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

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Debunking AR's spin about its gay-change program

by Michael Bluejay • Last Update September 1, 2023

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

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

Editor's note:  This article is specific to AR's spin about its conversion therapy program.  For details about AR's conversion therapy in general, see Aesthetic Realism's attempt to "cure" gays.


  • Aesthetic Realists believe that homosexuality is a psychological affliction caused by one's contempt for the world, for which the study of Aesthetic Realism is the only cure. (more...)
  • In the 1970s and 80s AR offered conversion therapy to men and women to stop them from being gay.
  • They stopped their gay-change program in 1990 because their success stories kept inconveniently reverting to gay life, and because AR was tired of being protested by gay rights groups.
  • Only the counseling stopped, the beliefs didn't.  Aesthetic Realists have never stopped believing that homosexuality is a malady, that studying AR can stop a person from being gay, and that study of AR is the only way a person can stop being gay.  The Aesthetic Realists have never plainly said otherwise.  Many of their leaders underwent the conversion therapy decades ago and all of them still maintain that they stopped being gay.
  • Aesthetic Realists try to dupe the media and others by implying that they no longer hold their anti-gay beliefs.  Sometimes they're successful.  For example, when members of Artists Talk on Art (AToA) were concerned that an Aesthetic Realist was going to be on one of AToA's panel discussions, AToA contacted AR and then posted this to its website:

"ATOA has been assured by Marcia Rackow, the panel moderator, that this incident was decades in the past, and the Aesthetic Realism Foundation no longer takes such a position."

That is 100%, categorically false.  AToA was duped.  This article will explain the details.

How Aesthetic Realism is trying to spin it

When I alerted the media that an anti-gay group had managed to finagle some public funding, they asked AR for a comment, and AR lied through its teeth.  Between their official statement and things ARists have written elsewhere, they either said outright or strongly implied:

  1. Their gay-change program wasn't important to AR.
  2. They never professed to have a cure.
  3. They don't see homosexuality as a mental illness.
  4. They feel that if someone doesn't want to change, there's nothing wrong with that.
  5. They no longer have anti-gay prejudice, since their gay-change program operated long ago.
  6. The success stories profiled in the original book didn't fall off the wagon.
  7. AR didn't try to "cure" anyone before 1971.

Each of these things is a bald-faced lie.

(1) They felt their gay-change program was incredibly important

AR's spin is:

  • "Since this subject [the gay change program] is by no means central to Aesthetic Realism..."
  • "We do not want this matter, which is certainly not fundamental to Aesthetic Realism, to be used to obscure what Aesthetic Realism truly is."
  • "Some persons wished to change and did...."

AR is trying to describe their gay-change efforts as a mere afterthought, as though a small handful of people somehow wandered into their headquarters and AR figured it might as well help them to change.

The reality is that AR aggressively marketed its gay-change program, and they did so because they thought it was incredibly important.

Heavy promotion of the "cure"

As AR admitted in its first book, they aggressively courted press coverage of their gay-change efforts:  "Since 1965 there has been a more or less continuous effort to have some coverage of the documented changes from homosexuality through the study of Aesthetic Realism." (H Persuasion, p. xvii) 

Aesthetic Realists bought large ads in major newspapers and magazines from 1978-80 to promote their cure, titled "We Have Changed", and signed by the supposedly changed (almost all of whom subsequently left the group).  When they bought a full-page ad in The New York Times in 1976, the gay-cure angle was #6 of the 32 numbered items.  Ads in papers like the Times and The Washington Post are expensive, and they wouldn't have shelled out the cash if they didn't think it was important to get their message out.

They tried to get on as many TV programs as possible to spread the word, and were successful in getting on:

  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)

They published two books on the subject, in 1971 and 1986.  They even made a full-length documentary about the supposed success of their program called "Yes We Have Changed".

As one former member said, "Despite their evasions, one of the central pillars of this cult was the changing of homosexuals into heterosexuals.  It was everywhere in their literature and presentations." (source)  

The fact is, their conversion therapy efforts weren't incidental to AR, there were a huge part of AR—because of AR's efforts to make it huge.

