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Out of the Shadows: Reimagining Gay Men's Lives

4.45  ·  Rating details ·  194 ratings  ·  49 reviews
A moving exploration of how gay men construct their identities, fight to be themselves, and live authentically

It goes without saying that even today, it’s not easy to be gay in America. While young gay men often come out more readily, even those from the most progressive of backgrounds still struggle with the legacy of early-life stigma and a deficit of self-acceptance, wh
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 2019)
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Richard Derus
Pearl Ruled (p59)

The first chapter, "Are Gay Men Homosexuals?", wants to delve deep into an old, old argument about identity and self-definition that, quite frankly, is beyond my capabilities just now. My dear Young Gentleman Caller, recently departed this sandy spot on Earth, asked me to read it so I did...the first chapter...and I'm just not down for a discussion of what makes me like all the other QUILTBAG people in the world. Am I, in fact, like a lesbian or a trans person?

We're all human, w
May 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019
An essential exploration of the possibilities for gay self-love in the wake of lifelong and ongoing personal and community trauma, by a gay psychotherapist who has treated hundreds of gay men attempting to build authentic lives in the face of immense—and ethically inexcusable—suffering. This brave, beautiful book is a guidemap (or, as Odets calls it, a songbook) for interrogating the coping mechanisms that can imperil healing and a more authentic life. Empathetic and wise. I cried so much. Inclu ...more
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are a gay man or know someone who is a gay man, listen up. Walt Odets has been a San Francisco psychotherapist for over 40 years. His book, Out of the Shadows: Reimagining Gay Men's Lives is a call to embrace the life we were meant to live no matter what age we are when we read this book. Odets weaves the understanding of societal influence, biological family, community, and the two parts of the AIDS epidemic in the western world and how these merge together to either support or hinder us ...more
Mark Hiser
Note: Odets’s book is focused on gay males so I will use the word gay rather than the more inclusive LGBTQ.

I cannot do this book justice with this review. In fact, I cannot do it justice with a single reading. As I read, I was aware that Odets was writing about something that would take a lifetime to undo and to reimagine—my own life as well as the life of countless gay men born into a society that is still hostile to them.

“True self-acceptance is readily recognizable: it is largely free of
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfic
I was terribly moved by this book, and while I commend Odets for his urgent and respectful voice guiding readers through this tough look on shame, isolation, trauma, and recovery, it's the stories—one after the other—of the queer men he interviewed and counseled that make this a must read. No surprise, then, that the final chapter is Odet's personal story and his own relationships. It's a beautiful arc.

Odets gives the men in this book wide berth to tell their stories—all "heroic" ones, he assert
Every page of this book to me: go to therapy please 😌🤗
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
---Full disclosure: I received this book for free from Goodreads. ---

So, I'm not sure what I expected this to be, but I sure didn't expect it to be everything that it was. It was such a well-done piece of work, & the author deserves praise for what he's he's done here.

That said, I'm not quite certain how to relate my reading experience here. I quite enjoyed the insight provided via the interplay of the author's lived realities as a compassionate psychologist, & his personal life as a gay ma

Justin Fogarty
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Walt Odets has done a phenomenal job of describing the life of a gay man in America. This should be required reading for all gay, bi, queer, gender fluid, trans, etc. individuals, as well as any allies, friends, or curious souls.

Odets is a clinical psychologist, and thus presents various aspects of the gay existence via psychological case studies. Each account is compelling, and for me, hauntingly familiar, as I suspect it would be for most queer men in America. Within these vignettes, Odets de
Aug 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is rare that I read a book that resonates so closely with my experiences. This book stirred up a lot of emotional baggage for me... but in a good way. This book is brave, honest and insightful. Highly recommended, especially for gay men seeking encouragement to embrace a life of self-acceptance and authenticity. I'm grateful to Walt Odets for this gift.
Peter Gajdics
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It took me a long time to finish reading this book because I recognized myself on every page, and that was painful. For anyone, gay or straight or otherwise, wanting to delver deeply into what it means and what it's meant to be "gay," and not just "homosexual," I couldn't recommend this book more.
Jerry Smith
As a straight, white, Cis, middle aged male I find myself in a very fortunate, totally unearned position in society replete with white (and other) privilege that I work to understand and try to change every day. In attempting to become more educated on the issues, I have read a lot about the racial divide in the US. However, I am very under informed about LGBTQ issues and I want to be a better ally. Hence I picked up this book and it was educational indeed.

