the book to a largely invisible population.

When I was coming out, I was advised to read Advise and Consent, an old novel in which the gay character doesn’t find a happy resolution. (I still don’t know why my therapist would want me to read it, except perhaps to warn me that he thought if I came out, life would not end happily for me. Now, forty years later, I have proved him wrong about that.) Most of the early books and films ended with a bad outcome for the central gay character. Many recent movies are much more gay-positive, such as this list published on YouTube.

Another book, then made into a movie, is A Single Man. Again, the gay figure is portrayed as a desperately unhappy man, and in many of the gay books and films, that is frequently the case for older gay men. Mississippi Sissy is one I would recommend about growing up gay in a mostly rural state. You can also find fiction through the Lambda Literary Awards.

What you need, though, are images of older gay men who have successfully navigated this change in their lives, and fortunately, many of us are out there. Unfortunately, our stories are not being told. It makes me think I should write another book.

If after reading this you don’t remember anything I’ve said to this point, what I want you to remember is that there is hope. You don’t need to feel as you do. I cannot diagnose or treat you, but if you have several of the following, medication might be helpful:

  • Sleep disturbance—too much or too little
  • A loss of interest in things or a lack of experiencing pleasure in things that once gave you pleasure
  • More guilt about things than you have reason to feel
  • Low energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in appetite, too much or too little, especially a craving for comfort foods
  • Lethargy or agitation
  • Thoughts about hopelessness, death, or suicide

But the most important thing for you to do is to challenge the stereotype in your head about what it means to be an older gay man. That comes when you meet others who’ve shared your experience but are now living happy and healthy lives.

I think the novels you want will be written. With tens of thousands of boomers turning sixty-five each day, many of them are gay and will likely want to translate their life into fictional characters that are different from the social stereotypes of what it means to be old and gay.

After I spoke in Houston a few years ago, a gay man said, “I’m eighty-two and this is the best time in my life.” I’ve heard similar statements from many others. Once we stop living our lives according to the expectations of others, we feel a great freedom to live our lives as we choose rather than how we were expected to live them.

This can be the best time in your life.

Loren Olson