As a child, I knew that I was different. I didn’t care for team sports. To this day I don’t understand football. In third grade at recess, I preferred to sit with my friend Billy at the base of a large tree and create a whole imaginary world with sticks and leaves while all the other boys in my all-boys school played baseball.
At fourteen I took the train and went downtown to Center City Philadelphia with my friend Josh. I don’t remember much of what we did that day, but I did come home with a copy of Screw Magazine, an adult newspaper published by Al Goldstein. I did not really know what an orgasm was yet but I had the idea that if I used my hand like I was having intercourse something would happen. It did, and I discovered the incredible thing my body did in having an orgasm. I also discovered that it was the pictures of the men in the magazine that I was excited by and not the women.
At fourteen I didn’t have a strong opinion of my homosexuality but I knew it was something that I couldn’t talk about. So I did what I have always when I needed to understand something: I researched it. This was the 1970s, well before the internet and before there was much information about being gay easily available. I had no idea that an idea like ‘gay pride’ even existed until years later.
In my father’s den, a wonderful small room with floor to ceiling bookshelves on two walls in rich deep brown wood, and the rest of the walls painted a deep red, I found information. For whatever reason my father had a large hardcover book titled Homosexuality that was some kind of medical or scientific book, possibly Kinsey, I don’t remember. The book was completely unreadable in the same way you might want to learn about the flu and tried to read a Lancet journal article to learn about it.
The second book I found had a much bigger, but not a positive, impact: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) by Dr. David Reuben. The portrait of homosexuality in Ruben’s book was one of lurid sex in men’s restrooms and bars; of a painful tortured existence; and of a life of mental illness. I became determined not to have the homosexual life described by Ruben. I also remember around this same period seeing the movie, The Boys in the Band, which added to the negative view I was forming about being gay. The movie gave a tortured, painful, stereotyped portrait of homosexual life.
By the time I turned 16, I was coming to feel that the life I wanted of marriage, children, and normalcy were not going to be within my reach unless I could change my homosexuality. During this time my mother suggested I take a program which she had taken called Silva Mind Control. I was very impressed by the woman who taught the course, and after one of the classes, pulled her aside and told her that I thought I might be gay and that I didn’t want to be, and asked her if she knew anyone I could see to help me change. She put me in touch with a woman who worked for her that was in Reichean therapy (also known as Orgonomy). The woman spoke to her therapist and yes, I could change from homosexuality through this therapy. Her therapist recommended another Reichean therapist in the area and she suggested I read, Me and the Orgone, by Orson Bean, which I did immediately. To my 16-year-old mind Reich made immediate sense and I was incredibly excited by Bean’s book. The idea of freeing up sexual energy that was dammed up in me due to all kinds of repression made perfect sense as a way to change homosexuality. The therapist I saw also confirmed that yes, I could change through Orgonomy. And so began an almost 20 year (unsuccessful) journey to try and change my homosexuality, first with Orgonomy and then through the study of a philosophy in New York City that also promised I could change.