They felt their gay-change program was important

Far from just happening to have a gay cure of no major import, the Aesthetic Realists thought it was one of the most urgent things imaginable.  As such, they were enraged that the media wasn't falling all over itself to report about AR's conversion therapy.  This isn't hyperbole, see for yourself:

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. (their ad in the NYT)

You cannot make this sh!t up.

AR's cure is also supposedly historical in nature:

"[AR's conversion therapy] is such a mighty and meaningful thing in human history." (Aesthetic Realism of Eli Siegel and the Change from Homosexuality (ARoESatCfH), p. 11)

So, AR's current implication that they didn't feel their gay-change program was important, is nothing more than revisionist history.  They thought it was a life-or-death issue and they promoted it as such.

(2) They absolutely claimed to have a cure

The AR people now say:  “Aesthetic Realism never saw homosexuality as something to 'cure.'” (source)  But they absolutely, unequivocally did.

The way that they're trying to claim with a straight face that it never promoted a gay cure, is that they just never used the specific word "cure".  See, they promised a "permanent way" to "change" from homosexuality, since being gay is "unethical", "a  form of selfishness", and "evil", but they don't consider that that meant that they were promoting a cure.  (forehead slap)

Observers (including the New York Times) sarcastically call AR's program a "cure" because AR described homosexuality as a disorder, and gay people as having psychological problems.  If AR thought that a person converting from gay to straight was simply going from one neutral state to another, no one would be deriding AR's alleged solution as a "cure".  But AR absolutely does view homosexuality as wrong, as we'll see soon.

Part of AR's complaint is that I put the word "cure" in quote marks:

Not only does Bluejay misrepresent Aesthetic Realism on the subject, but he actually puts the word "cure" in quotation marks to make readers think he's directly quoting some statement of Aesthetic Realism, when he is not. (source)  

Again, the quotes are sarcastic.  For the record, I've never heard Aesthetic Realists using the actual word "cure" in relation to their efforts to fix gayness.  They're not that dumb.

I don't put the word cure in quotes every single time, because I needed to use that word a lot in this article and constant quoting is likely tiresome for the reader.  If the reader has seen me quoting it at least a few times, they know that I don't really believe that homosexuality is anything to cure.

And I'm not the only one to characterize their position as a "cure":  Harold Norse, a contemporary of AR founder Eli Siegel, phrased it the same way in his memoirs, as did the New York Times and New York Magazine (1/2/95), so I'm certainly in good company.  The first two of these put the word "cure" in quotes just like I did, and for the same reason.

Aesthetic Realism ad in the Village Voice

(3) AR views homosexuality as bad, and as a mental illness

AR's current spin is that they saw nothing wrong with being gay, they just happened to be able to help people stop being gay if they were interested e.g., "Aesthetic Realism most certainly does not consider homosexuality a mental illness." (source)  This is pure unadulterated B.S.

AR didn't just say that gays could change, their position was that homosexuality is definitely a bad thing.  According to AR:

  • It's "not ethical". (ARoESatCfH, p. 135) 
  • It's "a form of selfishness". (ARoESatCfH, p. 145) 
  • It's "bad aesthetics". (The H Persuasion, p. 48) 
  • It arises from "contempt of the world" which is "the greatest sin". (The H Persuasion, p. 48 • their double-page ad)
  • Aesthetic Realism is "a means of combating homosexuality and related evils". (ARoESatCfH, p. 171) 
  • "Eli Siegel [AR's founder] does not approve of homosexuality." (The H Persuasion, p. 48)

One chapter of their 1986 book is titled "How Ethical is Homosexuality"?  They answer that question on the very first page of the chapter:

"Eli Siegel stated the main reason homosexuality is not ethical, and [he] related homosexuality to all other ways that a man has been against the outside world. He explained, 'There is only one thing that is immoral in the world: liking oneself too much and the outside world too little'.... Eli Siegel's understanding of the cause of homosexuality as an insufficient care for what is not oneself, makes it possible for homosexual persons to change." (p. 135)  

This is followed by a chapter entitled, "Homosexuality: A Form of Selfishness". 

