Glenn’s story

After coming of age in gay West Hollywood, Glenn was an early pioneer of gay adoption. Here, he talks about his experiences, his loves and losses, and his thoughts on how to live a good life at age 78. 

Glenn’s story

After coming of age in gay West Hollywood, Glenn was an early pioneer of gay adoption. Here, he talks about his experiences, his loves and losses, and his thoughts on how to live a good life at age 78. 

There’s plenty I could tell you about how life is unfair, and how difficult it can be aging with HIV. But I’d rather talk about going to the beach at Sauvie Island tomorrow.

GLENN LARSON

Portland, Oregon

FIVE QUESTIONS

WITH GLENN LARSON

 

Glenn, what’s the most important lesson that you’ve learned in 78 years?

It would have something to do with letting yourself feel the good times and the bad, while still moving ahead. You can’t change the past. But you can try to make today be a good day.

 

What’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you?

Well I don’t mean to avoid the question, but I don’t think I could pick just one. I’ve had plenty of good times, and each had its own appeal. But I suppose it would have something to do with Rick.

 

What would you say to a young person who was looking to you for advice?

I suppose I would tell them to be willing to take risks, to be who they really are, and to see the positive part of every day. There’s not much value in focusing on problems.

 

Looking back on your long life do you have any regrets?

I regret that I didn’t go to the beach yesterday. It was warm and sunny and I could have gotten a bit of a tan. But seriously, what value is there in having regrets? Look ahead, not back.

 

What’s the role of HIV in your life?

Well I have to deal with it every day, and it’s brought me plenty of problems. I have to take plenty of pills.  but I’ve also met lots of good people who share my experience, so I guess it all works out.

 

Even as a very young man, Glenn knew that being gay, and being true to himself, would be the centerpiece of his approach to having a good life. Meeting other people’s expectations had no appeal to him, and he was willing to take all necessary risks—which at that time were plenty—that would allow him to be open, honest and truthful. Plus, he discovered that although he would suffer some consequences, he would also enjoy a life that was, well, fabulous!

Going WAY back, he remembers being a fresh-faced young man in Southern California, meeting some big-name movie and TV stars. Learning that some people were open about their lives, and that some were not, and seeing the tradeoffs, he decided then and there that being authentic and living life on his own terms would be a lifetime commitment.

Once, as a 21-year old rebel, during the glorious heyday of gay life in West Hollywood, he met a man who infatuated him. Warm, beautiful, easy to be with. They kissed in public, something a bit risky in some places still today, but this was back in the early ‘60s! It landed him in jail for 30 days. He recognized the injustice but boldly claims that he wouldn’t do anything different, quoting Cher, “if I could turn back time.” Apparently that kiss was well worth a few weeks “in a small cell with some difficult people.”

Some years later he and his partner Rick learned that a beloved co-worker had experienced an unplanned pregnancy. Unsure of what to do, she considered moving to “a home” which was how such matters were handled at the time. She didn’t want to give up the child but saw few other options. Glenn and Rick offered to care for the child as their own, and in the end were able to adopt him. Decades later Glenn still considers having a son to be one of the triumphs of his life. Adoptions by gay couples are still controversial today, and this pioneering moment is a huge point of pride for Glenn.

He briefly notes that later in his life he made some mistakes and as a result became HIV positive. He remained strong in his belief that life is what you make of it, and he decided that he would not let this setback define him or defeat him.

Today he is a leader in the Oregon community of HIV long-term survivors, and looks forward to each coming day with the same attitude that has guided him for so many decades.

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