Rekers’ Legacy Includes Attempted Suicide

Jim Burroway

May 17th, 2010

Before discredited anti-gay activist George Rekers was found to have hired a rentboy to “lift his luggage,” Rekers had been one of the major so-called “researchers” into the ostensible causes and cures of homosexuality. Rekers research, however was anything but impartial, taking as it does an a priori assumption that all homosexuality is disordered, and that, according to Rekers, it is always caused by improper parenting despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. Those theories have led to Rekers’ adoption of abusive “therapies” and at least one attempted suicide.

A couple of weeks ago, Jeremy Hooper at GoodAsYou discovered a 1976 newspaper article describing UCLA’s “Gender Identity Clinic” which was jointly run by Drs. Ivar Lovaas and Rekers while Rekers was at the Fuller Theological Seminary. The article describes a series of aversion therapy experiments which were conducted on pre-pubertal elementary school-aged boys who showed signs of effeminate behavior and mannerisms. One four-year-old who entered the program in 1974, was identified as “Kraig.” That “treatment” had this effect after only “ten months of behavior modification which included spankings for wrong choices”:

He was, at the start, passive, non-assertive, allowed others to tease him. Now, he “regularly returns aggressiveness in his male-peer interactions.” In fact, the researchers write, Kraig’s mommy was alarmed at her son’s transformation into “a roughneck” — so reckless in play that he was hurting imself and damaging the furniture. The psychiatrists reassured the mother that her son’s “mild delinquent” behavior would be far easier to overcome in later years than effeminacy.

A competent therapist would have seen “Kraig’s” aggressive behavior as a classic warning sign. Abused children often become aggressive to the point of “delinquency.” But Rekers was no competent therapist, and instead held “Kraig” up as a poster-boy for his abusive treatments. The Miami New Times today reports that in 2001, there was a follow-up of “Kraig,” which showed the results of the abuse that he suffered.

At age 18, shamed by his childhood diagnosis and treatment, Rekers’s poster boy attempted suicide, according to Gender Shock, a book by journalist Phyllis Burke.

Rekers recently resigned from the National Association for the Research and Treatment of Homosexuality (NARTH), where he was also a member of NARTH’s “Scientific Advisory Committee.” Another former member of NARTH’s advisory committee, Joseph Berger, in 2006 endorsed bullying and teasing of transgender children as a legitimate form of treatment. In a message posted to NARTH’s now-defunct blog, Berger wrote:

I suggest, indeed, letting children who wish go to school in clothes of the opposite sex – but not counseling other children to not tease them or hurt their feelings.

On the contrary, don’t interfere, and let the other children ridicule the child who has lost that clear boundary between play-acting at home and the reality needs of the outside world.

Maybe, in this way, the child will re-establish that necessary boundary.

Birds of a feather…

John Graykoski

May 17th, 2010

Maybe after we finish going after religious pedophiles, we can start prosecuting child abuse perpetrated under the guise of therapy and religion.


May 17th, 2010

If you have the chance, go into a library that has a collection of old psychology or psychiatry encyclopedias or dictionaries from the 1960’s and 1970’s. Of the entries I’ve read, some mentioned these sort of aversion therapies positively and only some wrote of the possible risks or controversies. Reker’s and Lovaas’s treatment in the 1970’s seems particularly barbaric to us today, but it would have seemed less so then. I wonder how common Reker’s taser method was at the time? How controversial was this when it was found out? The article points out that some homosexual groups and a “number of ‘straight’ parents” were upset, but there doesn’t to be much of a larger outcry. Nor did the clinic seem to try to hide their (federally funded) methods. You’ll note that even the psychiatrist that opposed the treatment opposed it on the grounds that:
1. it would cause problems for how the boys would relate to women later on in life.
2 it is not sure whether or not cross-dressing or effeminate behavior is really a sign of latent homosexuality.

In other words, this particular psychiatrist doesn’t seem to question the premise that homosexuality is pathological. He simply doesn’t like the program because of the methods, the young age of the participants, and some of the detrimental side effects.

Now, in regards to how I feel about this story, I wonder how “effeminacy” in a such young children was ever thought to be such a problem that it merited tasering as the solution? (The article also mentions that Lovaas used electric cattle prods on autistic children…) The mindset that perceives this kind of treatment as acceptable is utterly inaccessible to me.

Paul in Canada

May 17th, 2010

Someone should ‘taser’ his ‘luggage’!

Regan DuCasse

May 17th, 2010

That poor child! I can’t tell you how sick that is to require a child to undergo such barbaric torture.

