Archive for April, 2011

“When a man discovers his homosexuality, his education must begin all over again,” this according to Loren A. Olson, author of the newly released book “Finally Out.” While this story of coming out as a middle-aged man is uniquely his, the story is told not only from his perspective, but with doses of candid statements and scenarios that came from counseling many men in similar positions. Loren Olson is, among other things a psychiatrist.

He brings up the topic multiple times throughout the book, that being asked how he could not know that he was gay until he was forty years old, as well as being asked, “Wasn’t your marriage just a sham to protect yourself?” Throughout the chapters Olson attempts to answer that question and in doing so, highlights many important milestones in the life of gay men, middle-aged or otherwise.

I’d known that the book was in the works for some time as I’ve been a follower of Olson’s blog, MagneticFire.com. I also knew I’d read the book just as soon as I could get my hands on it. I didn’t know, however, just how important this book would be to helping me understand my world. Not only from where I came to how I got here, but to where I’m going myself, a now middle-aged gay man.

At about the time that I was coming out at age twenty in socially progressive Minneapolis, Olson was dealing with the same struggle, though he was twenty years older than myself and living in rural Iowa. While that is only a geographic distance of 245 miles, it is a cultural distance that is nearly immeasurable. Single and with the majority of my life ahead of me, I had the ability to explore and discover with little consequence. For Olson it meant discretion, secrecy and sometimes lies.

Through reading his story I discovered what a married man thinks as he discovers his homosexuality. I can never truly feel it myself, but I have been the emotional recipient on more than one occasion, of outbursts and frustration from men that I have dated that either were at the time or had been married previously.

“For those who have internalized the cultural constructs of masculinity (strong, heterosexual) and femininity (weak, sissy), life is complex and difficult. They experience a silent and secret sense of of difference from the masculine ideal. Shame and secrecy, lying, self-blame, and self-hatred inform their sexual activities with other men. They experience a sense of dissonance between who they know they are and who they think they should be, and the greater the difference, the greater the self-hatred.”

Regardless of age, location, economic condition and other social conditions this statement is probably true for more gay men than are willing to admit it.

It’s inevitable that the these two worlds of men of various backgrounds collide more often than one might consider. Traditionally gay men of all backgrounds used ‘the bars’ as a place to meet up and socialize. Regardless of age or family status, gay bars were and still are the one place where men who desire men can frequent without traditional boundaries.

This world, the world where men who desire men has moved to new locations thanks to technology. It has moved to virtual spaces around the globe and is connected by the Internet. Olson speaks to this new environment as well –

“He hungers for a connection with like-minded men and his only link is via the Internet, but those relationships are often with other emotionally starved men. Frequently these connections focus on sex to the exclusion of the emotional intimacy he craves.” This again, being a common challenge to men regardless of age, location and economic condition.

Throughout the book I was able to look back at my own experience and challenges, but in addition to looking back, Olson gives readers a chance to look forward. The United States is quickly approaching a time where the largest population of gay senior-citizens will be in need of unique social services that have yet to be defined or protected by law. Inheritance, Social Security, land laws and housing, just to name a few.

There is a lot of work that remains to be accomplished, but Olson’s book connects the dots logically for all men who are homosexual, but just as importantly, for their families – biological or otherwise.

Dr. Loren Olson and his husband, Doug Mortimer, live on a farm in Madison County Iowa where they raise Belted Galloway cattle. They are involved in sustainable agriculture and the production of grass-fed beef.

You can read more about Mr. Olson in an article from the Des Moines Register by clicking here.

Read Full Post »

If you’d like to travel on the Ohio rails with me to Chicago, I’m buying.

When I took my first Amtrak trip in September of 2008 I would have never imagined that I’d be commuting on Amtrak just two years later.   Now, in just a little over two-years time I’ve earned enough points to get a bedroom car for my winter trip through the Rockies to Salt Lake City.

In addition to my regular commutes to and from Chicago/Toledo I’ve ventured to both Washington DC and Minneapolis via Amtrak.  Allow me to add that the route to DC through the Allegheny mountains is simply spectacular.

Over the past couple of years my friends and colleagues have heard me talk about my train trips and some of them started asking questions about how and when one books and travels on Amtrak.  Some of them have taken the time to book trips.

A colleague and his wife booked a sleeper car to Chicago for a long weekend.  Since they were traveling with their young daughter, they found sleeper car accommodations to be perfect for the three of them.  Another couple booked a long weekend in Chicago, but spent the night in Toledo first, thus contributing a little something to Toledo’s economy.  Yet another friend booked a trip from Portland to Seattle while she was on the West Coast.

All of them have eagerly told me how excited they were to be taking their first train rides and equally excited to tell me how much they enjoyed their trips once they returned.

“It’s so convenient.”
“The scenery was beautiful and it was so relaxing.”
“My wife just loved the idea.”
“My eight year old just asked about going for a train ride and I’m thinking about taking the entire family out for the day.”
“It’s so much cheaper than flying.”

This got me thinking more about just how many Ohioans ride the existing Amtrak routes that pass through Ohio.   Toledo has the most boardings of any Ohio train station, and the two other major stops in Ohio are Cleveland and Cincinnati.  However, whether I’m traveling east or west, scores of Ohioans board and disembark at various other stations which include Elyria, Sandusky, and Bryan.

Mind you, Amtrak schedules through Ohio are not that convenient.  The trains travel through the night delivering passengers to Chicago by eleven o’clock in the morning (at the latest), to DC by mid afternoon and to New York and Boston my early evening.  Still, Ohioans make a choice to travel via Amtrak.  Imagine how many more might choose Amtrak if they were to build their schedule around Ohio cities as destinations.

This led me to think that maybe one of the reasons that Ohio’s new governor Mr. John Kasich returned the $400 million in rail funds to the Federal Government is because he’s never traveled through Ohio on a train.  Maybe he thinks that no one rides regular-speed trains because he himself has never thought to try it.

My friends who have chosen to travel on the train absolutely love it, and maybe if John were to jump aboard, he’d like it too.  Maybe he’d like it enough to find another way to fund the expansion of rail through Ohio and create jobs by doing so.  And if that’s the case, I’d like to personally offer to buy John Kasich a round-trip Amtrak ticket to Chicago.

Since I travel out of Toledo often, he’s certainly welcome to ride up to the station with me.  He doesn’t even have to go in half’sies with me on the gas.  The trip is on me.

I’ve thought about the political implications of paying for Ohio’s governor’s train ticket.  Since I didn’t vote for him I don’t think there would be any ramifications for either of us.  And since I won’t be voting for him in the future, it’s not like I’m asking for any type of political favor in return.   But hey, just because I don’t necessarily want to hang out with John Kasich all the time, it doesn’t mean that we can’t be casual friends.  Hell, I’ve paid for other friends to travel with me, so why not John Kasich.

So John, if you’re reading this the invitation is on the table.  If you’d like to travel on the Ohio rails with me to Chicago, I’m buying.  I’ll even pay for breakfast in the dining car.  Have your people get in touch with my people and we’ll coordinate calendars.

Read Full Post »