What You Didn’t See On CNN’s “The Sissy Boy Experiment”

Jim Burroway

June 8th, 2011

Make no mistake about it, CNN’s riveting documentary is well worth watching. And I don’t mean for this post to be a criticism of their excellent coverage. But when you’re dealing with the kind of time constraints that come with television, the story winds up being streamlined and important information goes missing. That’s just the nature of the medium.

For example, Anderson Cooper, as narrator, says this:

Mrs. Murphy says she saw a psychologist on a local TV program talking about behavior like Kirk’s.


The psychologist was recruiting young boys for a government-funded program at UCLA…

The psychologist remained unnamed throughout the entire report, but in the Murphy family’s understanding of Kirk’s therapy, that unnamed psychologist, the very prominent and well-respected Dr. Richard Green, was a central figure in their experience. In fact, Kaytee, Kirk’s mother, didn’t even know who George Rekers was when I first mentioned him during our first interview. It was Green she saw on that television program, listing the characteristics that parents should be worried about and recruiting young boys for the federally-funded program. Kaytee thought Kirk’s care was under Green’s direction, and that Rekers was just a “college aide.” She has good reason to believe that; Rekers was only twenty-two years old when Kirk was being treated, having just earned his bachelor’s degree from Westmont College in Santa Barbara just a few months earlier. Was Rekers really given that much freedom over Kirk’s treatment?

This is the kind of information you will find in our full report, “What Are Little Boys Made Of?“. To understand better the question (if not the answer) of who oversaw Kirk’s treatment, check out our epilogue, “Cuius Culpa?

And don’t forget to tune in tonight for the second installment of CNN’s “The Sissy Boy Experiment,” on Anderson Cooper 360 beginning at 10:00 p.m. EDT.

Grandmère Mimi

June 8th, 2011

I read the report up to page 5, and I had to stop, because the account was just too painful to go further tonight. I will go back and finish.

Thanks for telling the story, Jim.


June 8th, 2011


I read your report – all in one sitting. A tremendous piece of work. You really ought to be proud of it.

It seems to me that the outstanding question of greatest importance for 2011 is whether the numerous studies and reports concerning Kirk’s case, published in professional journals, contain data that are fabricated or negligently reported. Obviously, some observations and conclusions are subjective. But others – such as whether UCLA staff made follow-up visits to Kirk’s home during specified time periods, whether Kirk appeared publicly in a dress and wig, whether there is a video showing a dramatic change in Kirk’s behavior, whether Kirk’s mother underwent hormone therapy during pregnancy, her self-declared motivations for commencing treatment, etc – are all objective factual claims.

Either they are true or they aren’t. And if they aren’t true then potentially we have not an issue of an historic professional lapse, but an potentially an issue of a live, continuing fraud.

The studies and reports that cite Kirk’s case weren’t novelty pieces in Readers Digest. They were professional clinical work product intended to be considered and relied upon by clinicians in the treatment of others. So even though Kirk’s “treatment” occurred over 40 years ago, the reports and studies remain in circulation – unamended and uncorrected today. That would make any alleged data fabrication a live issue.

Someone needs to get the records from UCLA and the individual treating clinicians. Given that the treatment subject is dead, I don’t know why there would be any obstacle to getting them through state and federal FOIA-type requests. If privacy did pose a problem, it would still be useful to get the records with the subject’s name redacted. That would pose no issue b/c we already know the subject’s name.

These records, which should include the videotape, should show fairly clearly what the real story is – and without the need to rely upon faulty (and sometimes self-serving) memories. While it is, of course, possible that the treatment records themselves could contain false information, that would seem to be a less likely possibility, as it would require multiple clinicians to have determined in real time that Kirk’s case would become so prominent and for all of them to collude in fabricating data.

Anyway, congrats on great work that once again distinguishes BTB as a gem in the blogosphere.

Eric Payne

June 8th, 2011

I’m 52. I’m gay. My husband and I have been together, exclusively, for 16 years (on June 25th), and have been married since November 2, 2010.

One October morning in 1970, at the age of 11, I made it possible for my father to discover I had been being molested by a neighborhood man since I had been 8. My father became enraged; I became his personal punching bag and whipping boy. My father, apparently, believed this man when the man said what all child molesters say, when confronted: “He seduced me!” My father believed it so much that on the Monday after that weekend, my father took me to school. I sat in the principal’s office, covered in bruises, while my father and a horrified principal pulled me out of gym class, because of “what (I) might do to the other boys.”