Odets is gay, and has decades of experi
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An essential book for people to read — young or older — to understand the complicated psychological landscape within which gay men are living. With "marriage equality" finally granted, many people incorrectly think that everything is easily mended and works without the need for introspection and hard work.

As Walt Odets writes: "Are men who fall in love with other men and get married just like heterosexual men in conventional marriages? Both gay lives and gay relationships have a long, necessari
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Today's gay communities would like to think that they bask in the light of a new golden age of acceptance and self-acceptance, but that is significantly untrue.' Review to follow.
George K. Ilsley
Not an easy read, but feels like a “must read”. It is an important book, even though the explicit audience is the US market. Grateful for the insight into the effects of being born before Stonewall, and the impact of the stages of the AIDS epidemic on those who lived it and those who lived through the echoes and the still reverberating trauma. I was grateful as well for reviewers here who mentioned how much they loved the last chapter. So, yeah, I stuck it out and the last chapter, a biography o ...more
Nicole Handy
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won this novel via Goodreads Giveaways.

As someone who has background working in AIDS hospice and day centers in the earlier 2000's, I was very excited to read this novel. Listening to the history of the epidemic from the survivors is incredibly powerful and this novel brought back some of the very real, very painful, yet full of hope stories I witnessed there.

In this age, it's hard for some of us to imagine living in shame and fear. To hiding who we are even to those who should be our biggest
Sep 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt
This book really hit home for me. The author is a gay therapist with decades of experience working with gay men of all ages. He has amazing insight and clarity into the issues that impact the lives of gay men. Growing up in a society that doesn't value those who are gay often leads to shame, isolation, and life-long feelings of being different from others. What I found most powerful was the many personal stories of gay men the author has worked with over the years, including his own story of lov ...more
Christopher Dempsey
Sep 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gay
I have just finished this book and I have much to think about. I'll have to come back to write a longer review.
Helen Farrell
Jul 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The test of a good non-fiction book is whether you spend more time staring at the walls thinking about it (or googling for more information on the issues it's raising) than actually reading it. Rarely does a book pass the test as resoundingly as this one, you can engage with it either with your heart or your head (or, in fact, both) - it will be equally fascinating.

Firstly - the heart. It really isn't any less interesting if you're straight, most of what the book says about relationships (and li
Elaine Baskin
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Out of the Shadows" is an important book, not only for gay men, but also for the rest of us (I am a straight white woman of a certain age). The case studies from Odet's therapeutic work as a psychologist working with gay men are moving emotionally, and illustrate each point that he is making. The psychological concepts that he discusses apply to all people, not just gay men, although he does explain why they are particularly important for gay men of all ages. The most moving stories are about h ...more
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m not sure I bought everything this book was selling me, but that final chapters soars: one of the most clear-eyed pieces of non-fiction I’ve read all year, a tightrope walk of politically and emotionally-engaged writing.
Jul 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: musings
This book which combines politics, psychology, memoir and lots of very wise insights into gay men's lives was a delight to read. It has a kindly, fatherly voice to it which is quite rare in literature and his talents as a story teller are just as strong as his analytic capabilities and political understandings. A mesmerizing read.
Jun 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Bolt of reality through the Rainbow.
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways
The two main reasons I wanted to read this book are 1. I am a queer person and 2. I don't know as much about gay men's lives and the history of gay men as I wanted to. This book provided an incredible look into the experiences of gay men in the United States and societies view of gay men. Though the book could be heartbreaking at times, I would highly recommend to anyone, regardless of sexual or gender identity.

