Aesthetic Realism is a cult
Who they are, how they operate • Written by former members

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Aesthetic Realism’s attempts to “cure” gays

by Michael Bluejay • First version 2005; Last Update May 19, 2024

“Eli Siegel [AR's founder] does not approve of homosexuality...”

—AR's own book on the subject, The H Persuasion, p. 48

Ads like these appeared in:
  1. New York Times (3/30/78, p. B11)
  2. New York Times Magazine (6/3/79)
  3. Los Angeles Times (5/22/79, p. 40/D9)
  4. Washington Post (5/8/79, p. B15)
  5. New York Daily News (5/27/80, p. 46)
I blotted the names since those who left the group presumably don't wish to be associated with it.  I left one name unblotted because it's that of my late grandmother.


This is a huge article so let me summarize:

  1. Aesthetic Realism (AR), a mind-control cult in New York City, ran a program to supposedly turn gay people straight in the 1970s and 80s, and promoted it forcefully.
  2. AR is now trying to whitewash its history.  They tell the press, "Oh, that was a long time ago," omitting the fact that their beliefs haven't changed at all:  To this day, they still think that homosexuality is a psychological affliction for which AR is the only remedy.  Many current ARists still maintain they were "cured", and those men and their wives comprise about one-fourth of AR's current (2022) membership—including people in AR's leadership.  The group stopped offering conversion therapy around 1990, but only the program stopped; the beliefs didn't.  AR stopped trying to cure gays only because most of the "cured" kept inconveniently reverting to gay life, and because they the AR people were tired of being protested by gay rights groups—not because they thought their program was wrong or ineffective.
  3. It's unlikely anyone really changed.  A whopping 76% of the signers of the "We Have Changed" ad shown here disassociated from the group, and people who remained still had gay sex secretly.  One of the three counselors who supposedly taught others how to not be gay was arrested for having gay sex in a subway bathroom.  Both of the other two counselors left the group, and by all accounts at least one of them identifies as gay.
  4. AR says that "contempt" is the cause of homosexuality.  The cure was then to purge one's contempt, and the way to purge one's contempt was to be "grateful without limit" to Eli Siegel (AR's founder) and Aesthetic Realism.  It's a common cult tactic:  dangle a prize in front of the recruit (e.g., the desire to not be gay), and then—surprise, surprise—attaining that prize means devoting yourself to the group's beliefs.
  5. Though AR denies that it's anti-gay, its anti-gay feelings are palpable.  They think being gay is "unethical", "a form of selfishness", "evil", derives from "contempt" which "causes insanity".  (So, gay people are insane—according to AR.)


The number one goal of most cults is to recruit as many members as possible.  Easier said than done—it's hard for most groups to garner much interest from the public.  What they need is a gimmick, and in 1971, the Aesthetic Realists hit the jackpot: some of their members appeared on a popular national TV program saying that AR had cured them of their gayness.  Soon hundreds of gay men were flocking to the foundation's headquarters seeking the cure, and AR was able to parlay that into newspaper coverage and more TV interviews.  At the same time, they complained bitterly that they weren't getting enough press, especially from the New York Times.  Worse, for them, some media articles correctly identified the program as a fraud and the group as a cult, including a particularly scathing piece in New York Native.

By 1990, the group had two more problems:  First, society was becoming more tolerant of homosexuality, and the group would face increasing criticism over their idea that sexuality could be altered.  Second, most of AR's poster children for the cure kept inconveniently falling off the wagon and reverting to gay life.  The AR people couldn't talk about their cure with a straight face any more because it clearly wasn't working, even though they wouldn't admit it.  So they stopped offering their gay-change therapy, and stopped talking about it.  In fact, they're now trying to sweep the whole mess under the rug.  One AR leader now claims that AR never professed to have a gay cure, and that I'm a liar for saying that they did!  Here's what the executive director of AR says on "Countering the Lies", a website they set up for the express purpose of combating my critique of AR:

Michael Bluejay writes: "AR says that homosexuality is a mental illness" and "AR professed to have the 'cure' for homosexuality."  This is completely untrue.... Similarly, Aesthetic Realism never saw homosexuality as something to "cure," and—whether through Mr. Siegel or any Aesthetic Realism consultant, whether in writing or in speech—Aesthetic Realism never presented itself as having a "cure."