Homosexuality "arises from contempt of the world" which is the "greatest sin".

Eli Siegel, AR's founder, wrote:

All homosexuality arises from contempt of the world, not liking it sufficiently.

This changes into a contempt for women....

Homosexuality, like biting one's nails, depression, excessive gambling, arises out of a disproportionate way of seeing the world.

There are other ways a person has of not liking himself, but homosexuality is one. (The H Persuasion, p. 4) 

Okay, so we see that AR believes that homosexuality comes from contempt.  And how do they view contempt?"

"According to Aesthetic Realism, the greatest sin that a person can have is the desire for contempt." (source; emphasis added)

So Aesthetic Realists believe that homosexuality is tremendously sinful.

Homosexuals are insane

Aesthetic Realists also think gays are crazy.  The AR motto is "Contempt causes insanity."  It was the title of the preface to their founder's book Self and World (which is basically their Bible), it was #5 of the 32 numbered items in their full page ad in the New York Times in 1976, and they used it as a headline of their newsletter for decades:

"Contempt Causes Insanity" was the headline of AR's newsletter since Jan. 1976.
The last issue to have that headline was 2/11/98; after that, they moved it to be the subtitle.

As we saw above, AR thinks that homosexuality is caused by one's contempt for the world.  So if homosexuality is a form of contempt, and contempt causes insanity, then homosexuals are....insane.

AR doesn't just think that contempt is one cause of insanity, they think it's the only cause of insanity.  In their full-page ad in the New York Times, they said:

"The greatest danger of man is his giving way to contempt as a means of establishing his own personality….This tendency is seen by Aesthetic Realism as the cause of insanity and of general mental disorder."

Note their choice of words:  Contempt is not a cause of insanity, it's the cause of insanity. 

Note also that they think contempt is the cause of mental problems in general, an idea they've repeated elsewhere:

"One of the greatest humanitarian and intellectual achievements of all time was the discovery by Eli Siegel, the founder of Aesthetic Realism, that contempt causes insanity; in fact, that it causes all mental trouble."   [emphasis added; source; see also their op-ed saying the same thing]

When the ARists deny that they see homosexuality as a mental illness, they're playing a technicality.  What they mean, but don't say outright, is that they just carefully and cleverly never used the exact phrase "mental illness", even though that's exactly what they described.  It's like a racist website I visited recently when it was in the news, and their FAQ had something like this, which I paraphrase:

Q: Are you racist?

A: No, we're not racist! We simply believe that all races should be carefully segregated for purposes of ethnic purity. But we're not racist or anything.

The Aesthetic Realists are playing the same game:

Q: Didn't you say that homosexuality was an illness and that you had a cure?

A: No, we never said that, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar.  We simply said that was homosexuality is selfish and unethical and evil and a result of contempt which causes insanity, and that by studying  Aesthetic Realism it's a beautiful fact that people could stop being gay.  But we never said that it was an illness or that we had a cure for it or anything. (italicized words are their actual words)

Here's a good example of how AR saw gayness as a disease.  The current leader, Ellen Reiss, said in a newspaper interview:  "People who go to psychiatrists don't change [from homosexuality].  They don't get better." (NY Daily News, Mar. 15, 1981, "Gays Who Have Gone Straight") 

Note her choice of words:  Gays who see psychiatrists don't get "better"!  That is, their illness isn't cured.

Homosexuality is "bad aesthetics"

Besides the belief that homosexuality is caused by contempt, AR believes that homosexuality is unaesthetic because two men together are not beautiful opposites the way a man and a woman are.  From AR's first gay cure book:

"Aesthetics, according to Aesthetic Realism, is primarily concerned with the making one of opposites.... A person of the opposite sex obviously represents the world as different more than a person of the same sex." (The H Persuasion, p. 48)

Put more succinctly:

"Homosexuality in simple terms, is bad aesthetics." (The H Persuasion, p. X) 

Homosexuality is something to be ashamed of

Back when I bought ads in Google to promote this site, one of the Aesthetic Realists complained to Google about it:

"I was searching for Aesthetic Realism which is a philosophical study of ethics, beauty and art that teaches the way to like yourself is by being fair to others and liking the world.  I saw your 'sponsored link' was by Michael BlueJay [sic] who is a strident opposer for no valid reason.  He has a right to his point of view but he is off base, relentless and off center.  It is no matter that he is flamboyantly homosexual — what matters is you do not have an opposing point of view."

