How Gay Prevention “Therapy” Ruined Kirk Murphy’s Life, Made George Rekers’ “Career”

In 1970, when Kaytee Murphy’s son, Kirk, was almost 5 years old, she saw Dr.Robert Green on a local talk show talking about Childhood Gender Identity Disorder. According to Dr.Green and the grown homosexual man he brought with him on the show, effeminate male children would almost certainly grow into homosexual men if they weren’t treated by psychiatrists at the earliest age possible. She remembers: “I think there was a listing of ten things. If your little boy is doing, like, five out of these ten things, then contact me. And so that’s how I got into this.”

How did this happen? That’s what Jim Burroway set out to uncover and his report on The Box Turtle Bulletin is one of the best things I’ve ever read on the internet. I suggest setting some time aside for it — I read it all in one sitting, and couldn’t tear myself away — to prepare yourself for the CNN Special to air tonight. It’s a three-part Anderson Cooper 360 investigation called “The Sissy Boy Experiment.”

It was a different time when Kaytee signed Kirk up. It was a time when mothers were held almost entirely responsible for their sons’ “mental illness” of “homosexuality” and made to feel really terrible and guilty if they didn’t do all they could to fix what they’d created. So when she heard Dr. Green was conducting a study at nearby UCLA to demonstrate the effectiveness of “Cross-Gender Identity Disorder” and it was free to participate, she signed Kirk up despite the fact that his actual displays of “effeminate” behavior were actually unremarkable, according to his family’s memory.

They’d go on to work with Green’s’ young assistant — George Rekers.


Yup, that George Rekers — the anti-gay activist who’s career came to a rather abrubt halt last May when a Miami newspaper snapped photos of Rekers traveling with a “rentboy” ordered from the internet. Rekers then told the paper that he’d hired Lucien to accompany him on vaycay because Rekers had “had surgery” and “couldn’t lift luggage.” This was one of the most ridiculous excuses of all time, which contributed to the amount of attention this story got. Rekers insisted he was unaware that Lucien was a rentboy, though The Miami New Times debunked that with their explanation of how it would’ve been impossible to unknowingly find Lucien to begin with.

George Alan Rekers’ dissertation, written for his Ph.D. in Psychology in 1972, documented his “success” in treating “cross-gender disturbance” in three young male subjects. A “groundbreaking” paper based on Rekers’ dissertation by his mentor, Dr. Ivar Lovaas, was published two years later and it launched Rekers’ career. Over the next 40 years Rekers would mention Kirk’s case in at least twenty papers, books and chapters. He used different names for Kirk, including “Kraig” and “Kyle.”

Though most of Rekers’ colleagues later went on to redact their formerly held opinions on gay-conversion therapy, Rekers ventured boldly in the opposite direction, becoming one of the most prominent leaders of the ex-gay movement, founding the Family Research Council and working as an officer for NARTH, the National Association For Research & Therapy of Homosexuality. In 2009, Rekers declared in the Handbook of Therapy for Unwanted Homosexual Attraction:

Follow-up psychological evaluations three years after treatment indicates that Craig’s gender behaviors became normalized. An independent clinical psychologist evaluated Craig and found that post-treatment he had a normal male identity. Using intrasubject replication designs, this published case was the first experimentally demonstrated reversal of a cross-gender identity with psychological treatment, and the journal article on this case was among the top 12 cited articles in clinical psychology in the 1970s.

But Kirk had already taken his own life, six years earlier. If it was ever his to begin with.

“BTB Original Investigation: The True Story of George Rekers and ‘Kraig’” has been compiled out of extensive interviews with Kirk’s mother, sister and brother, as well as many other friends and relatives of Kirk’s. Jim Burroway read all the literature Rekers and his colleagues published about Kirk and provides a thorough examination of various factors at work on a macro level at that time as well — like public perception of science and medicine, the faulty methodology employed by the therapists to “treat” Kirk and legalities surrounding the homosexual “problem.” His family hadn’t read the literature on Kirk until this investigation began, and they were shocked by how their brother/son was portrayed. There were just so many lies.

The result is an in-depth look at the frightening results of intervening on a child in his developmental years to “fix” him of behaviors that aren’t actually “wrong.”