Is that so? Well, the evidence says otherwise:

  1. There's the group's 1971 book, The H Persuasion: How Persons Have Permanently Changed From Homosexuality Through the Study of Aesthetic Realism With Eli Siegel.
  2. There are the TV talk shows where Aesthetic Realists claimed that they stopped being gay through Aesthetic Realism:
    1. "Free Time" with Johnathan Black, NYC Channel 13 (2/19/71)
    2. David Susskind Show (4/4/1971)
    3. Snyder show (1975)
    4. Donahue (10/14/1981)
    5. David Susskind again (5/8/83)
  3. Ad for AR's 'Yes We Have Changed' filmThere's the group's 1982 film, Yes We Have Changed, with the ad for it shown here. (Independent (pdf) p. 21; Independent (text), BFI, Omni 6/82 p. 14, and Herkimer Telegram 4/30/83 p. 7)
  4. There's the group's 1986 book, The Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel and the Change from Homosexuality.
  5. There's the ad shown at the top of this article boasting of the gay cure, which AR students ran in five different newspapers.
  6. There's the double-page ad they bought in the New York Times, which says, "We say what history will say: the American press has blood on its hands, has caused misery and death, because for years it has withheld the news that men and women have changed from homosexuality through study of Aesthetic Realism."
  7. There are the thousands counseling sessions they held to try to help gays change.  I have a transcript of one such session here.
  8. There's the inquest of an AR student supposedly cured of his gayness and quickly married off to a female AR member, but who was then found to still be cruising for gay sex.  As the transcript shows, the group was furious at him.

And here's a telling quote from the preface of the 1986 book written by Ellen Reiss, the current "Class Chairman" of the group:

"It is a beautiful fact that through study of Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy founded by the American poet and critic Eli Siegel, men have changed from homosexuality. ... Eli Siegel's statement of the cause of homosexuality [contempt for the world]... is scientific law."

But supposedly I'm a liar for saying that AR claimed to have a gay cure.  Yeah, I'm just irresponsible like that.

Cutting through the spin

The way that AR is trying to claim with a straight face that it never promoted a gay cure, is that they never used the specific word "cure".  See, they promised a "permanent way" to "change" from homosexuality, since gayness is "unethical", "selfish", and "evil", and derives from "contempt" which causes "insanity", but they don't consider that that meant that being gay is a mental illness or they were promoting a cure.  Riiight.

I have an entire article debunking AR's spin about its gay-change efforts.

The “cure” was a total fraud

The “cured” didn't stay cured

In one of AR's books, one of the supposedly-changed men says:

“With every cell in my body, I thank Mr. Siegel....My homosexual feelings stopped....In being close to my dear wife, in holding her in my arms, I have emotions more powerful and kinder than I expected to have ever in my life.”

Pretty moving stuff, huh?!  So what became of this person?  Well, er, he kind of divorced his wife and left the group, and identifies as gay again.  (That ex-wife is the current leader of AR, by the way.)

In fact, the overwhelming majority of those undergoing the program didn't stay “cured”.  Many of those who supposedly changed continued to have gay sex while in AR, often with each other, and sometimes even in the AR building itself.  Two of them were arrested for having sex in a subway restroom (not with each other, separate incidents).

The back cover of that first book says that Aesthetic Realism "changed the way [these men] see themselves and women permanently."  Inside, the book says:

"We have all changed permanently.  We have not 'accepted' homosexuality, nor 'adjusted' to it; we are not bisexual; we have not 'repressed' homosexuality.  None of these. We have changed, permanently." (p. xi)

So what became of the four poster children profiled in that book?

  1. One was kicked out for still having gay sex.  AR leadership knew he was doing this but still had him appear on TV, in the book, in their ads, and in their film to promote the cure, before eventually deciding to kick him out.
  2. One essentially admitted to another member that he hadn't changed.  He was one of the ones arrested for having sex in a subway restroom.  He was also one of the three AR teachers leading the therapy sessions to counsel men on how to not be gay.
  3. One left the group and by all accounts identifies on gay again.  He was also one of the three men leading the gay-cure therapy sessions.  I contacted him in January 2005 to inquire about his experience and he told me that he hasn't had anything to do with Aesthetic Realism for 23 years, and no longer wanted his name used in conjunction with it.
  4. The last one also left the group.

After all the original success stories profiled in The H Persuasion book had either fallen off the wagon and/or left the group, the AR people had to come up with a completely different book, profiling completely different people.  But then people in that book wound up reverting as well. 