Within months, our home (in a suburban sub-development) was up for sale. My parents found a small farm in the middle of nowhere, moved us there, and when my sisters would ask them why we moved, my parents – instead of saying they had wanted to own some land and farm most of their lives – would say: “Go ask your brother. He embarrassed us so much we had to move.” Somewhere during this time, I had begun drinking – helping myself to the contents of my father’s extensive “Jim Beam” decanter collection, refilling a bottle with water once I had emptied it of bourbon.

At our new home, in Lebanon County, PA, my parents enrolled me in a program similar to the one at UCLA, but it was held at Philhaven Mental Hospital in Lebanon, PA. My experience didn’t last long; my mother refused to allow them to attach electrodes to my testicles after the first couple of rounds actually left permanent burn scars on the skin of my testicles.

My parents’ motto: Do anything you want, just don’t leave a mark.

About 4 weeks prior to my 18th birthday, I was out of their house, off to college on the other side of the country. After my first year of college, they cut me off. Over the next 6 years, I would work a year, go to college a year, etc… during one of those years of college, finances became tough, and I had to move back in with them. Finally, after years of a mutual love/hate relationship between me and my entire family, we’d all had enough. One Saturday morning, ironically, in another October, I walked out the door of their house in Ohio, flew back to California, and that was it.

For 25 years, there was absolutely no contact between myself and any member of my family. No holiday or birthday cards or telephone calls. No internet chats. Absolutely nothing. In that 25 years, I learned there was nothing wrong with being gay, had a couple/three lovers, managed to luck out and be HIV-negative (living in NY, 1984-1986; LA, 1986 – 1989; and SF 1989 – 2002, at my first HIV test in 1991, I was absolutely certain I was going to be told I was positive). Met the man I would marry – and knew that the moment we met.

And managed to make peace with my family. Both my parents are gone now, having died in the last 3 years. At the very end, with both of them, I was able to, at least, talk with them (with my father, we actually visited each other, on “neutral ground”), apologize for anything I’d done to hurt them, outside of my control. They managed to apologize to me, as well; my father even met – and liked – my husband.

I watched this, and felt such a kinship with Kirk. I can’t count the number of times I couldn’t get my mind out of suicidal thoughts, and the time I climbed into our hayloft with my 30.06, absolutely certain I would not be climbing back down to the floor of the barn… but not having the guts, ultimately, to blow my brains out.

I hear Kirk’s mother so calmly recite the physical beatings her husband inflicted on her own child, her calm statement: “Today, it would be considered abuse,” and see the look on her face, and am absolutely stricken with the thought: She thinks they did absolutely nothing wrong, and would think nothing of doing it again, as long as the “sissy” stops.

And I see Rekers, that self-loathing fag, attempting to dodge any responsibility the way he dodges the press. If there’s any fag who should seriously contemplate suicide simply for being gay, it’s Rekers.

And then, I think about the third gay man in this news piece: Cooper himself. Doesn’t he realize his actions, in remaining closeted, can be causing as much harm to gay kids today as Rekers did thirty years ago?

Maurice Lacunza

June 8th, 2011

I gotta be honest. This story is painful. It reminded me of how I felt when I saw Brokeback Mountain. I grew up in Montana and that movie could have been my life script. I could barely talk afterwards. This story is no less painful for the victims. I feel the pain of Kraig and also the above blogger Eric P. I’m sorry that they had to endure this treatment. God speed.

Maurice Lacunza

June 9th, 2011

I just finished the BTB article. What really angers me is that George Rekers has made hundreds of thousands of dollars peddling his bullshit. He was paid 80,000 to testify in the Florida adoption crap. Someone in Kirk’s family should sue Rekers and Green.

And to read that Lift My Luggage Reker said “all is well” in 2009, is just maddening. It shows the depth of his insensitivity. He didn’t even know the boy committed suicide. Shameless.
Bullsh!t. Rekers, you are a piece of sh!t.

As Jon Stewart told someone: if a turd could take a sh!t, and that piece of sh!t took a sh!t and then that piece of sh!t vomited, and then that vomit took a sh!t, and that piece of sh!t took a sh!t that vomited, that vomit is what you are. Rekers, you hypocritical piece of sh!t. You have blood on your hands Reker.

BTB. You can delete this post if you want. I just feel a deep and great injustice has been committed. And why? So that George Rekers could advance his career. Where are you George? Stand up and defend your work if you really believe it is true. Lets hear from you.

