Dear Dr. Olson,
I was married to a “bi” man for over twenty years. We never told our son until we separated and were divorcing. He wanted to know why we were divorcing, so his dad told him. Our son was a teenager when my ex-husband disclosed this. How does keeping the sexual orientation of a parent secret from a child affect a child/teen/man psychologically? My ex had sex with only men besides me before and during our marriage and identified as openly gay after our divorce.
You have asked a good question that does not have an easy answer. First of all, it depends upon the child’s level of maturity and experience in the world. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Hi, Dr. Olson,
I am a middle-aged divorced man, and since my divorce I have been struggling with my sexual identity. Perhaps I have always been in denial or confusion with my sexuality. Growing up I had female friends but felt intimidated by them sexually. My first sexual experience was with a childhood friend, but I felt sick, ashamed, and guilty. This increased my need to always have a girlfriend to suppress this shame. Following my divorce, I felt incredibly lonely and started flirting with guys online. For the first time, I felt attractive. Who am I?
Your story is very familiar to me and not much different from my own. Some find it hard to believe that a man could reach middle age before questioning his sexual identity, but in my research, I have even interviewed a man in his nineties who, having lost his wife of over fifty years, began to explore his same-sex attractions. Seeking an answer to the question of who I am led me to write Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight. Continue reading
I recently received an email from the child of a parent who came out when this child was fourteen years old. In preparation for writing an essay about the experience, the child asked me a series of questions. My answer follows each question below.
- What was the aha moment that you had when you finally decided to come out to your family? To yourself?
I grew up in the 1950’s – 60’s. FINALLY OUT resonated with me because I grew up in the insularity of a rural environment. I was ignorant of homosexuality also. I am now in my sixties and I feel lonely and in despair. After 30 years of marriage, I came out to my wife. I have struggled to find a good therapist who can understand what I’ve been going through.
Most of the gay literature focuses on the coming out process for young gay men and women. Are there any that describe the trials of coming out as an older man?
I am concerned about your “lonely despair.” Even at your age, it is possible to 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 be seeking a lover, but finding friends, gay or straight, who accept you as you now have revealed yourself to your wife, but also, more importantly, to yourself. Continue reading
Having children has always been very important to me, and I have been blessed to have a son and two daughters. I worry how coming out might impact my relationship with them. How did your coming out affect your relationship with your kids? If you had come out as a younger man, would you have still wanted to be a father?
Being a father was one of my highest priorities. I lost my father when I was three years old and I had promised myself to be the best father I could possibly be. A large part of what delayed my coming out was a fear that I was abandoning my relationship with my children and breaking a vow I’d made to my wife. Continue reading
I’m very new to all of this. In fact, I’ve never been with a man sexually, although I’ve thought about it for a long time. I find myself vacillating between excitement and nervousness over the anticipation. I made eye contact with someone at the gym today but wasn’t sure what to do next. I’m considering a weekend at a clothing optional resort, hoping to explore the gay community a bit more. I’m looking for one that isn’t too seedy but one where I can have some good conversations with other like-minded men.
Of course, you’re nervous as well as excited. All very normal. Cruising goes on everywhere. Eyes meet, when a glance is held for a bit longer than the look between heterosexual men. It’s the initial communication of some interest. Once you’re aware of it, you become a participant without even intending to. It’s a learned response, and once learned, it never goes away. All it means is that you’ve developed some comfort in looking at another man. Heterosexual men are usually uncomfortable with it and will look away quickly. Continue reading
My essay “Mature Gay and Bisexual Men and Suicide” in Psychology Today drew these questions from a reader: What drew you to psychiatry? Why the interest in suicide in mature gay and bisexual men? What accounts for their high rates of suicide and mental health issues, and are the rates different among younger gay and bisexual men? How does race factor into this? What can be done to combat high rates of suicide among mature sexual minority men?
I have always thought of psychiatry as a calling rather than a choice. To be successful, one must be able to accurately empathize with patients’ emotional pain. Our training allows us to step back from that pain and then apply some objective, rational thought as to the most appropriate intervention. Healing occurs through genuine warmth, accurate empathy, and unconditional positive regard for each patient. Continue reading