A former member who sought the cure says:

One man who married and had a child confided in me that sex with his wife was never as “hot” as it was with men.  I heard from some of the “changed” men’s wives and girlfriends that their sex lives were pathetic.  One woman confided that her husband hated having sex but loved to make cookies with her. (source, 8/5/2011) 

Another man wrote a letter to the editor boasting about how AR had cured him of his gayness.  The AR woman he was married off to told me in no uncertain terms that he assuredly had not.

Of those signing the "We Have Changed" ad they ran in the newspaper, a whopping 76% of them left the group—some of them actually kicked out after it was discovered that they were still having gay sex.  (They didn't always kick out relapsed gays, e.g. if they thought they could conceal the relapse or if the relapser was too important, like Kranz.)  In the 1980 version of the ad, three of the "changed" from the 1979 version were no longer listed.  There were seven women listed as changed in the 1979 ad, but only six in the following year's version.

The AR people made a film about the cure called "Yes We Have Changed" featuring some of the supposed success stories.  It included several men who were still having gay sex, and in some cases that was known by AR leadership.  Though after production one of the subjects who was found to still be having gay sex was hurriedly edited out of the film before its release.

Cult expert Steve Hassan writes:  "After working with former followers of this cult, I do not believe people were made into heterosexuals. In reality, they were put through a BITE model style indoctrination to suppress their real selves and superimpose a cult identity." (Freedom of Mind) 

When a changeling had gay sex again, the Aesthetic Realists insisted that he was still cured

When one of the "changed" fell off the wagon, the Aesthetic Realists insisted that the changeling hadn't really reverted to being gay, he was just acting out to hurt Aesthetic Realism. (example) 

Many felt they had never changed

Of course, there are the lots of students who felt they never changed in the first place.  Such students either were badgered into confessing that they'd really changed and were just too cheap to admit it, or else were just kicked out.  For example:

And then there's this sad story:

Consider "Shalom," a gay Jewish physician in his early 40s who was in conversion therapy for 11 years....[After various other approaches] failed, he entered Aesthetic Realism, a New York-based group that works with gay people to change their sexual orientation.....[One day] he broke down in the cab and began crying. "I felt emotionally raped," he says. "I couldn't keep acting. I decided to accept it.  At 31, I came out to myself."  Conversion therapy, Shalom says, is emotionally destructive.  He says a friend of his who was "cured" of gayness later tried to take his own life.  "You don't change," he says.  "You only end up hating yourself even more." (source)

Hal Lanse, who failed to be "cured" by AR, has this to say:

After a year of consultations, I confessed that I still felt gay.  I was having sexual thoughts about another male group member.  Sheldon Kranz, the “first man to change” giggled nervously and said, “You’d be surprised at who still has those thoughts.”  I was then served the standard AR excuse:  I was having gay fantasies because I hated my “gratitude” to Eli Siegel and therefore wanted to make him look bad.

I learned that many of the men who’d gone “straight” eventually quit the cult and returned to a gay lifestyle.  One man who married and had a child confided in me that sex with his wife was never as “hot” as it was with men.  I heard from some of the “changed” men’s wives and girlfriends that their sex lives were pathetic.  One woman confided that her husband hated having sex but loved to make cookies with her. (source, 8/5/2011) 

Many of the "not changed" were counted as "changed" anyway

Many of the men were pressured to "admit" that they'd changed even though they felt they hadn't.  For example, a former member recently sent me this:

One of the men who signed the "We Have Changed" ad along with me was to tell me some 15 years later that, at the time the ad was being prepared for publication, he hadn't wanted his name to be included, because he really didn't believe that he had changed from homosexuality and therefore it wouldn't be honest to sign a statement claiming that he had.  He was battered with criticism for withholding his name and was told that he definitely had changed, but that was too cheap to see it or acknowledge it.   They told him the reason was that he couldn't stand the size of his gratitude and respect for Eli Siegel.  Eventually, the pressure tactics succeeded and he reluctantly added his name to the list.