Lynn David

June 9th, 2011

I looked in Kirk Murphy’s eyes tonight while he held his sister’s child and saw a part of myself there. It almost caused me to lose control.


June 9th, 2011

This story has clearly touched a nerve. What a moving account, Eric, of your past. I had a bad time but nothing like that. I still won’t speak to my father though I did reconcile with my mother. The trouble is, one can’t forget what’s been said. The best we can do is to put it in perspective.

I was really shocked by Reckers’s manner. He’s a very effeminate man and obviously gay. Has he been punishing the rest of us to give himself cover?

Jay Jonson

June 9th, 2011

Jim Burroway, thank you so much for your investigation into this tragedy, a tragedy that unfortunately just keeps on giving. It ruined not only Kirk’s life, but his entire family. And the fraudulent “research” by Green and Rekers has gone on to contribute to the pain and possibly even the suicides of other people.

I have some of the same questions that Theo enunciated above. Is there something that can be done about this fraud? Is there some way to hold Rekers and Green to account?

I know that Rekers is a lost case, a complete fraud who simply made a career out of peddling harmful nonsense. However, Green is a more respectable person. Is it possible to reach him on some plane in which he might at least acknowledge the pain his work at the Gender Identity Clinic caused?

And what is the attitude of people at UCLA who remember and possible worked at the Gender Identity Clinic? Are they speaking out?

Again, I can’t tell you how I appreciate your work. At glbtq.com, they are featuring a link to your article and highlighting the Anderson Cooper series, as well as their encyclopedia entries on “Sissy Boy Syndrome,” Aversion Therapy, and Reparative Therapy.

I noted that in their entry on the “Sissy Boy Syndrome,” they quote the late Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick as deeply critical of Green’s work. The last paragraph of the “Sissy Boy Syndrome” entry, written by Brock Thompson, is worth quoting in full:

“Concerning Green’s research, Sedgwick condemns his practices, which often incorporated lying to both the subjects and the parents, as highly dubious. She argues that his work, as well as that of his fellow psychiatrists, sees the prevention of homosexuality as a useful practice of their skills. In her conclusion, Sedgwick maintains that the modern gay rights movement has been too slow to take up the cause of effeminate boys and masculine girls, that is, possible future gay men and lesbians. This “effeminophobia,” even outside the mental health profession, hinders the theoretical dialogue concerning gay and lesbian development.”


June 9th, 2011

Speaking of things not in the report, I’d really like to know what where the list of 10 “warning” signs Green gave on the TV program Kaytee saw.


June 9th, 2011

Ken — Most likely it’s *anything* not seen as uber-macho: not liking violent toys, wanting to work in something like writing, poetry, music, etc; appreciating art, music, et al; preferring to read instead of playing rough and tumble games… stereotypical macho bleephole crap like that.


June 9th, 2011

the ‘experiment’, and its variants being used today, are based on what is known as ‘behaviour modification’; they mirror the work of Ivan Pavlov when he was actually studying the digestive system and he used dogs; provide a conditioned behaviour and the dog was rewarded with food; incorrect? nothing! in Kirk’s case the ignoring his mother was told to do and the beating his father was instructed when he collected chips.

the specific type of conditioning Rekers & his ilk use is akin to ‘backward conditioning’; it has been in the news a lot for the last 10 years – it’s called ‘torture’.

Kirk’s mother identified it when she talked about the beatings – ‘we now know it as abuse…’

Kate Middleton

July 19th, 2011

Green can be seen defending Professor John Money in a BBC Horizon on David Reimer on utube. Google “David Reimer” to find the film.

Reimer was normal twin boy who Money attempted to turn into a girl with hormones and surgery. This “poster boy” also committed suicide on May 5th 2004.

Money and Green are arrogant frauds who are responsible for many deaths

Kate Middleton

July 19th, 2011

Money continued to claim that the experiment was a success even when he knew it had failed and it was used as a precedent to do the same to many other children.

Money and Green can also be found promoting the sexual abuse of boys by mem on the NAMBLA website.

A Google search for “Richard Green” and “pedophilia” will reveal many of his papers designed to normalise sex abuse.

Kate Middleton

July 20th, 2011

Richard Green is surely the next abuser whose activities must be brought to light.

I have written about his associations with John Money and later activities on my blog. Please comment and above all distribute the info:


Green is equally unpopular with Michael Jackson fans as his friend is Britains most notorious pedophile, Thomas O’Caroll:


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