Gajdics, Peter. “The Inheritance of Shame: A Memoir”, Brown Paper Pres, 2017.
Author Peter Gajdics spent six years in conversion therapy that attempted to “cure” him of his homosexuality. He was kept with other patients in a cult-like home in British Columbia, Canada where he was under the authority of a dominating, rogue psychiatrist who controlled his patients by creating and exploiting a false sense of family. The author’s parents had tormented pasts. His mother had been incarcerated in a communist concentration camp in Yugoslavia after World War II and from which she had managed to escape. His father was an orphan in war-torn Hungary. This memoir explores the themes of childhood trauma, oppression, and intergenerational pain over a period of decades and we see the damaging repercussions of conversion therapy and are reminded that resilience, compassion, and the courage to speak the truth indeed exist within us all.
This is an in-depth account of the author’s triumph over a psychotherapy system that was designed to eradicate personhood. We shockingly read of Gajdics’ fondness for the very therapist who abused him. He suffered from a kind of Stockholm syndrome that most survivors of conversion therapy experience.
Gajdics struggled with family rejection and loss of self while he recovered from the deep wounds put on by him by anti-gay “therapy.” He presents a powerful argument against conversion therapy. This period was one of malpractice and corrupt psychotherapy in which we see the trauma of conversion therapy and the homophobia.
Lately much has been written about “crazy therapies” and the unproven, unusual, and downright strange psychological counseling and therapeutic practices that patients have been subjected to. Gajdics uses journals, official documents, medical records and recordings to share his bizarre story in a shocking narrative and then shows how he was able to reconnect with his parents and siblings. He was the youngest of five children who were raised near Vancouver. His parents were observant Catholics and he was raised in the culture of the church knowing that his parents would never accept him as a gay individual. As a young adult, after selling his body, he realized he needed psychological counseling. He was able to get Next, Gajdics received a referral from the Health Authority for a Dr. Alfonzo, the only psychiatrist that was accepting new patients.
He was highly skeptical of Dr. Alfonzo from the start. The doctor insisted that all his patients needed medication, which he overprescribed and believed that only he could be the “savior” for his patients through cutting edge “Primal Therapy, Rebirthing, and Reparative Therapy” that offered a cure for homosexuality. The doctor maintained controlled residential living in community homes. Due to the medication Gajdics was prescribed he gained 40 lbs. and felt that there were demons inside of him. Gajdics stayed in Dr. Alfonzo’s care for nearly six years even though r4eparative therapy was eventually discredited and therapists were advised not to practice it. In 1998, Gajdics was contacted by an attorney for the College of Physicians and Surgeons regarding formal complaints filed against Dr. Alfonzo.
In the first half of the book, we get a detailed account of Dr. Alfonzo’s disturbing behaviors and unconventional therapeutic methods. He also used his residential patients for free labor. After blaming his parents for all his problems, they began reconciliation and his parents welcomed Gajdics back in their lives after he discontinued therapy with Dr. Alfonzo. Gajdics describes his family history in detail and we learn that he applied for Hungarian citizenship under his father’s name, toured Europe in 2004 and wrote of his father’s decline and death, and his mother’s escape from the communist concentration camps during WWII.
This is an amazing story of a brave man who speaks out and who after a bizarre and terrible ordeal is able to accept and love himself despite what he has had to endure.