It’s impossible to quote just one paragraph or one line from this article, and maybe I don’t want to, because I think you should just read the whole thing now. And although Burroway was unable to get Rekers to give him an interview, Rekers will appear on Anderson Cooper 360 tonight, and probably will make you want to scream and throw things.

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Riese is the 32-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York City, and now lives in The Bay Area. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are!

Riese has written 1734 articles for us.

47 Comments

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    I think the mother is more to blame than anyone. We can blame Rekers, and without a doubt he contributed to the problem, but the mother is the one who thought her son “shouldn’t” be gay and didn’t want him to be gay and put him in that program.

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      I’m about to begin Part 3 and I have to say that I feel some sympathy toward his mother. She was a perfect reflection of mainstream society at the time, when these doctors’ goals “were squarely in the very middle of the mainstream of psychological thought.” It sounds so backwards, but if you think about it we’ve only inched forward in the area of gender perception/impression since this happened.

      Thanks for posting this, Riese.

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      I think the fact that the doctors ignored Kirk’s suicide attempt shows who’s truly at fault. Unfortunate that the mother’s stigmas about homosexuality are still so outdated, but she was swept up with what society thought and taught about homosexuality. If you heard about a treatment to prevent your child from developing full-blown autism, wouldn’t you want to do everything possible to help? Same thing 40 years ago.

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        And there *are* very dangerous and destructive things that parents do to prevent their kids from having full-blown autism, opening them up to all kinds of dangers way worse than autism itself. See: everything that Jenny McCarthy does and says.

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      i wanted to blame the mother too — and i think i would if i saw only that CNN clip. but if you read the entire article and see all the other forces at work, it’s clear that you can’t really blame her. Psychiatry in general was new, people trusted doctors — she would’ve been HIGHLY evolved to consider homosexuality, which was illegal at the time, to be anything but a mental disorder caused by her

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    I’m reading through this right now, and something struck me:

    “…it involves the elements of unhappiness, obsessive-compulsive trends, isolation and withdrawal, negativistic behavior, detachment, inability to form close interpersonal peer relationships, and low self-esteem.”

    These are described as symptoms of this gender identity disorder, but they reminded me of the modern research showing the link between bi/homosexuality and increased rates of depression. That said, a lot of these behaviours can be trigged by other people’s treatment of said individual…

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    Thank you for posting this. I just read the whole thing…It’s heartbreaking, but I hope it can be used to show people the terrible amounts of harm that come from trying to change your sexuality.
    I was also surprised to see things in Kirk’s actions as a child that reminded me of myself…how he spent so much time trying not to act a certain way, that he never truly thought people liked him. I was definitely like that, to a much lesser extent because I didn’t suffer traumatic “therapy” like he did. But I went through a dark place where I worried that no one would truly like me if they knew I wasn’t straight.

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      “But I went through a dark place where I worried that no one would truly like me if they knew I wasn’t straight.”

      I relate to this so much. I didn’t go through any type of therapy as a kid either but as I went through adolescence I definitely had a lot of fear that people (my family in particular) wouldn’t like me any more if they knew I was gay. And I had a loving, supportive family who never really gave me any reason to think that. So I can only imagine how deep & lasting my fear would’ve been if I’d gone through what Kirk went through.

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    I used to work as a kindergarten teacher a few years ago. Kids have no solid concept of what is feminine and masculine behavior. We had boys pretending to nurse babies and cook dinner, girls would go play with blocks and build castles and roads, i mean even during recess they would play black-ops (back in my day it was simple cops and robbers).

    The only time we have ever had a problem with masculinity and femininity is when a boy chooses pink. We had a very serious talk about how colors are meant for all of us to share and are not gender assigned. Kids are smart, they understood what we were saying.

    After that I only had trouble with a couple of students who were still picking on the boys who had chosen blue. When I asked why they thought it wasn’t okay for a boy to pick pink or a girl to pick blue the answer always was, “Mom/dad said (insert color) was only for boys/girls and that I should only pick those colors.” As a society, we should encourage kids to explore; if you limit their options they shut down.

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      i got shit from kids in kindergarten for being the only girl in our class of 26 to choose blue (or anything but pink/purple) as her favorite color. i remember being honestly baffled as to why i wasn’t “allowed” to like blue and wondering who made the rules lol. but it’s still my favorite color!

