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Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight, A Psychiatrist's Own Story (an Excerpt)

Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight, A Psychiatrist's Own Story (an Excerpt)

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Published by Anthony DiFiore
Dr. Loren A. Olson has frequently been asked two questions: How could you not know that you were gay until the age of forty? Wasn't your marriage just a sham to protect yourself at your wife's expense? In Finally Out, Dr. Olson vigorously answers both questions by telling the inspiring story of his evolving sexuality, into which he intelligently weaves psychological concepts and gay history. This book is a powerful exploration of human sexuality, particularly the sexuality of mature men who, like Dr. Olson, lived a large part of their lives as straight men - sometimes long after becoming aware of their same-sex attractions.
Dr. Loren A. Olson has frequently been asked two questions: How could you not know that you were gay until the age of forty? Wasn't your marriage just a sham to protect yourself at your wife's expense? In Finally Out, Dr. Olson vigorously answers both questions by telling the inspiring story of his evolving sexuality, into which he intelligently weaves psychological concepts and gay history. This book is a powerful exploration of human sexuality, particularly the sexuality of mature men who, like Dr. Olson, lived a large part of their lives as straight men - sometimes long after becoming aware of their same-sex attractions.

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Published by: Anthony DiFiore on Jan 26, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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01/28/2013

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1
Chapter 2
It’s Just Common Sense
 
Out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
 
—Jelaluddin Rumi“Am I gay? Bisexual? A latent homosexual? Or a heterosexual with issues?”While hiding as they search for answers to these questions, mature men who are sexuallyattracted to other men find themselves caught in the crossfire between those who considerthem an abomination and those who think of them as hypocritical, self-hating, closetedgay men. Those searching for answers, however, might not be asking the right questions.Rather than searching for a label that fits them, these men could be asking: “How can Iunderstand, accept, and experience the complexities of my sexuality and align it with myvalues?” But it is easier just to choose a label and let the label define you.
 
One steamy hot day in August when I was three years old, my dad was makinghay. He had hitched a young, high-spirited horse with limited training to the steady andresponsive older horse from another team, a common practice in breaking a new horse todrive. My father was working alone. Suddenly, something spooked the horses. Theybolted, running at full speed back to their barn, dragging the hay wagon— and my fatherwho was tangled in the harnesses beneath the horses. My father died several days later,never having regained consciousness.
 
To reconstruct some image of my father I created a montage from other people’smemories of him. When I was young, I would ask my mother about him, but she hadcanonized him and her description was more divine than mortal. I knew that I could neverbe just like him. Once when I was in a high school play, I needed to wear an outdatedsuit. My mother said that she still had my father’s suit in a trunk. We went to the attictogether. As she dug through the chest, she found his suit under her mother’s weddingveil and old pictures of relatives I didn’t remember. She removed it from the trunk andpulled it to her chest. She began to cry softly, and said, “I can still smell your dad on hissuit.” I tried the suit on for size, but it was too small for me. I was too big for the suit, butI could never fill my father’s shoes.
 
I didn’t know what my father looked like. I didn’t know the sound of his voice. Ienvied my mother’s ability to remember the smell of my father, for I didn’t even havethat memory. I need a father as a hero and a mentor. The biased and fractured template of a man provided by my mother was all I had to use for a role model. Long before Iquestioned being gay, I believed that it was my father’s death—and the lack of a rolemodel—that informed my feelings of being an unfinished man.
 
After I had been married several years I asked a cousin, Gaylund, to tell me aboutmy father. Our conversation lasted well into the night. “Tell me some dirt,” I said. “I needsome balance, something to bring him down to earth.” I thought my cousin might haveheard something in his family that would pluck a few feathers from the wings my mother
 
2
had given him. I needed to make him more accessible to me as a human being. I neededto remove his shroud.
 
In the Chariot Allegory Plato described our minds as a chariot pulled by twohorses. The charioteer represents rationality, and he holds the reins and uses the whip toassert his authority. One horse in the team is well-bred and well-behaved. The other isobstinate and difficult to control, barely yielding to the whip. As a man experiencingsexual attraction to other men, that desire was like the obstinate and difficult to controlhorse. Once a man discovers that meeting another man eye to eye—and holding thatcontact for just a moment too long—betrays his interest, he can neither unlearn it nor stopdoing it. He forever becomes a participant in this silent communication between men, andtherefore is always at risk of losing control over the obstinate and high-spirited horse.
 
Some have suggested that my father, then only thirty-two, was no match for thespirited team of horses that killed him. But my Uncle Glen, who knew my father best andloved him as much as I do, insists that my father was an excellent horseman. He and mydad would get wild mustangs through the Bureau of Land Management and bring them toour farm in Nebraska. They would break the untamed animals so they could be riddenand later be sold as well-trained horses.
 
My uncle cried as he described the day of my father’s injury. My father had awell-trained team of horses but wanted to break in this new, partially trained horse he’drecently purchased. He hitched the inexperienced horse with the steadiest and best one inhis mature team, trying to train the new addition. My father was alone with the team inthe hayfield when something spooked the horses. The two horses came running full boredown the lane and up to the barn pulling the hay wagon behind and my father beneath it.As they reached the barn, they found themselves stopped abruptly because the hay wagonwas too wide to fit through the doorway. Even a good horseman is not always a goodmatch for untamed horses.
 
Pope Benedict XVI, while still Cardinal Ratzinger, apparently didn’t put muchstock in Plato’s allegory. He wrote that the essence of being human resides in one’sreason, and our conscience must guide our physical passions. Homosexual “inclination,”according to Ratzinger, is not a sin, but homosexuality is “intrinsically disordered.”Cardinal Ratzinger said that homosexual behavior is not a right. He also said that no oneshould be surprised if violence is directed at those who engage in homosexual behavior—an all too feint condemnation of violence based on hate.
 
Many gay men believe that once a man has been tempted to homosexual behavior,he has little choice but to give in to it. Charles Darwin thought sexuality was biologicallydetermined. In
The Descent of Man
, Darwin wrote: “At the moment of action, man willno doubt be apt to follow the stronger impulse; and though this may occasionally prompthim to the noblest deeds, it will far more commonly lead him to gratify his own desires atthe expense of other men.” The subtext of Darwin’s message is evident: We frequentlydo not operate using only rational thought even when our decisions have painfulconsequences to others. It is in this contentious and rigid environment that men andwomen who are attracted to members of their own sex often enter when seeking answersto questions about their sexuality.
 
When we speak of the “self,” we are talking about the core of our being, theuniting principle that underlies all of our subjective experiences. The self incorporatesour genetic programming with the lessons our parents and culture have taught us. We

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