Maris’s Statement

Jim Burroway

June 7th, 2011

Last October, Maris learned that her late brother Kirk had been a well-known case study for UCLA’s behavioral modification program for suspected “prehomosexual” children. Kirk’s case had been hailed as a huge success, but his family today is still searching for meaning. This is Maris’s statement.

As a parent, I agree with my mother that it would be wonderful if children came with manuals. Every day parents question whether they are doing the right thing by their children, so I don’t fault her for trying to do what she thought was right at the time. She was supposedly taking him to the best of the best. I can’t criticize her for that. I understand the context of the time, and that to most people, having a homosexual child was a very traumatic thing. Back then, most parents probably would have tried to prevent it if they could.

Having said that, their science experiment was on my brother, a small child, and many other boys like him.

Worse, it was simply bad science, if you can even call it that, done at one of the most prestigious schools in the nation — with the support of the National Institute of Mental Health, no less! This was a horrendous experiment with ulterior motives conducted on a small child. What I don’t understand is how anyone allowed this to happen. I cannot reconcile that even half way through the process someone didn’t say “stop.”

They used fear to motivate parents to enroll their children. They painted an extremely grim picture by telling the parents that if left untreated, their son would likely become a social deviant, a potential pedophile, an outcast, likely to harm himself and others. They distorted what they saw and what the parents said the issues really were to be able so that they could do the things that they did, and to me that is inexcusable. They lumped homosexuality and gender identity into the same bucket and destroyed a little boy all because as a toddler he liked his mother’s jewelry. There was absolutely NO consideration for the heart and mind of this child, what this “therapy” would do to him and to his entire family. None whatsoever. They showed no caution, and worse yet, no remorse when Kirk admitted to Dr. Green the trauma of the realization of who he was and the fact that he would rather die than be gay because of what he had been taught.

In today’s world, role playing is an accepted part of child development, and we recognize it for what it is; part of learning about the world and those around you. The fact that they took innocent behavior by a very intelligent and unsure child and twisted it into some horrible thing absolutely breaks my heart.

Perhaps they had no idea that their “therapy” would permeate his very being and break him, but it did. What makes me truly angry is that none of these adults, these caregivers, or even my parents, ever told him he was perfect and lovable the way he was, or showed him unconditional love. Imagine how that could have changed the outcome.

Kirk’s life was really taken away at the age of four when they walked through the doors of that clinic for the first time. I used to wonder why he decided to take his own life at the age of 38. Now I wonder how he made it that long.


June 7th, 2011

Thank You, Maris – for being such an amazing Sister. You’ve shown so much bravery in all of this, and sharing what you remember to tell your brother’s story is invaluable. Much about Kirk’s childhood resonates with me; even though the details are very different, we share similar struggles. Your perspectives hint at things I’ve needed to answer within my own family, and I can’t thank you enough for bringing things I hadn’t considered to light. I know without a doubt that Kirk loved you so very much, and would be very proud of the Mom you’ve become.


December 2nd, 2016

To see that photo is heartbreaking, Maris. It is so obvious what a lovely person your brother Kirk was. As a proud gay man, let me say that many of us will never forget Kirk, especially in the hideous dark days to come after the catastrophe which occurred on November 8.
Keith Olbermann: “The terrorists have won, but we shall NEVER SURRENDER.”

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