There has GOT to be a reckoning somehow for this bullshit. Seriously.


May 17th, 2010


The whole field of psychology has much to answer for, not least for pretending to know what it is doing.

An example I found while browsing: In the 60s, an experimenter at the U. of Oregon took autistic kids to a girls reform school. There, the inmates were to hold the kids constantly, cuddle and stroke them. They were going to love that ol’ autism right out of those kids–thus undoing the damage their “cold” mothers had done to them.

This was an approved, peer-reviewed experiment. And gosh, it didn’t work.

The best I can say about this stuff is that maybe you have to go through the bullshit, eliminate the snake oil and the quackery, before you can get on with truly understanding how to help.

Except, if you’re like Rekers, you don’t understand that you’re up to your eyeballs in bullshit.


May 17th, 2010

And now let’s think of this boy’s parents who allowed this man to abuse their son.


May 17th, 2010

Applied Behavioral Analysis / Applied Behavior Analysis

with Kyle (Is this Kraig?)

A “very good christian”. Homosexuality is sinful.

Chrush on onother boy in 7th grade: Surprise? No. Scare? Yes.

First homosexual encounter at 18: Suizide attemt. “Because I don’t want to grow up to be gay.”


May 17th, 2010

Rekers “ABA” as sucess in a document from Richard P. Fitzgibbons, NARTH Scientific Advisory Board Member

(Citation with footnote 3)


May 17th, 2010

@wister – yeah, my thoughts exactly. Parents who subject their children (toddlers!) to this type of abuse should have their kids removed from their “care” by child protective services.

And they claim gays and lesbians aren’t fit to be parents.

How can these people sleep at night?


May 17th, 2010

Sadly, for much of the far right church world the concept of ‘curing’ gay people is actually a step towards tolerance. Previous to this(not long ago), many saw homosexuality as a sign that the Holy Spirit had abandoned a person and their mind had gone reprobate. The best course of action was for the family and church to also abandon the person, as there was no hope and the condition could spread. In the church world today, this tension still exists. Rekers is actually seen as a liberal by some. Scary.

Richard Poppen

May 17th, 2010

As barbaric as this treatment is, the idea that the child was tasered is due to a typo. While the extract here says “He was, at the start, passive, non-assertive, allowed others to tase him,” the actual original article says “… allowed others to *tease* him” [emphasis mine].

On the other hand, the use of cattle prods on autistic children is not that far from tasering.


May 17th, 2010

The article describes a series of aversion therapy experiments which were conducted on pre-pubertal elementary school-aged boys who showed signs of effeminate behavior and mannerisms. One four-year-old who entered the program in 1974, was identified as “Kraig.” That “treatment” had this effect after only “ten months of behavior modification which included spankings for wrong choices

20 bucks says everyone involved in this experiment where elementary school children were beaten and abused to try to make them straight have all gone on to do whiny articles for FOX News and Focus on the Family where they claim homosexuals are out to brainwash children.

Jutta Zalud

May 17th, 2010

Fg68at wrote:
Applied Behavioral Analysis / Applied Behavior Analysis

with Kyle (Is this Kraig?)

Yes. Phyllis Burke writes: "Green's transcripts include interviews with the parents at the time they brought Kraig to UCLA, and with the mother and Kraig when he was seventeen, and again at eighteen years old. (It should be noted that Kraig's name was changed by Dr. Green to "Kyle" for 'The "Sissy Boy Syndrome,"' and most recently, in 1995, by Dr. Rekers to "Craig" for his 'Handbook of Child and Adolescent Sexual Problems.) – page 35.

Phillis Burke's book was published in 1996. "Gender Shock: Exploding the Myths of Male & Female"

Rick Brentlinger

May 17th, 2010

The intentional abuse of a four year old boy by his mother and by Dr. Rekers should be a national scandal.

These loons have not a shred of decency nor a vestige of integrity. And yet they denigrate GLBT relationships.

I wonder how many other parents and “professional” counselors are abusing their GLBT children at this very moment, using NARTH and Dr. Child-Reker’s literature as their guide?


May 17th, 2010

This gut is a full fledged idiot. If he had a brain he must have took it out and lost it somewhere. How do these people think they can or have a right to try to change a persons sexual orentiation. How would they feel if we treated them the same way they are treating us.

Timothy Kincaid

May 17th, 2010

I’m not making excuses for Dr. Rekers other than to say that this was the 70’s and this was not outside mainstream thinking at the time.