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        i always liked boy colors too and got teased for wearing boy clothes, since my classmates somehow weren’t as evolved as my mother and her gender-neutral parenting techniques

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          me too, i didn’t really understand at the time why. it ended up not mattering too much with clothes since we switched to uniforms (girl dresses where mandatory) but still I was teased for playing “boy sports” too (even when I was little, such a bro).

          honestly, I do think it’s getting better. slowly but we are getting to the point were I feel that it’s getting a little gender neutral , well in elementary school at least. I think that it starts with the youngin’s and moves on from there. you know, they start at the stream and end up in the ocean.

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      My mother’s a kindergarten teacher too, I remember distinctly her telling me and my little brother when we were maybe 6 and 3 that “Boys and girls are allowed to like the same colours.” And my little brother replying with “I like pink too!” Doesn’t make him any less straight haha

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    I read through all 7 parts of the story… such a tragedy. Parts 2 & 3 were especially hard for me to read, because he was just a little boy & what they did to him was so fucked up.

    I want to see the AC360 episode although it’s probably good I don’t have cable because I might break my TV by throwing things at it when Reker is talking.

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    OMFG, so George Rekers is one of those personally responsible for the perpetuating the idea that homosexuality can be healed. I don’t understand how these people function with either no idea or no regard for the hurt they cause. My mom is currently holding on to the idea that I can be “healed” and it was easy for her to find a place called Truth Ministry that’s confirming and encouraging that idea.

    On my way to read this report now although I can already tell that it and AC360 is going to be really fucking hard to get through.

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      Yes, Rekers worked with Joseph Nicolosi–another consummate anti-homosexual villain–at NARTH. Google NARTH and you’ll see all the major “reparative” players. For years Nicolosi was a go-to “expert” who testified at trial about the supposed sickness of homosexual men.

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    I remember when I was 4 I told my parents that I was going to marry kimberly, the pink ranger and they kinda freaked, well my mom did. All though my life they have tried to push me toward femininity and it just didn’t work.
    I tried to fit what they wanted I got depressed and and some point suicidal. With the help of my brother, friends, and the best natural anti-depressant, I kinda drifted out of it and started to accept my self for who I am.

    After many many many heated arguments I think my parents have sort of half way accepted me for who I am. At this point I’m not sure that I care as much about their approval. I still care for them and respect them, but at a certain point (like everyone else) I realized that their acceptance of me doesn’t mean as much as true happiness.

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    read the whole thing…this is so frightening and horrible…and this asshole Rekers, why is he still alive? Does he honestly believe he’s a good person? that he’s carrying out god’s work? ugh!

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    A self-denying closeted man hates himself so much that he destroys the life of a little boy who probably reminded him of himself, then goes on to build a career out of destroying other lives based on the “success” of his work with this boy.

    Sadness piled on top of sadness.

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    I thought it was interesting that the article made it clear that Kirk’s mom didn’t remember the incident where she was in the experimental room with him and he became very distressed, yet the AC360 piece didn’t mention that. They presented it like Reker’s described, with no questioning whether or not it happened.

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    So, that pathetic excuse for a mother doesn’t assume any of the blame for her part in this “experiment” carried out on the child she carried and was entrusted to raise. In an article, she states that her son’s behavior “just bothered me”. What she is saying is that SHE had the problem, not her son, so SHE took him to a doctor – that now travels with male prostitutes – that claimed he could “cure” the behavior that “bothered” her. In spite of savage beatings that frequently “caused welts” on the child’s backside, SHE did nothing to stop it. She goes on to say that “today it would be abuse”. Newsflash Mother-of-the-decade, it WAS abuse then. Mom also says that, “I blame them (the doctors)”. At no point does she assume any of the blame for causing her son’s suicide. If I had a mother like her, I wouldn’t take MY life, I’d smother HER in her sleep. I hope she is haunted by her dead son for the rest of her days until she passes through the gates of hell where hopefully, she will be beaten daily for being a failure to her children, and a failure as a human being!