The author is a psychotherapist who is also a gay man. There are few people that are
Leigh Gregory
Feb 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I find most interesting is how he lays out what seem to be essentially two basic groups of gay men with especially the AIDS plague as a dividing point for some. At the risk of being very broad brushed. There are the gay men who even more than love seek comradery and what he calls “sport sex,” while other seek lifelong love and sex as part of fulfilling that vision. He clearly tends to favor the later, which for him has a lot to do with living through the plague and his own questioning of wh ...more
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: academia, queer
This book has absolutely changed my life. Undoubtedly. This well thought out, moving and accessible book of psychological explorations of gay men’s lives should truly be required reading for all gay men. It teaches us so much, gives us space to think about our shared trauma, and let’s us breathe as we see our experiences marked down in ink. The final chapter is truly extraordinary, if I could make anything I have ever read into a film, it would be this last chapter.

This book, however, does not c
Jul 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: queer, non-fiction
CW: sex, death, acephobia

Disclaimer: I skipped most of the chapter on Matthias.

This contained some touching moments and messages that extended beyond gay men's lives, and I learned a lot about the history of the gay community. However, the author has clear opinions on the "right" way to live, including a Nickelbackian approach of "sex is always the answer," which is not appropriate for a piece of non-fiction nor a psychotherapist. While the quotes from patients were a nice touch, it often felt l
Jessica L
Jan 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Still working my way through the book, but so far I'm enjoying what I've been learning. I've talked about it with my father a lot who (because of the way he was raised and the environment he was submersed in) doesn't understand or isn't knowledgable about certain terms, and history related to the theme of this book. So it's been super interesting to talk to him about what I'm learning and passing on the knowledge and really opening up new doors of understanding is like my favorite thing about ge ...more
Jul 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“But it is no man’s responsibility to forfeit his initiative – and thus himself – to be something that someone else wanted him to be. The challenge for gay men today is to recognize and acknowledge guilt and attempt to work it through by allowing themselves to have the lives they want. Without unfounded guilt, our lives are more expensive, fulfilled, and happy.”

Part history lesson, part psychology session. This is an exploration in to the shame and stigma the gay community has faced from society
Feb 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. I’m not a huge fan of pop psychology books but I’ve been telling all my gay friends to read this. Deals honestly and bluntly with the idea of how childhood traumas and harmful heteronormative societal and familial expectations influence gay men and their relationships as adults. There’s some pretty heavy/dry psychology but it’s always balanced by anecdotes to support the theories. In these anecdotes I recognized so much of myself, my friends, and other people I know. Speaks honestly about s ...more
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbt, history, giveaway, stem
** I received an advanced reading copy from a Goodreads giveaway

Though information dense, this book provides clear insights into the gay sensibility, specifically delving into the trauma the HIV/AIDS crisis provoked in an already vulnerable community. Heartbreaking yet filled with joyous victories, Walt Odets' novel casts a human light on a highly stigmatized community. I thank him for his authentic life, both as a psychotherapist and now in his book.
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Walt Odets is a clinical psychologist in private practice who has worked with and written about the psychological, developmental and social lives of gay men for more than three decades.

His seminal book, In the Shadow of the Epidemic: Being HIV-Negative in the Age of AIDS, which Duke University Press published in 1995, was selected by The New York Times as one of the “Notable Books of the Year.” T

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11 likes · 3 comments
“Despite the illusion imparted by a diagnosis, people do not usually “have” an emotional issue in the sense of having a cold or a bacterial infection.8 Unlike medical diagnoses, few psychiatric diagnoses describe an underlying cause with a clearly useful course of treatment or a reliable prognosis. Depression, as one example, is not something people have, it is an experience, a way of experiencing oneself and the world. Some people characteristically—or in the shorter term, in an acute response to life events—have depressed feelings and sometimes live out the feelings in ways that are problematic and self-perpetuating.” 0 likes
“I sometimes find myself offering an obvious, often-ignored observation to men who are attempting to grieve disappointing lives: we can only start from where we are, never from where we wish we were.” 0 likes
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