Gray and Gay: Closeted Psychiatrist Comes Out After 40 Years


Coming Out Beyond 40

When Olson came out, "I felt over the hill as a gay man, clueless about what gay meant and suddenly alone," he writes.

Many men don't ever come out, in part because of the idea that "being gay is associated with being weak and powerless," he said. "Somehow we think we got away from that, but we still haven't. Part of it for my generation is giving up the privilege of being a man."

Olson said he decided to tell his story because it wasn't unique. "I felt I needed to share some of my own secrets to make my story authentic. ... I needed to say, 'I know where you are; I have been there.'"

Olson buried his attraction to men until, while still married, he fell in love with an Argentinean man, who was also married. They developed both a sexual and a deep emotional connection.

"I knew that the feelings were so powerful and strong that I would not be able to shut it down again," he said.

Olson eventually divorced his wife, but the journey wasn't easy. "It created a lot of guilt," he said. "There was a lot of anger back and forth for a period of two or three years.

By the time he was free to be gay, Olson had developed all the signs of clinical depression.

He eventually embraced the gay community that he once derided as a "hedonistic lifestyle," joining a gay father's group in 1985. For the first time, he said, he experienced "a sense of sanctuary, a feeling of peace with myself among men who accepted me without the pretenses that by then had become so automatic."

In 1988, a close friend from that group was murdered in a hate crime.

Olson also felt tremendous guilt about disrupting his children's lives and it was "hard to give up the American dream," but said that divorce was harder on them than accepting that he was gay.

Fears that he would be an outcast among his colleagues never materialized.

Although intense, the relationship with the Latin American lover didn't last, and he formed a more lasting union with Doug, whom Olson wed in 2009, when gay marriage was legalized in Iowa.

The couple, who had been together for 23 years, married in the presence of both their families, including Olson's two children and six grandchildren. He enjoys a positive relationship with his wife, who is now remarried.

Marriage, he said, has "changed the dotted family line to a solid family line. ... I cherish the fact that I had kids and experienced that."

After the wedding, the one daughter who had struggled with her father's choice told him, "I finally realized this not just a sex relationship, it's about loving another person."

Olson said there is no universal path to coming out, but his advice to those in the closet is: "The loss is far less than imagined and the gain is far more."

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 14022799.
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...