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    I haven’t read the BTB articles yet, but I’m already reminded of the Bruce/Brenda “experiments” with John Money in the 1960′s. People with degrees using their “knowledge” to manipulate and abuse other human beings. Despicable.

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    There is no scientific evidence that sexual orientation can be changed. Reparative therapy has as much validity as pen1s enlarger pills. Notice how only religious groups claim to “change sexual orientation”. Sorry, but religion is not valid science. Also, most of those groups that claim to “suppress sexual orientation” merely means the gay person represses their sex, not change their sexual attractions. Most studies in fact have disproven reparative therapy, including Spitzers study which was debunked by scientists long ago.

    More on Spitzers Reparative Therapy
    Spitzer’s study was peer-reviewed, and these were the conclusions “Two years later, the paper was peer reviewed and published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. The publication decision sparked controversy and one sponsoring member resigned in protest. The paper has been criticized for using non-random sampling and poor criteria for success.”

    http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_spit.htm

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    As a form of treatment, all the major mental health organizations reject ‘reparative therapy’ as both ineffective and potentially very harmful.

    The American Psychological Association, in adopting a comprehensive report based upon two years of research, determined that, “…scientific evidence does not show that conversion therapy works.”

    The American Psychiatric Association says, “There is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of ‘reparative therapy’ as a treatment to change ones sexual orientation.”

    The American Academy of Pediatrics says, “[reparative therapy] can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.”

    Wayne Besen, who has interviewed hundreds of victims of ‘reparative therapy,’ explains in his book, Anything But Straight, how conservative religious groups use the ‘ex-gay” therapy movement to counter a growing acceptance of gays and lesbians.

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    For those of you claiming homosexuality is a “lifestyle”, that is a false and ignorant statement. Homosexuality is not a choice. Just like you don’t choose the color of your skin, you cannot choose whom you are sexually attracted to. Virtually all major psychological and medical experts agree that sexual orientation is NOT a choice. Most gay people will tell you its not a choice. Common sense will tell you its not a choice. While science is relatively new to studying homosexuality, studies tend to indicate that its biological.

    http://www-news.uchicago.edu/releases/03/differential-brain-activation.pdf
    http://www.newscientist.com/channel/sex/dn14146-gay-brains-structured-like-those-of-the-opposite-sex.html
    Gay, Straight Men’s Brain Responses Differ
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,155990,00.html
    http://www.livescience.com/health/060224_gay_genes.html
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/w27453600k586276/
    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2008/06/16/172/

    There is overwhelming scientific evidence that homosexuality is not a choice. Sexual orientation is generally a biological trait that is determined pre-natally, although there is no one certain thing that explains all of the cases. “Nurture” may have some effect, but for the most part it is biological.

    And it should also be noted that:
    “It is worth noting that many medical and scientific organizations do believe it is impossible to change a person’s sexual orientation and this is displayed in a statement by American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American School Health Association, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Social Workers, and National Education Association.”

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    Homosexuality is not a choice. Just like you don’t choose the color of your skin, you cannot choose whom you are sexually attracted to. Virtually all major psychological and medical experts agree that sexual orientation is NOT a choice. Most gay people will tell you its not a choice. Common sense will tell you its not a choice. While science is relatively new to studying homosexuality, studies tend to indicate that its biological.

    (Change *** to www)
    ***-news.uchicago.edu/releases/03/differential-brain-activation.pdf
    ***.newscientist.com/channel/sex/dn14146-gay-brains-structured-like-those-of-the-opposite-sex.html
    Gay, Straight Men’s Brain Responses Differ
    ***.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,155990,00.html
    ***.livescience.com/health/060224_gay_genes.html
    ***.springerlink.com/content/w27453600k586276/

    There is overwhelming scientific evidence that homosexuality is not a choice. Sexual orientation is generally a biological trait that is determined pre-natally, although there is no one certain thing that explains all of the cases. “Nurture” may have some effect, but for the most part it is biological.

    And it should also be noted that:
    “It is worth noting that many medical and scientific organizations do believe it is impossible to change a person’s sexual orientation and this is displayed in a statement by American Academy of Pediatrics, American Counseling Association, American Association of School Administrators, American Federation of Teachers, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American School Health Association, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, National Association of School Psychologists, National Association of Social Workers, and National Education Association.”

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