First of all, if it is truly "no matter" that someone is gay, then why bring it up?  The answer is obvious:  Aesthetic Realism thinks that they can tarnish you by calling you gay.

Incidentally, I'm not "a flamboyant homosexual".  I mean, I'm flamboyant, sure, but I'm not gay.  I say this to point out that not only is AR's attack mean-spirited, it's also factually inaccurate.

AR is for "full civil rights for everyone"

This claim of theirs is actually true, but it's what they're leaving out that's important.  What they mean is that they believe those mentally-screwed-up gays shouldn't be denied their civil rights.

(4) AR thinks gays should change

AR doesn't just think gays can change, they think gays should change.  They're trying to cover their tracks about that now by cherry-picking a quote from Eli Siegel where he says "If the homosexual likes himself then the matter has come to a just and triumphant end." (1975 essay)  Of course he said this years after the first book on the cure went to press, when AR was getting a lot of flak and felt a need to do some damage control.  For this reason, any Siegel quotes on the subject after 1971 should be treated with suspicion.

But more importantly, it's what the AR people are not saying that's important.  Siegel's new gay-friendly quote is that *if* a gay person likes himself then there's no problem, but AR believes that a gay person cannot like himself.  Their whole idea about the cause of homosexuality is that it's the result of one's not liking the world and not liking him/herself.  To them, being gay is a result of one's contempt for the world, and therefore it's impossible for someone to like himself and be gay at the same time.  So it's pretty disingenuous for them to try to now pretend that they see nothing wrong with being gay.  We don't have to just assume this: a TV interviewer was able to ferret an admission out of them:  The interviewer asks, "Can you conceive of any homosexual as having a good, healthy, noncontemptuous relation with a homosexual?", and AR changeling Sheldon Kranz answers, "I would say no." (The H Persuasion, p. 14)

And here's a telling quote from their first book, that shows how they don't really believe that anyone can be happily gay:

"So, when we are told—and it is more often belligerently told than not—that someone likes being gay and wouldn't change for anything, we listen, but with an attitude of benevolent semi-conviction.  This is not meant to be patronizing.  It's just that we are helplessly unconvinced." (The H Persuasion, p. xi)

(5) They still maintain their prejudice

Aesthetic Realists still believe that homosexuality is a psychological affliction for which the study of AR is the only cure. 

They still believe that the cure worked

  1. They have never said otherwise.  Indeed, they still maintain that they did change people from gay to straight.
  2. Up through the present day, their official statement is that "It as a fact that men and women have changed from homosexuality through study of Aesthetic Realism".  Bingo!  (source)
  3. About one-fourth of AR's current membership are people who went through AR's gay-change program, and still maintain to this day that they changed.  This includes several people in AR's leadership.  Indeed, some of the people on AR's Countering the Lies site who say I'm a liar were signers of the "We Have Changed" newspaper ads, contributors to AR's second book about the gay cure, and all still identify as ex-gay.
  4. In discussions on Wikipedia, Aesthetic Realists continued to insist that the change was real, decades after AR stopped its gay-change program:
  • "The change from homosexuality is not a belief, it's a fact." (7/30/2013)
  • "I object to the word 'claim' because it is not a claim, there are real, breathing men who have changed and the change can easily be verified." (5/12/2010) 
  • The Aesthetic Realism Foundation formally discontinued [the program] because it was being sucked into the culture wars—with the far Right trying to use it to promote their bigoted agenda against homosexuality and the far Left furious at anything that even remotely suggested homosexuality was not biological. In such an atmosphere Aesthetic Realism's sensible, philosophic approach to the subject didn't stand a chance of being considered reasonably." (emphasis mine; 6/13/05) 

