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BTB Original Investigation: The True Story of George Rekers And “Kraig”

Jim Burroway

June 7th, 2011

In the summer of 1970, just before Kirk’s fifth birthday, his parents learned about a new federally funded research program at UCLA for young boys who were showing early signs of being effeminate. Concerned that Kirk was exhibiting some of the behaviors listed by a UCLA researcher on a local television talk show, Kirk’s parents decided to take him in for an evaluation and treatment. Ten months later, Kirk’s therapy was judged a success and his parents were reassured he would now grow up to be a normal, heterosexual man.

When Kirk was undergoing treatment at UCLA, he was under the care of a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. In 1974, Rekers and his mentor, Dr. Ivar Lovaas, published a landmark paper describing “Kraig’s” treatment — “Kraig” being their pseudonym for Kirk. That paper, which appeared in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, was “the first experimental study on the subject of childhood cross-gender problems.” That paper launched Rekers’s career, first as an expert in childhood sexual development, and later as an anti-gay activist.

Kirk survived his ordeal, and he continued to grow up under relative anonymity. Neither he nor his family knew that he was the subject of nearly two decades of discussion among behavioral therapists working to change their clients’ sexual orientation. Through it all, Rekers wrote that Kirk had a “normal male identity, had normal aspirations for growing up to be married and have a family, and was well-adjusted as a teen-age boy in general.” The truth was far different. His suicide attempt at the age of seventeen was unsuccessful. But twenty years later, he took his life on December 21, 2003. He was 38.

Rekers’s career came to an end on May 4, 2010, when two reporters at The Miami New Times revealed that he had been photographed at the Miami International Airport while returning from an overseas trip in the company of a handsome, blond twenty-years-old man who Rekers found on Rentboy.com. Rekers protested that he had hired the escort to help him with his luggage, but his escort himself begged to differ. Rekers’s colleagues began distancing themselves from him, and he eventually resigned from the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), a group composed of dissident therapists who believe that homosexuality is a pathology in need of treatment, despite the findings otherwise of every major medical and mental health organization.

Today we can reveal the full story behind the story. In an original BTB investigation, “What Are Little Boys Made Of?” we take you through extensive interviews with Kirk’s mother, brother and sister, ex-wife, friends, and others to bring you up to date on the truth behind Rekers’s “success.” We also investigate the state of psychology in 1970 when Kirk first came under Rekers’s care, and the profound changes that the profession underwent in the forty years since then — changes which Rekers steadfastly resisted. It is all right here.

On Tuesday evening, CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 will also present the first installment of a three-part series, “The Sissy Boy Experiment,” beginning at 10:00 p.m. EDT. Believe me, you won’t want to miss it.

Comments

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Stefano A
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

Nice work!

I’ll try to catch Cooper 360.

Did he interview you for his report?

Lindoro Almaviva
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

Please do post the links for Cooper. I will be in the middle of a move and will not have cable yet.

Anthony Venn-Brown
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

Love your work BTB…..so intelligent, thorough and full of integrity.

Clinton Fein
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

After reading this incredibly researched, sad and tragic investigation, my blood is literally boiling. Sick, disturbed bastards like Rekers shouldn’t be allowed within a mile radius of children.

Jeff Z.
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

The best and right words will fail me, but I need to say this: No human being should be sacrificed on the premise that s/he is a case study, a research project, or a test of some ideology that places belief before facts, falsehood before reason, or sheep before wolves.

The key investigator in this instance (Rekers) turned out to be the epitome of that which he hated: a man who (sexually)abused other males –and paid for the privilege– while advocating therapy that claimed to “fix” those deviations from the Holy Norm.

There’s no slack to be cut, no excuses to be made: death is death, suicide is suicide, and the blood stains will never, EVER, fade from Rekers’ hands, his lies & his falsehoods.

Warren Throckmorton
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

Jim: This is an amazing report. I just linked to it and will refer to this in the book I am now writing on sexual orientation. I wonder if an investigation into this will be launched at UCLA. Agains, well done!

MattGMD
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

Every time Family Research Council’s chief charlatan is on tv or in the news, mention of FRC’s original founding member Rekers should be mentioned to counter and debunk the stats and fiction they so earnestly call “research.” Tired of them sanctimoniously misinforming yet another generation of people. Kudos to the writer for this informative addition to our collective history.

Allen
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

Perhaps I’ve missed something, but it seems Rekers made some false statements in his published works (including his thesis). It would be too little, too late, but could be be stripped of his Ph.D.? It seems improper at best for him to go around with the title “Doctor”.

pax58
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

Thanks to you and especially to Kirk’s family. It is a sad story of where we were just a few short years ago. Hopefully an hoest look at that story will help remake it for alot of boys and their families.

craig
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

Are you honestly saying that Recker’s mentor was Dr. I. Lovaas??? Really??