Those who still maintain that they're "cured"

Of course, there are some Aesthetic Realists still with the group who still maintain that they really did change.  Those claims should be treated with suspicion, not just because almost everyone who underwent the therapy now identifies as gay and feels they never really changed, but also because, well, the "cured" have just never seemed very cured.  More than one observer has remarked that when the AR people debated a gay rights group on the David Susskind TV show, the Aesthetic Realists "read" as gay more than the gay rights people did.  One person said, "If the sound were off when I was watching, I would have thought it was the gay rights people who were the 'cured' and the Aesthetic Realists who were the gay rights members."  In as autobiography by Sallie Parker, one of the subjects describes the AR people on Susskind:

"You know what they were saying?  They were saying, in these ridiculously queeny voices, ‘We ussed to be homossexsuals, but now we are ssstrraight.  We have found a cure through this new way of looking the world.  A new philosssophy.’

I've personally offered to pony up the money for biological testing so the Aesthetic Realists who still insist they've changed can prove it.  (See the first blue sidebar at right.)  After all, the Aesthetic Realists have repeatedly insisted not only that they've changed from being gay, but that the basis of their change was "scientific".  So are they game for a scientific test?  Of course not.  They will never agree to such a test — for obvious reasons.

The basis of the cure?  Worship Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism!

The main teaching af Aesthetic Realism is that we have a tendency to see other people and things as inferior, as a way of building ourselves up.  They call this "contempt", and consider it the sole source of all mental illness.  They view homosexuality as one such mental problem caused by a person's contempt for the world.  So the "cure" involves studying Aesthetic Realism to purge contempt, because once a person sees the beauty of the world accurately then s/he won't be gay any more.  Here's AR's founder Elli Siegel saying so in AR's first book on the subject:

"Get rid of your contempt and you will get rid of one of the chief ingredients in homosexuality." (p. 19, 38)

Whatever.  But there's also a more insidious part of this.  The way you're supposed to purge your contempt is by expressing absolute devotion to Eli Siegel and Aesthetic Realism.  In fact, I have a transcript of a therapy session where the AR people tried to cure the subject of his gayness, and you can see plainly how they expect him to show this kind of fanatical devotion, saying things like:

So do you think that you are tremendously, tremendously grateful that you met the Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel? ...

So why do you think, Mr. Carson, you didn't begin this consultation saying this, something like this: "Gentlemen, before you begin the consultation I want to tell you how grateful I am to Aesthetic Realism and to Mr. Siegel, the founder of Aesthetic Realism, that I'm hearing the questions and the principles, and that you're teaching me this knowledge, because I'm seeing it — there's a lot more for me to see, I don't want to pretend that I see everything, hardly, gentlemen!  But I'm seeing how Aesthetic Realism is true, and I'm grateful!  I've never been happier in my life!  I've never had this much hope in my life!  So I want to say that as I begin."

Another person who sought the "cure" described his experience this way:

Since I lived in the Midwest, I had to phone in for the teleconference consultations....[D]uring the phone sessions they would tell me how pathetic I was for being gay. Any counter argument from me was denied, and I was scolded for not being respectful of the teachings of AR. They would take turns berating me. I was cautious from the beginning, sensing the cultish zeal and silly idolization of the leader, Eli Siegel, as a savior of humanity. I suspected that two of the three guys that ran the sessions were still closeted and hadn't changed. They somehow convinced themselves they were straight.

After about 4 months of weekly sessions...they were giving up on me because I hadn't accepted AR as the only true teaching for the world. Also, they were angry because I didn't tell anyone that I was studying AR teachings and how beautiful the philosophy was. So, they pulled the plug on any future consultations until I accepted their bizarre philosophy and start to claim that I was straight. (Data Lounge, reply 21) 

Paul Grossman infiltrated the AR group to research it, and realized that this constant demand to praise the founder and his philosophy is one of AR's methods of mind control.  Here's his groundbreaking article on the subject.

The “Press Boycott” of the cure

The Aesthetic Realists loudly trumpeted their gay cure loudly throughout the 1970's and 80's, and insisted that the popular press announce the wonderful news about it.  When the press ignored them like they ignore all weird cults, AR decided that the press was actively boycotting them. (A typical characteristic of cults is paranoid feelings of persecution.)  Here's what AR said about this in a double-page ad they bought in the New York Times:

"We say what history will say: the American press has blood on its hands, has caused misery and death, because for years it has withheld the news that men and women have changed from homosexuality through study of Aesthetic Realism."


