Applewhite sought cure for his homosexual urges

CNN/March 29, 1997

Met cult co-leader while hospitalized

San Diego -- The leader of Heaven's Gate, whose members conducted a mass suicide this week, met his co-leader at a hospital where he had hoped to be cured of homosexual urges, according to a report in The Washington Post.

Citing local news accounts, The Post reported that Marshall Applewhite was fired from his job in 1970 as a music professor at the University of St. Thomas in Houston after school administrators learned he had an affair with a male student.

Charles Krohn, a colleague of Applewhite's at the Catholic college, told CNN that he heard the rumors about Applewhite's conduct.

"(But) I only heard those stories ... after he left," Krohn said.

The Rev. William Young, a former president of the Catholic college, told the San Diego Union-Tribune that school officials denied firing Applewhite for a "morals problem." The school listed "health problems of an emotional nature" as the reason for the firing.

Friends and former members of Applewhite's group said that their leader met nurse Bonnie Lu Trousdale Nettles at the psychiatric hospital where he hoped to find a cure for his desires.

He told his sister, Louise Winant, that he had been hospitalized for a heart ailment.

Robert Balch, who infiltrated the group for two months in 1975, told the Post Applewhite felt guilty about his homosexuality and had told at least one male lover that he wanted a "platonic relationship where he could develop his full potential without sexual entanglements."

Applewhite's followers, Balch said, had to maintain a strict "no sex, no human-level relationships, no socializing" rule.

James Lewis, who has studied Applewhite and Nettles' group for over two decades, said Applewhite "was so alienated from his homosexuality that he was teaching people not to have sex.

"He would put people of opposite sexes together and force them to learn to become neutral, non-sexual," Lewis, of the Institute for the Study of American Religion, told The Post.

Members of the group all had close-cropped haircuts and dressed alike.

Known as "Bo" and "Peep" -- and later "Do" and "Ti" -- Applewhite and Nettles spread their teachings as the way to a "next level" of existence, to be found in outer space. Applewhite insisted that his relationship with Nettles, who died in 1985, was non-sexual.

Robert Rubin, a member of the group 21 years ago, told CNN the group was required to abstain from sex. He suggested that the six group members -- including Applewhite -- who had been castrated had undergone the procedure to help ensure they remained celibate. Rubin said that when he was a member the group did not discuss mass suicide or castration.

The names of 35 of the 39 people who died in the mass suicide have been released. San Diego authorities were still conducting routine autopsies and trying to notify the families of the remaining four victims.

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