Archive for the ‘Read’ Category

“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.


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Indianapolis resident Greg Meckstroth writes this week on his blog, Urban Out, about his take on the differences and similarities between Indianapolis and Columbus.

Columbus has an urban spirit not found in Indianapolis, resulting in places like the Short North, German Village, Victorian Village, and Harrison West – all independent oriented, arts inspired urban neighborhoods that feel authentic, progressive, and on-the-go.

You may recall that it was about this time last year that I spoke with Walker Evans at Columbus Underground about my then recent visit to Indianapolis.

These two mid-tier Midwestern cities quite frequently compete in many categories – and it’s always interesting to see someone else’s perspective on this mid-west rivalary.  Click  here to read Greg’s post in it’s entirety.

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There are times when a little daily distraction becomes comforting.  Delightful in a quiet way.  Simple but charming.  Last week one of those popped into my ‘on-line’ world and I’ve found myself looking forward to it, now daily.

Public Transit Magic. Whom ever they are and where ever they’re located, well I’m not quite sure, but last week they showed up in my Twitter feed which led me to their blog as as well as their Facebook page.

The only thing known about them is this:

What is PTmagic? It’s a collective of peoples’ experiences with the public transit system in their cities.
I recently found myself without a car and have been relying on public transportation to get around. I have already become familiar with the good, the bad and ugly of my city’s bus transit system.
I wanted a place where I could share my encounters as well as hear from people in similar circumstances.
Join me in shedding some light on those peculiar, warming, or insightful events that occur inside buses, trains, light-rails, or subways by submitting your stories, photographs, links or videos.

Every day is a new adventure.
Share the magic.

Readers are invited to share their stories, photos and video from their public transit rides.  Have a look and as the editor says, Share the magic!

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In August of 2008 a group of active bloggers, with the help of WOSU and COSI, helped a small Columbus neighborhood learn how to use social media to spread the word about its triumphs and struggles.

The neighborhood, Ganther’s Place is located in Columbus’ south side, just south of Whittier Street.  They now have a blog in addition to their web site.  They use Twitter and FaceBook to keep their neighbors and the adjoining communities informed.  The neighborhood has been the recipient of grants and funding for their community-led projects and has been in the local and national news for a variety of reasons.  Just yesterday they were featured in the New York Times.

So much good has come as a result of their efforts, and the neighborhood leaders continue to press ahead despite the occasional political and social setback.

Slightly more than a year following the creation of their new-media efforts, Ganthers Place is using their local media efforts to communicate the need for help for one of their neighbors.

In early November, a young man was beaten near South High School  which lies adjacent to Ganther’s Place.  The young man known as Justin is now home, but with a trachea and feeding tube.  His mother has had to take two months off from work and Justin’s father is also in the hospital with health-related issues of his own.

In response, Stephanie Sherwood, the woman who runs Ganther’s Place on-line media, set up a fund at the Charter One Bank inside the Parsons Avenue Kroger to assist Justin’s family.  All proceeds from the fund go directly to Justin’s family.

While many people in Columbus are dealing with a challenging economy, this is an exceptional situation that needs our assistance.  Thanks to the ongoing community efforts of the good neighbors at Ganther’s Place, if we all pitch in with whatever we can, we will help the Justin’s family.

Please donate to The Justin Bailey Fund.  Monetary donations can be made at The Charter One Bank inside of Kroger on Parsons Avenue.  You may also donate such things as food and clothing to Ganther’s Place.  Please call 614 732 4436 for more information.

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If you’ve been reading Urban-inFill long enough its evident that I’m in favor of comprehensive public transportation systems. Before purchasing my first car at age 23 I used public transit in both Minneapolis and Salt Lake to get around – and it was easy because in both places, I lived in the city with easy access to daily goods and services. In New York and San Francisco I lived without a car.

As an automobile owner for the past two decades I continue to rely upon public transportation whenever possible. It’s a personal choice because I simply do not like driving, although sometimes it is necessary.

Many Americans do not have the option of relying upon public transportation, either because they’ve chosen to live outside of the city or because the city in which they live does not support a comprehensive public transit network. A recent article by NPR’s Joseph Shapiro looks at the challenges facing aging drivers – a group of people who are often left stranded when their ability to navigate an automobile is diminished.