Paul Mc
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

“Every time Family Research Council’s chief charlatan is on tv or in the news, mention of FRC’s original founding member Rekers should be mentioned to counter and debunk the stats and fiction they so earnestly call “research.””

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Every journalist should be made aware of the fraud that is the ex-gay industry. Their theoretical foundations are built on sand and lies.

It makes SO mad. The same lies cropping again and again and again. And also in Uganda, Lithuania, Australia, UK, Romania – everywhere it seeps like poison coming from these same liars Rekers, Cameron, NARTH (all of it!), JONAH, FRC, Focus, CWA. All lies. All of it.
Masters & Johnson – made it up. Aversion Therapy – it never worked. Reparative Therapy – doesn’t work.

I’m about fit to burst with the anger this made me feel. The infliction of pointless suffering based on so many lies.

Parents – let sissy boys and tomboy girls be, let gay boys be, let boys with pink toenails be. Love your children – just love your kids for who they are. Can it be any simpler than that?

John
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

As bad as what happened to Kirk is the fact that this was done with funds from a federal program. Somebody at the federal level had to have approved these funds.

Kevin
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

Just a word of thanks for this insightful, thoughtful, and well-researched report. You do great work, Jim, and this site remains a favorite of mine because of articles such as this one.

CPT_Doom
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

Sadly John, at the same time this was going on the Tuskegee syphillis “experiment” was continuing – this is not the first time federal funds were used for unethical and/or discriminatory reasons.

Priya Lynn
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

Clinton said “After reading this incredibly researched, sad and tragic investigation, my blood is literally boiling.”.

No it is not. Get a dictionary and look up “literally”.

Andrew
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

@Priya

1. In a literal manner or sense; exactly: “the driver took it literally when asked to go straight over the traffic circle”.
2. Used to acknowledge that something is not literally true but is used for emphasis or to express strong feeling

Second definitions are just as valid as the first.

Kel Munger
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

Incredible work, Jim.

I’ve written a blog post about it and then Tweeted and Facebooked the hell out of it.

You’re a treasure.

PJB863
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

Wow, just wow. The story is up on CNN and I will make sure to watch it tonight.

Samwise
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

That was just gut-wrenching. I remember reading about “Kraig” when the whole luggage scandal emerged. We knew that he’d tried to kill himself as a teenager, but nothing after that. I hoped with all my heart that he was alive and happy somewhere, finally at peace with himself, maybe building a family of his own with a partner who loved him. He’d already been dead for seven years by that point.

One of the saddest things about this story is that Kirk displayed so many textbook symptoms of clinical depression. If Rekers hadn’t trained him to fear and distrust therapists, he may have gotten help and never killed himself. Of course, if not for Rekers, he probably wouldn’t have needed that help to begin with.

Thank you so much for writing this. It was a great piece, beautifully written. Definitely something to show those nay-sayers who claim that bloggers never do original reporting. I’ll also make sure to watch AC360′s special on the subject tonight.

andrewdb
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

Jim –

Thank you for doing this kind of work and bearing this witness. I don’t know where you find the strength to do this work – it is so disturbing I can’t bear to read all of it.

I have already written my state legislators asking them to investigate UCLA. Since I live in San Diego both are lesbians. I suppose I should notify the licensing board about Dr. Green too.

Clinton Fein
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

I just recently wrote a satire about a Gay Agenda, in which I fantasized about how to deal with “Ex Gays,” George Rekers and the many other fear-​mongering liars, frauds and hypocrites that use religion to justify their homophobia and marginalize, humiliate, electrocute and murder others. A previous version I wrote was picked up by CWFA’s Matt Barber and Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth — more of these sick, homophobic, child-abusive parasites — and selectively presented to their followers as a candid and factual agenda. Having absorbed Kirk’s treatment and the impact it had on him and his family since I read it last night, I wonder whether some of the over-the-top, Clockwork Orangeish agenda items relating to homophobia and conversion therapy I imagined shouldn’t be reconsidered non satirically. (http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/the-gay-agenda/farce/2011/06/07/21420)

Richard Rush
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

Jim, you have done a tremendous job of researching and writing this gut-wrenching story. I just finished reading the seven main parts, and I’m emotionally drained. I have nothing more to say now.

Tone
June 7th, 2011 | LINK

Any “treatment” that involves baiting a child and then relentlessly beating him for his choices is not treatment but abuse. This poor boy was horrendously abused, and Rekers engineered it. He’s a monster, an utterly depraved monster and he deserves to be locked up. The parents have a lot of explaining to do as well I think.

