Just after WWII, Eli Siegel, leader of the Greenwich Village cult Aesthetic Realism (AR) convinced a gay follower he could go straight. Then, from the late 60s through the 80s this “success” attracted hundreds of followers who claimed they had “changed from homosexuality.” The group then waged an ongoing media campaign trying to get publicity for its miraculous work.

In time, the vast majority of followers escaped the cult and resumed gay lifestyles. But survivors sustained a great deal of psychological damage. Now, their story is told in a new book, ERASING REASON: Inside Aesthetic Realism – A Cult That Tried to Turn Queer People Straight.

Survivor Hal W. Lanse has gathered personal stories, documents and transcripts of AR’s encounter groups and internal meetings. All in the years before conversion therapy came into vogue.

Lanse argues that therapies that attempt to alter people’s sexuality are futile and harmful. ERASING REASON makes a passionate case for banning any such practices.

For more information on this topic, or to schedule an interview with Hal W. Lanse, please call 646-642-1175 or email

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