I do, however, want to make a case for the parents. They did what was the “best” thing for them to do: they took their child to the most credible and prestigous doctors they could find and listened to their “expert” advice. They can’t be faulted for not knowing that this advice was horrific or would damage their children.

And I truly pity them. It can’t have been easy to have your kid crying and wanting to hold him and assure him but instead obeying the doctors’ orders to withhold attention and affection until they were gender compliant.

These were desperate people, doing what they were told, trying their hardest, and all the time believing that Dr. Rekers was thinking of the best for their children, not that he was just advancing his own religion and using their kids to battle his own “weaknesses”.

Jutta Zalud

May 17th, 2010

> that this was the 70’s and this was not outside mainstream thinking at the time.

Mainstream is huge and can include a lot of things, but whenever I read about the treatment of “gender devient” kids (and I read Phillis Burke’s book about 10 years ago) the first thing that comes to my mind is that in the 1970s parents were encouraged to give boys dolls and to give girls cars or construction-games to play, at least in many parts of Europe.

And at least in some way this education worked – in the generation of the people between 30 and 40 now you will find a seizable number of men who care for their children in a much more practical way than did their father generation.

Another book that comes into my mind is Geert Hofstede’s book where he compares the “gender” of nations. (I think it’s “Culture’s Consequencds” but I’m not sure.)


May 18th, 2010

From 1974, here is:


I wonder if I can find something on O. Ivar Lovass on the google.


May 18th, 2010

Well, that was easy. It would be interesting to hear from Dr. Lovaas about the Rekers paper, but I’m not a reporter. I know nothing about autism treatments, so I’m the last person to evaluate his present day work.

Behavioral Treatment and Normal Educational and Intellectual Functioning in Young Autistic Children
By O. Ivar Lovaas
University of California, Los Angeles

The True Meaning of the Auton Decision
by Michelle Dawson

Have to go do something…but this is a start.


May 18th, 2010

This isn’t too far off the mark from what’s still going on today from the likes of Kenneth Zucker and others.

Ben in Oakland

May 18th, 2010

Greg– are you sure about the name?

I mean……….



May 18th, 2010

Reading the 1976 article is sickening. To think that these two a*$holes were physically abusing kids for so-called “feminine” behavior is infuriating!

I can’t imagine the emotional damaged that’s been done to those boys.

If anyone deserved to be outed Rekers is right up there in the top 5.

I know vengeance is not a healthy thing, but I hope Rekers is shunned by his entire social and professional community and that he has to live out the rest of his days only enjoying the company of those he must pay up-front for.

Maurice Lacunza

May 18th, 2010

To Richard Poppen: I too assumed that the tased was a typo for teased. I hope that the readers aren’t up in arms thinking a child was tasered.

I grew up in the 70’s and I disagree that “that was back then”. There was a lot of media presence and fighting for gay rights. Anita Bryant got the wind in her sails because of gay activism in the 70’s. This whole matter is about homophobia,and, people like Rekers were there THEN and they are here NOW.

To Kincaid: Agreed, Lovass….????

Maurice Lacunza

May 18th, 2010

One more thing. I saw that headline “Includes Attempted Suicide”, and I thought that Rekers had attempted suicide. I wouldn’t be surprised if he did. When I read his responses last week, I wondered if he would take the easy way out and commit suicide. The man is in a terrible emotional state and if he can’t set himself free, he might cut himself loose. Sad, but possible.

Jutta Zalud

May 18th, 2010

> I wonder if I can find something on O. Ivar Lovass on the google.

He’s spelled Lovaas and seems to have published in the 1960s to 90s about treatment of autistic children and beharior treatment of children in general
(mentally retarded children, schizophrenic children, aggressive children …) at least, that’s what Google Scholar turns up.
So his reasearch is not so focused on one single topic as is Rekers’.
There’s also an institute named after him


May 20th, 2010

Oops. If an embarrassing Freudian…embarrassing Freudian slip can be made, I will make it. That’s O. Ivar Lovaas, and not what I typed. I swear that I had taken pains to write Lovaas correctly, but I guess only in my mind. As Craig Ferguson says about himself, “I have the mind of ten year old boy in a middle aged body.”


October 19th, 2010

My brother was one of Dr. Reker’s “patients” who was tortured his entire life, well after his days of therapy as a child were over. He killed himself at the age of 38.

That was in 2003. I just found out this week that he is a case study in both Dr. Richard Green’s book “Sissyboy Syndrome” and Dr. Reker’s papers.

I am devastated.

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