T Crenshaw
June 8th, 2011 | LINK

Rekers enjoyed employment at the University of South Carolina during his years before moving to Florida. I did not know anything about him except that he was that man who made me very uncomfortable in the communal shower at the Solomon Blatt PE Center on campus. He was a regular at the PE Center and he had a way of hanging around and staring at naked men in the shower. I figured he was just another aging shower goblin with serious issues, so I avoided him and went to another shower whenever I saw he was present in the locker room. I didn’t know who he was until the rent-boy scandal broke. It explains everything.

ken
June 8th, 2011 | LINK

Jim,

Did you ever try to track down the other assistant Kaytee Murphy mentioned (or anyone else associated with the project)?

Priya Lynn
June 8th, 2011 | LINK

Andrew your second definition doesn’t exist:

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/literally

Clinton’s blood was figuratively boiling, not literally. Using the word literally when you don’t mean literally is childish and ignorant.

Guffey
June 9th, 2011 | LINK

Excellent report. Read it all the way through in one sitting the minute I saw it posted. Painful, sad, ugly, captivating and so so so frustrating. Kudos to all involved in bringing it out.

Désirée
June 9th, 2011 | LINK

@Priya
let it go. you’re wrong.
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/literally
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/literally
http://dictionary.sensagent.com/literally/en-en/
all of those definitions include some form of “literally as intensifier” definition as well as some form of this:
—Usage note
Since the early 20th century, literally has been widely used as an intensifier meaning “in effect, virtually,” a sense that contradicts the earlier meaning “actually, without exaggeration”: The senator was literally buried alive in the Iowa primaries. The parties were literally trading horses in an effort to reach a compromise. The use is often criticized; nevertheless, it appears in all but the most carefully edited writing. Although this use of literally irritates some, it probably neither distorts nor enhances the intended meaning of the sentences in which it occurs. The same might often be said of the use of literally in its earlier sense “actually”: The garrison was literally wiped out: no one survived.

Marlene
June 9th, 2011 | LINK

It’s a long shot, but are there any links to this perverted “therapy” by Green, ad nauseum and the perversions imposed on Bruce Reimer by John Money at Johns Hopkins?

There’s alot of similarities between these two cases, including sexual abuse and suicide.

Priya Lynn
June 9th, 2011 | LINK

Desiree some dictionaries report on how a word is used, not what usage is correct or logical. That the non-literal definition of literally is wrong is seen in the second definition Andrew gave “Used to acknowledge that something is not literally true”.

That second “defintion” acknowledges that literally means “actually happened” and points out the illogic of saying “literally means not literally”. When people start using the word literally when its clear they are exagerating it becomes impossible to use an unambiguous way to say “I’m not exagerating” as using it in exagerattions calls into question every time it is used and suggests the person is exagerrating when they are not.

Using literally when one doesn’t mean literally is childish, ignorant, incorrect, and illogical.

Priya Lynn
June 9th, 2011 | LINK

And Desiree, two of your definitions agree with me, not you. Merriam Webster gives a second meaning as “In effect, virtually”. To say “my blood virtually boiled” is obviously not the case. The second dictionary you gave mentioned the “intensifier” usage but said it is a PROBLEM. Most dictionaries recognize that literally means “actually happned” and that saying “my blood was literally boiling” is stupid.

Jim Burroway
June 9th, 2011 | LINK

Priya,

Really? This is what you think is so important that it merits a three-day back and forth argument over?

Timothy (TRiG)
June 9th, 2011 | LINK

some dictionaries report on how a word is used

Any dictionary which does otherwise is not useful. The English language is defined by its speakers. I, personally, would not use the word literally in this fashion, but language changes.

Read some linguistics textbooks. They’re interesting.

TRiG.

Jim Burroway
June 9th, 2011 | LINK

Okay folks. This is not a post about linguistics. Let’s take this trivial argument elsewhere. Sheesh!

Timothy Kincaid
June 9th, 2011 | LINK

I’m with Jim. In the midst of discussion about the tragedy caused by irresponsible activism-based “research”, you’re arguing over whether “literally” can be used in some way or other. Why?

Why was it even “corrected” in the first place?

Maybe rather than “being right” and making sure that others know that they are using a word incorrectly, we can put our focus on the fact that a life was destroyed, a family was torn apart, and an entire anti-gay industry was bolstered out of one man’s desire to create a “scientific” basis for the war he was waging against his own personal unhappiness.

Helen Hill MFT
June 10th, 2011 | LINK

Thank you for publicizing this invasive, and horrible practice of “reparative” therapy. It needs to stop. No reputable therapist should do this to any child, regardless of their orientation or gender.

It is horrible and is a huge violation of the person. I wonder sometimes if “rape” would be too strong a word?

Thank you again.

Helen Hill MFT

check this
May 6th, 2012 | LINK

I will immediately grab your rss as I can not to find your email subscription link
or e-newsletter service. Do you have any? Please permit me recognise
in order that I may just subscribe. Thanks.

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