To protest this imagined press conspiracy, AR devotees wore buttons that said "Victim of the Press". Here's a photo of my aunt, a friend, me, and another friend, every last one of us dutifully wearing our Victim of the Press buttons:

And here's one of me with my aunt, both wearing buttons, and showing the detail of my button:

Incidentally, in trying to discredit me, the AR people say that I stopped being involved with AR when I was two years old.  But how old do I look in these pictures to you?  (Hint: I was 12.)

AR students also held vigils in front of the New York Times building in protest of the supposed boycott of AR.  I'm embarrassed to say that I was a vigil participant.

After being publicly ridiculed for wearing these buttons in a 1998 NY Post article exploring the cult aspects of Aesthetic Realism, the AR people stopped wearing these buttons around 1999 or 2000.

There's more about AR's belief that they were being actively boycotted by the press on the Cult Aspects page.

The H Persuasion

When AR's first book about its gay cure, The H Persuasion, was published the New York Times said:

"This is less a book than a collection of pietistic snippets by Believers. There is no reason to believe or disbelieve these ex-homosexuals who claim that Eli Siegel put them on the straight and narrow by showing that homosexuality was unaesthetic and therefore contemptuous of life. By the aesthetic realization that Beauty lies in Opposites, they were cured. Nor is there reason to believe that anyone reading this volume would be moved, intrigued, or piqued enough to try the cure." (NYT, 9/12/71, Section BR, p. 64)  

This resulted in an angry letter to the Times by Aesthetic Realists:

To the Editor:

   Your recent Et Al. column devoted one short paragraph to "The H Persuasion.".... The undersigned feel your brief dismissal was outrageous — and that your comment on the book ("a collection of pietistic snippets by Believers") was ugly, narrow and dishonest.

     You owe it to suffering families, and to men who want to change from homosexuality, to print an article by the four contributors [names], allowing them to present the basis of their change through their study with Siegel.

     For your readers' information, we are (respectively) a medical photographer at the St. Albans Naval Hospital, a member of the Phoenix School of Design, a lumber industry executive, a literary agent, a grandmother — and a student of aesthetic realism. . . . Which (we may add) has contributed honest hope to peoples' lives, and to the beauty of the world.
David Bernstein [my uncle]
  -Nancy Starrels
  -Jack Musicant
[my grandfather]
  -Alice Bernstein
[my aunt]
  -May Musicant
[my grandmother]
  -Rachel Jane Bernstein
[my cousin]
   New York City

I note with amusement how they authors spread out the three Bernsteins' names and two Musicants' names to try to make it look like a bunch of unrelated people were writing in, rather than two families plus one other person.  Who did they think they were fooling?

Oh, and those four contributors to the gay cure book whom the AR people wanted to get into the Times?  Besides one who died, the other three either later decided they were gay after all and/or left the group.

AR tries to sweep the whole mess under the rug

By the 1990s, AR knew it couldn't really promote their cure with a straight face any more since the overwhelming majority of changelings decided they were really still gay after all and left.  It also became harder to promote the cure as society had become more tolerant of homosexuality.  By 1990 a lot fewer people were desperate to change.  The gay cure isn't part of AR's current rhetoric and there is no mention of it anywhere on their website.  In fact, they've been going around the Internet trying to remove all references to their position.  For example, they convinced one webmaster to remove an article about the AR gay cure and replace it with some PR spin instead. Here's what the webmaster says about this:

This article has been removed because of a request from the Aesthetic Realism Foundation.  Their statement is reproduced below.

Here's AR's original version of that statement:

It is a fact that men and women have changed from homosexuality through study of Aesthetic Realism.   Meanwhile, as is well known, there is now intense anger on the subject of homosexuality and how it is seen.  Since this subject is by no means central to Aesthetic Realism, and since the Aesthetic Realism Foundation has not wanted to be involved in that atmosphere of anger, in 1990 the Foundation its public presentation of the fact that through Aesthetic Realism people have changed from homosexuality, and consultations to change from homosexuality are not being given. That is because we do not want this matter, which is not fundamental to Aesthetic Realism, to be used to obscure what Aesthetic Realism truly is: education of the largest, most cultural kind ¶ Aesthetic Realism is for full, equal civil rights for everyone." (source) 

Let's translate that back into English:

Aesthetic Realism still believes that homosexuality is unethical and a form of selfishness but since holding that idea makes us unpopular we're no longer admitting that we feel that way.


