CNN’s second installment of the Sissy Boy Experiments included what was for me, shocking video of George Rekers apparently learning that his most famous case study, Kirk Murphy (a.k.a. four-year-old “Kraig”) had committed suicide. He expressed surprise over Kirk’s suicide at age 38 and denied that his therapy had anything to do with it. He also told CNN:
Two independent psychologists of me had evaluated him and said he was better adjusted after treatment. So it wasn’t my opinion.
I looked into those so-called “independent psychologists” and found that they weren’t very independent. One of them, Alexander Rosen, was a close colleague of Rekers’s at UCLA. The two of them co-wrote at least fourteen papers together — including three defending the kind of treatment Kirk received at UCLA against mounting criticism. The other, Larry Ferguson, had been an employee of Reker’s at the Logos Research Institute, a conservative think tank that Rekers founded in 1975. Neither psychologist could hardly be considered independent.
Ferguson told CNN that the family was well-adjusted and that he didn’t see any “red flags” with Kirk. Kirk was fifteen when Ferguson and Rosen evaluated him, according to Rekers’s miniscule written description of that evaluation, That’s about when Kirk’s father left and the family was falling apart — hardly the picture of a well-adjusted family. As for their evaluation of Kirk himself, his sister Maris had a ready objection: “He was conditioned to say what he thought they wanted to hear.”
But there was one set of independent evaluations that Rekers never mentions. They took take place when Kirk was seventeen and again at eighteen, when Dr. Richard Green interviewed him for his 1987 book, The Sissy Boy Syndrome. Green’s role in all of this was omitted in CNN’s report, but here is another instance in which his role is critical. Green’s book revealed that Kirk was still attracted to other men, was deeply conflicted over his attractions, had engaged in a sexual encounter with another man at the age of seventeen, and was so ashamed of that encounter that he tried to commit suicide.
Somehow none of that made it into anything Rekers wrote about Kirk after Sissy Boy Syndrome was published.
All of this brings up the issue of professional credibility, and not just Rekers’s. It turns out that getting published in a professional peer-reviewed journal is no guarantee that the work has any validity. Robert Stoller, the founder of UCLA’s Gender Identity Clinic, even warned against publishing material without the direct input of their patients. “Let me underline,” he wrote, “that the editing process that produces anyone’s case presentation is so much the product of the author’s intentions and can be for the reader so invisible a process that we are euphemistic to refer to our written reports as containing ‘data,’ ‘observations,’ ‘facts.’” Reacting the authoritative tone that virtually all the professional literature adopted, Stoller, decried the “innumerable declarative statements that produce a sense of factuality, an ambiance — a rhetoric — in which the author’s position is the fixed point in the universe, serving as baseline truth.”
Stoller may as well have described his own colleagues at UCLA’s Gender Identity Clinic.
For more information about Stoller’s warning, Kirk’s so-called “independent evaluations, and the dangers of accepting published research at face value, please see our epilogue: “The Doctor’s Word,” a brand-new addendum to our special report, “What Are Little Boys Made Of?“