“Kirk’s Life Has Now Been Used For Good, to Help Save Lives of Kids ‘Just Like Him’”
October 1st, 2012
In 1970, the mother of four-year-old Kirk Murphy took her son to UCLA’s Gender Identity Clinic after seeing the clinic’s Dr. Richard Green on local television, advertising their services to “correct” effeminate little boys and prevent them from growing up to be homosexual. Kirk was treated by George Rekers, then a young grad student studying for his Ph.D. Kirk’s case, along with a few others, not only became a basis for Rekers’s dissertation, but also became the subject of some twenty papers, books and articles that Rekers wrote to claim that he had the secret to curing “pre-homosexuality” in young boys. But while Rekers was building his career on Kirk’s being not-gay, Kirk remained gay, and along with it, depressed, shamed, and broken, according to his family and friends. He killed himself in 2003 at the age of 38.
Rekers, who meanwhile went on to become a prominent figure in anti-gay politics and the ex-gay movement, was caught in 2010 returning from a European vacation in the company of a male escort.
But until last year, the only thing we knew about “Kraig,” Rekers’s pseudonym for Kirk, was what Rekers wrote. That changed when Kirk’s family shared their tragic story with me, and their revelations became the basis of our award-winning report, “What Are Little Boys Made Of?” Maris Ehlers, Kirk’s younger sister, described the process as “wrenching, life-changing and terrifying to feel so vulnerable and exposed, and to put ourselves and those we love out in public to be judged.” But today, she says that today is a day “sparkl(ing) with light ” because California Gov. Jerry Brown has just signed into law a bill which would prohibit any future four-year-old Kirk Murphys from suffering what Kirk went through:
So today, the sun is shining a bit brighter, the day is remarkable, and the light of hope and progress is there. I can see it!
I’m sure so many of you have wondered why we would have come forward and share such a painful story about our family in such a public way. It wasn’t fun, it wasn’t pleasant and it wasn’t easy. It was gut wrenching, life-changing and terrifying to feel so vulnerable and exposed, and to put ourselves and those we love out in public to be judged. However, once we knew what had actually happened to our brother in those therapy rooms so long ago at UCLA, what had actually been done to the core of his soul, it was worse than when we actually lost him to suicide in 2003. It was far worse, because once we knew, we realized why, and that was almost more than we could bear. We knew his story had to be told, even at the expense of our own “comfortable” lives, in the hopes that people would wake up and realize that the soul crushing things that had been done to him are still being done to children today, and he deserved to have us acknowledge what he endured, what was done, and how it affected his entire life.
Our dream was that reparative therapy would be banned, but it seemed impossible. Today, however, that dream became a reality, even if only in California, and it means that youth that identify as #LGBT have a layer of protection, in a world where they often have very little. Our goal must be that this law spread to every state in the union and beyond.
Thank you to governor Jerry Brown, for signing the law and making it official. Thank you to Senator Ted Lieu for authoring the bill, and for telling Kirk’s story to the California senate…
Today is truly a day in which I feel that Kirk’s life not only lives on, but that his life has now been used for good, to help save the lives of kids “just like him”, instead of being used to torture, hurt and harm kids “just like him”.
Kirk’s story also became the subject of a four-part series by Anderson Cooper, which you can see here, here, here, and here. Maris also appeared on a Minneapolis radio station to talk about her brother, and you can hear that here. And of course, you can read our in-depth report on the story here.