Aesthetic Realism at a Glance


The Aesthetic Realism Foundation




Eli Siegel, poet & art/literary critic.
Committed suicide in 1978.


To get the world to realize that Eli Siegel was the greatest person who ever lived, and that Aesthetic Realism is the most important knowledge, ever.


We have a tendency to look down on others to make ourselves seem superior by comparison (contempt).  Every single problem in the world (including homosexuality) is the result of contempt.  By studying AR, we can learn to purge our contempt so the world will be perfect.  Also, beauty comes from the contrast of opposites.


New York City (SoHo)


About 66, as of 4/22, as ~23 teachers + ~43 teachers-in-training.  (In 2009 it was ~77 (33+44), and ~29 regular students.  You could consider them members, but I'm not including them in the total.)  Anyway, with only ~66 committed members, much for world domination.

All members call themselves "students", even the leaders/teachers.  Advanced members who teach others are called "consultants".
StatusIn serious decline.
They might have ten years left.

Method of study

Public seminars/lectures at their headquarters (in lower Manhattan), group classes, and individual consultations (three consultants vs. one student) (usually in-person, but also remote).

Cult aspects

  • Fanatical devotion to their leader/founder
  • Belief that they have the one true answer to universal happiness
  • Ultimate purpose is to recruit new members
  • Feeling that they are being persecuted
  • Wild, paranoid reactions to criticism
  • Non-communication (or at least very limited communication) with those who have left the group, and family members who refuse to join
  • Odd, specialized language.

  • More about cult aspects...

A scientific challenge...

A former AR student wrote to suggest that we challenge the AR Foundation to provide scientific proof that its gay cure really works. But how much more proof do we need? We already know that many of the "success stories" decided they were really gay after all and left AR. Heck, even three of the four success stories profiled in AR's first book on the subject left the group. (The fourth is dead.) When I contacted one of these subjects he told me in no uncertain terms that he didn't want his name used to support AR's efforts. So why do we need to re-prove what's already been proven?

Maybe because even many of those who haven't left and continue to claim that they changed, haven't really changed at all. Here's the challenge our reader laid down to the AR Foundation:

"AR Foundation, if you are truly interested in providing evidence [of the change from homosexuality], then let it be quantifiable, scientific evidence. Let your body provide the evidence. Scientists can measure all sorts of bodily reactions to certain stimuli. For instance, they can measure dilation of the pupil when something pleasurable is gazed upon. They can also measure such things as blood flow to the genitals, a faster heartbeat, and changes in breathing in response to sexual stimuli. I propose that the ARists who claim to have changed from homosexuality submit to an experiment in which they are shown sexually explicit images of men and women (separately) while having their bodily reactions monitored. If they are truly confident of their change, and if they truly want to provide "evidence" of this change, they should be happy to participate. Of course, I'm sure they'll have all sorts of reasons for not participating. Either that, or they simply won't respond to my challenge."

The reader is right: the AR Foundation won't respond to the challenge. I made repeated offers to debate AR publicly but they never even acknowledged my offers, much less accepted. Still, for what it's worth, I'm willing to fund up to $2000 of these experiments, if the AR Foundation accepts. But they won't.

—Michael Bluejay, editor

Someone sees the Aesthetic Realists on TV...

A draft of an autobiography by Sallie Parker contains this exchange between two subjects, about AR trumpeting its "gay cure" on the David Susskind show:

"You know what they were saying? They were saying, in these ridiculously queeny voices, ‘We ussed to be homossexsuals, but now we are ssstrraight. We have found a cure through this new way of looking the world. A new philosssophy.’

“Oh! You’re talking about Aesthetic Realism,” Gorbles shouted. “Right. That David Susskind Show! That’s legendary. Aesthetic Realism, yeah, they’re always putting up flyers around Washington Square. You’ve seen them. ‘We have changed from homosexuality, but the press covers it up.’ et cetera et cetera.”

“Those weirdoes!” Hornblower rocked backward in his seat. “They such bad news! Got into fight about it. Outside Julius’. Just coming out through side door. And one of those characters was handing out pieces of paper. Recognized the guy, used to be in Julius’ all the time years ago.  [I told him he still seemed gay and he] just loses it, calls me names, starts to chase me down Waverly Place. Drops his flyers of course, flying everywhere. Then he shouts after me, ‘You too can change!’ I’d rather run into a Jesus freak.”

