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Cult expert Robert Jay Lifton identified the primary features of cults. Collectively, these features fall under the rubric of "thought reform." One type of thought reform common to most cults is "sexual purity." The cult leader decides what type of sex is appropriate and what is not. Often, cult leaders insist on choosing partners for their followers.
One such cult, called Aesthetic Realism, spent decades trying to turn its homosexual members into heterosexuals while setting them up with other opposite-sex disciples. Homosexuality, the cult teaches, is a manifestation of “contempt of the world,” an ethical failing that begins in early childhood as a reaction to an overly adoring mother.
AR leaders have claimed for decades that they've succeeded in eradicating homosexuality in queer followers. It turns out that the supposedly “changed” men and women returned to their gay lifestyles or took up heterosexual lives that sorely lacked sexual activity. I know this because I was one of them for ten years.
Do you think this is something from the homophobic past? Think again. They're still in business!
With all the talk of conversion therapy, these days, I decided the world needed to know about this group which has been around since the 1940s. So I wrote a book.
Hal W. Lanse, PhD is the author of the upcoming book ERASING REASON: INSIDE AESTHETIC REALISM - A CULT THAT TRIED TO TURN QUEER PEOPLE STRAIGHT (Queer Street Books, November 2012)