Thank you so much for your essay on loneliness. It felt like the story of my life. I am currently seeking ways to free myself from the closet. I am older, not young. Maybe it’s beginning to happen now. I have read much about liberating myself from what I call “the shackles of lies and hypocrisy.” For me, religion has been a big difficulty. I’m trying my best to overcome my religion’s expectations and living a lie in the closet.
I was raised a Lutheran and at one time thought I’d always be a Lutheran, but when I came out to my mother, she went to her pastor, who told her, “Loren is going to hell unless he changes his ‘lifestyle.’” I left formal religion for the next twenty years but returned after I discovered an open and affirming church where I felt at home as an openly gay man. Lutheran churches are not all the same, and many have since moderated their stance on sexual orientation. But the point here isn’t about one religion or another. The point is that religious beliefs vary even within a church umbrella, and religious beliefs also evolve. It appears there is no “One Truth.” Continue reading
I am a sixty-two-year-old, retired, financially secure man, and I would like to start dating, but I don’t know where to turn. I am openly gay and a couple of years ago my husband who I’d been with for twenty-five years died suddenly of a heart attack. We had a wonderful relationship, and now I am very lonely and want someone in my life again. I dated one man for a while and later learned he had a wife. I’m considered handsome by my friends, physically fit, and drink only socially. I read and I like to travel. I don’t like gay bars and I’m not interested in meeting someone just to have sex. Do you think it is possible at my age to find someone? Is it too late for me?
I receive questions like this quite often, sometimes from men who are recently leaving heterosexual marriages after coming out but also from men who’ve been widowed after having been in long-term, loving relationships with a spouse. Men who’ve lost their partners seem to have a particularly difficult time of it. The latter group has built a social world based on being a part of a couple, and now that structure is gone. And just like their heterosexual peers, they sit at home eating dinner alone, staring at the chair where their former lover used to sit.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’ve been openly gay for decades but have failed to create a fulfilling personal life for myself. As I age, the opportunities to continue trying have faded away. A life of interacting with shallow acquaintances, attending inane social gatherings, having casual/anonymous sex, and tending my garden quietly doesn’t appeal to me. Why should I continue to exist if I can see no purpose and take no pleasure in it? I’ve thought about joining a religious community. I’ve failed to realize my potential as a gay man and cannot face the hard work of learning how to live without kindness, affection, trust, and intimacy. Is suicide a reasonable choice for me?
One of the most critical issues for each of us, as we approach our later years, is for us to have a sense of meaning, a feeling that our lives have mattered. Many older people think they have failed in one of life’s critical dimensions if they have not found a life partner or do not have a family. For others, though, a sense of meaning can be obtained through belonging to a community that they can commit their time and money to and feel that they are adding value to. Continue reading