To drive is to be independent. Among Digman’s clients are people with fading eyesight who need to test their night vision. Or someone who was partially paralyzed after a stroke, now learning to use a left-foot accelerator. Or it might be someone whose license has been suspended because of an accident or a flunked driving test.

With scattered families, or families with two wage-earners, aging drivers have fewer options for getting to and from the locations that are meaningful to their lives. It becomes bothersome to seek rides from already busy friends and family, so many aged drivers continue driving for better or for worse. This NPR story looks at how aged drivers relearn previously held skills.

Read and/or listen to this article. It is yet another reason that cities need complete public transit systems. While most cities are trying to attract and retain younger citizens, here is an example of another group that benefits from public transit. For aged residents who can no longer drive  public transit allows them to maintain their  mobility and keeps them linked to the important people and places in their lives.

Keeping existing residents in their homes, regardless of age, stabilizes neighborhoods, keeps neighborhoods safer and creates a sense of place for new residents.

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The thought of marriage is something I haven’t entertained since I was nineteen years old. I had moved to California and was missing my best friend Tiffany – we’d been companions for years and I thought that, if there was one person I would marry, it would be she. I wrote her a letter in hopes that she’d come to California.

A year or so later when I self-identified as gay, I realized that I was thankful that Tiffany hadn’t come to join me in California. I had a new set of circumstances to understand, and with my new reality I moved forward.

The letter to Tiffany was mailed twenty-five years ago but recently I’ve been thinking about marriage again. Not because I find myself in a position to marry, but because I can’t. Despite the media frenzy over same-sex marriage and the continued discussion over California’s Proposition 8, I’ve sat this one out because I felt it didn’t really matter to me.

I’ve determined that the reason I felt it didn’t matter is because I’ve been conditioned to believe that I wasn’t fit to love someone enough to do that. Everything that I’ve been exposed to for the past twenty-five years has said, subtly or otherwise, “its not for you”.

It was a recent article in the Chicago Free Press by the syndicated columnist Jennifer Vanasco that offered a perspective I’d not previously considered. I’ve read this paragraph from the article over and over throughout the past two weeks;

Marriage is a risk. It is brave. When we fight for the right to marry, we are asking for a chance to be challenged. We are not taking the easy way out. We are saying that in spite of the odds, despite the large possibility of failure, we are willing to live in hope.

Over the past twenty-five years there have been a handful of boyfriends here and there. While we spent time together with varying degrees of success, and while we may have challenged ourselves with career moves and housing opportunities, we never had to entertain thoughts of a social challenge as great as marriage. We never had to be that brave.

When I look back with this new perspective, I’m pissed off that I’ve never been expected to be brave like that. I feel jilted, actually. While I can’t change the past, I wonder how things may have been different if every gay man had grown up with the expectation that he could find, fall in love with, and marry the man that makes him feel so alive inside that he just couldn’t bare not to.

Imagine raising a child who has a capacity for music and forbidding them to play the piano, the guitar or denying them the ability to sing out loud. Imagine denying a child with great athletic ability the chance to run the bases, use the parallel bars or shoot hoops. They’re permitted to sit in the bleachers, attend the concerts and follow the lyrics, but they’re forbidden to participate. End of discussion.

Many gay men my age are doing well for themselves. Some better than others but most have solid jobs, livable homes and manage a vacation or two a year. We have not been left out of commercial success. We have, however, been left out of achieving the true emotional success of love.

Marriage is a cultural statement far greater than it is a legal statement. Legal statements can be crafted by lawyers. From a cultural standpoint, gay men and women have been led to believe that they are inconsequential. That our lives simply don’t matter … as much.

For the past twenty-five years I have internalized this without realizing it. Despite the hard work attributed to my various successes, I have kept myself from fully understanding the bravery in love. I grew into adulthood without this kind of hope. Without knowing it I took the easy way out and accepted the societal view of my own capacity.

I always thought that I was being brave – every father tells his little boy to be brave. Now I understand that I have not been brave at all. I never expected to have these feelings and now I do. I’m angry and sad at the very same time. My father told me to be brave and I have failed him.

Click HERE to read more by Jennifer Vanasco.

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