“Jesus freaks,” said Gorbles thoughtfully. “Funny you mention. Now there’s a subject no one’s addressed properly.”

“Why would you want to?’ Hornblower had his face screwed up as he lit a joint. In his head he was still outrunning the Aesthetic Realism freak.

From The Globe and Mail (Toronto newspaper):

"Pity the lot of the Aesthetic Realists, a New York-based group with fewer than 200 members who are mad at the New York Times because the Times, they claim, refuses to print a story that 123 homosexuals have changed (to heterosexuality) through Aesthetic Realism. In fact, the AR people are so mad they've been bombarding the Times' city desk with more than 65 calls a day demanding that the story be run. Not just that - they have also taken to holding vigils in front of publisher C. L. Punch Sulzberger's home and those of other top Times officials, and to staging little protests in the Times news room. It's really quite funny, in a sad sort of way, a friend at the Times tells us. They come in a couple of times a week - three sorry-looking guys flanked by two women. The guys wear signs around their necks saying something like 'I used to be a homosexual but Eli Siegal (founder of the AR movement) saved me.' At least they had an identity when they were gay; now they look as if they've been put through the laundry. The Times, we understand, is holding to its rise-above-it-all stance and has no plans to publish the story."
—FYI Put those fears away, all citizens-to-be,
(Robin Green, The Globe and Mail, Toronto, Ont.: Apr 28, 1978. p.8)

From New York Magazine:

On a cold, rainy Saturday, two men in drag with XXXGAYS stenciled on their chests burst into the Aesthetic Realism Foundation's offices on Greene Street and exclaim, "We're here for the cure!" ... But the men's seemingly sincere plea "Why don't you want to help us?" goes unheeded.

The Aesthetic Realists: An oddball presence in SoHo for more than twenty years... most famously, the group has also held that gay men can be converted from homosexuality, which "arises from contempt of the world, not liking it sufficiently. This changes into contempt for women." Aesthetic Realists' contention that the media ignored their "cure" led many of them to wear the familiar VICTIM OF THE PRESS buttons for much of the last decade.

Activism: A Scene in Two Acts, by Tom Roston, New York Magazine, Jan. 2, 1995, p. 26

A reader says...

I enjoyed reading this site. My exposure to AR came when I was doing graduate studies in music at Manhattan School of Music. My private composition teacher (who also taught other classes within my program) was Edward Green. Green was, and I believe still is, very involved with AR.

Green made use of AR principles in teaching. I have to admit that many of the concepts have been very useful to me. That contempt towards others and the world as a destructive force is both obvious yet important. Because of those concepts, I can see contemptuous behavior in myself an in others very clearly.. I can catch myself in that behavior...and I can be kinder to those who are obviously suffering... I've always been an optimist, and I firmly believe that evil is just goodness corrupted.

At the time I was exposed to AR, I had already come out of the closet as a gay man, and was an activist for gay rights and for AIDS issues. Nobody was going to convince me that one could or should 'change from Homosexuality'.

Of course, Green kept inviting me to events at the AR Centre. (I never went.). And Green and I had several discussions about Homosexuality.

AR claims that Homosexuality is caused by men having contempt for women.  I remember telling Green "Well by that logic, wouldn't Heterosexuality be caused by men having contempt for those of the same sex?" I told him that AR seems to have contempt for Homosexuality. Green had this interesting habit of toying with one of the rims of his glasses whenever he felt challenged. A friend of mine (also gay, also a private student of Green's) and I referred to this nervous gesture as "changing the channel".

I'm glad that AR has decided to stop promoting this 'change from Homosexuality' but it's ridiculous of them to claim they never really made such claims..

Again, I enjoyed your pages.. Keep up the good work. -- Aug. 8, 2005

Diamanda Galás weighs in

Musician Diamanda Galás mentions AR's antigay position in an interview in the Village Voice. When asked "Who are your fans?", she replies:

People who find it necessary to think for themselves in order to survive, because they're damned by the fact they don't agree with the mediocrity that society shoves down their throats. They rise above this by continuing to educate themselves. This is especially true of homosexuals, who are born outside the law anyway. They're still figuratively and literally buried alive by the Egyptians and Turks. Here in New York they're visited upon by the Aesthetic Realism Foundation and treated with electroshock.

In fairness, the AR Foundation never actually tried to change gays with electroshock therapy. Galás is simply caricaturing AR's professed gay cure itself.

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