They never said they were wrong to try to "fix" gays

  1. The Aesthetic Realists have never said plainly that their gay-change program was wrong (and they've certainly never apologized for it).  They sometimes strongly imply that they no longer hold their anti-gay prejudice (which is the whole point of this article), but the reality is quite different.  (And contrast AR's lack of apology to Exodus International, which owned up to the hurt caused by its own gay-change program.)
  2. When AR discontinued its gay-change program, they issued a statement explaining their supposed reason for doing so: "[A]s is well known, there is now intense anger on the subject of homosexuality and how it is seen. The Aesthetic Realism Foundation does not want to be involved in this atmosphere of anger." (source)  Note what they didn't say:  They didn't say their program was wrong.  (They also didn't mention one of the real reasons they stopped their program was that so many of the "cured" kept embarrassingly reverting to gay life.  They left that bit out.)

Here's a telling quote I found from a neutral party on another website:

If the Aesthetic Realism Foundation has [really] seen the error of their ways, why are they not now attempting to combat homophobic prejudice as vigorously as they oppose racial prejudice?  Why [are they] not making films promoting tolerance for gays now? (source)

Good question.  But the answer is obvious.  A group that thinks that homosexuality is "unethical" and "a form of selfishness" is not a group that is gonna spend any time championing gay rights.

Example of AR's spin

When AR was able to finagle a grant from NY state for its senior art classes, I found out about it and alerted the media.  I did some interviews for newspaper articles, which enraged the Aesthetic Realists.  When the Village Voice was preparing its own piece, it contacted AR for their side of the story.  The Aesthetic Realists released the following statement.  It was the B.S. in that statement that was the impetus for my writing this article.

Statement for Village Voice Article

The Times Union article [link] would be laughable if it were not so ugly in its untruthfulness.  It was an attempt to change something wide, cultural, and very kind—the philosophy Aesthetic Realism—into something it definitely is not.  What it truly is, can be found on the website of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation:

As to the workshops for seniors, for which the funding was given: to say they’re for the purpose of “recruiting” is ludicrous!  They’re on such subjects as “Every Person Can Tell You Something about Yourself”; “Love Is for Liking the World”; “Memory Shows That We’re Connected to the Whole World.”  And a representative response is this, from a director of a senior center in Queens: “So useful—the discussions of paintings and dramas are educational and enlivening.  I think all seniors should be able to have this experience.”

Since an attacker of Aesthetic Realism, with an agenda of his own, keeps trying to push forward a fake version of how Aesthetic Realism sees homosexuality—and since the Albany reporter outrageously used him as his “source”—we quote the following statement, issued by the Aesthetic Realism Foundation for the last 18 years:

    "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 in America 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 discontinued 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 certainly 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."

In an essay in 1975, the founder of Aesthetic Realism, Eli Siegel, wrote:

    "The main question is whether a homosexual individual likes himself for being that. If he does, the matter has come to a just and triumphant end. Every person has the right to do that of which he deeply approves."

The Foundation definitely never saw homosexuality as something to “cure,” or something in the field of “sin”!  It never said anyone should change.  Some persons wished to change and did, and the change is real.  Meanwhile, since the Foundation has not wanted that fact to be twisted and exploited by the religious right (with which it very much disagrees about homosexuality and so much more), or to be misseen by others, it discontinued all presentations and consultations on the subject as long ago as 1990.  It’s the attacker mentioned who has been trying to thrust the subject, in his own dishonest version of it, forward.  He has been doing so because, for purposes of his own, he wants to hurt Aesthetic Realism.  For the record: though the Aesthetic Realism Foundation does not take political stands, there are many people studying and teaching Aesthetic Realism who are definitely for the right of gay people to marry, adopt, become clergy—the works.

To see Aesthetic Realism truly, a must-read is the website

By the way, if it's "ludicrous" that they're trying to recruit, then why did they blow over half a million dollars on a newspaper ad?

Related:  Letters to the editor by Aesthetic Realists promoting the gay cure
Source for AR's official statement about discontinuing its gay-change program
  • 2018-23 version, referring once to the "fact" that AR turned gays straight
  • 2016 version, referring twice to the "fact" of the change
  • The last day their Countering the Lies website was on the Internet was 8/31/23.

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 people, 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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