“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.
Kirk Murphy’s Story Honored With NLGJA Award
July 10th, 2012
I was just notified that I have been honored with the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) Award for Excellence in Online Journalism for last summer’s “What Are Little Boys Made Of?” That investigation told the story of four-year-old Kirk Andrew Murphy, who was treated for “pre-homosexuality” at UCLA by George Rekers in 1970. It affected the rest of his life. He committed suicide in 2003.
Anderson Cooper and his team were also honored for “Sissy Boy Experiments,” a three-part series which also covered Kirk’s story. Congrats to the entire CNN team. Sadly, much of the team has been laid off when CNN cut its investigative journalism bureau.
Also congratulations to Chris Geidner (a former Buckeye!) for winning the Sarah Petit LGBT Journalist of the Year Award. No one does legal reporting better. No one even comes close. Also congratulations to Steven Thrasher for winning 2012 NLGJA Journalist of the Year.
Kirk Murphy’s Sister Discusses “Sissy Boy Experiments” On Minneapolis Radio
June 23rd, 2011
Maris Ehlers appeared on Dan Barreiro’s radio program yesterday on KFAN Sports Radio in Minneapolis to talk about the tragic experimentation done on her brother at UCLA under George Rekers. In this interview, she explains in detail the treatment that five-year-old Kirk experienced at UCLA and the impact it had, not just on him but on his entire family. It’s a story I reported on extensively in “What Are Little Boys Made Of?“, but I think it is much more powerful to hear her describe it herself.
I’m glad she did this particular interview for two reasons. First, this is an AM sports radio network, whose audience is generally not likely to be aware of this story. My hat goes off to Dan Barreiro for bringing this story to his audience. And second, Maris has become a powerful advocate for Kirk and her family, explaining how it came to be that her parents got involved with the program. It’s easy to see her parents as villains in this tragedy, but Maris explains how their parents were manipulated into proceeding with the federally-funded experiment. And in the process, she is also emerging as a strong advocate for other families who have been affected by ex-gay therapy.
When advertising her photographic services, Maris uses the tag line, “Everyone has a story. Let me tell yours.” Except now she is telling her own and that of her family.
Nicolosi Responds To Questions About Rekers’s Research
June 16th, 2011
Joseph Nicolosi, co-founder and past president of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), was interviewed by conservative dissident Anglican activist David Virtue. (It’s worth pointing out that Virtue has uncritically championed the discredited research of Nazi-sympathizer Paul Cameron.) This interview came about in response to last week’s revelations here on BTB and on CNN that George Rekers’s most famous case study and success story, a four-year-old boy named “Kraig” (Rekers’s pseudonym for Kirk Murphy) had actually grown up to be a gay man who family and friends say was severely damaged by the treatment. He tried to commit suicide when he was seventeen and finally hanged himself at the age of 38. Nicolosi appeared on the third segment of CNN’s three-part series, in which he hailed Rekers’s “pioneering work in this for many, many years.”
In Nicolosi’s interview with Virtue, he asserted that gays were inherently pathological and incapable of forming legitimate romantic relationships with each other. Nicolosi then went on to stretch that assertion to include non-romantic and non-sexual friendships:
Homosexually oriented men tend to find themselves entwined in excessively close friendships with women-particularly, with narcissistic women who do not understand that men cannot in a healthy way, be their “best friends” – and this reactivates old, negative memories of unhealthy entanglement with their mothers.
But back to the subject of Rekers’s, Nicolosi again brushed off the allegations against Rekers, both in the Kirk Murphy case as well as last year’s scandal in which it was learned that Rekers had returned from a European vacation in the company of a male escort.
VIRTUEONLINE: Turning to the AC360 TV series, was the “Sissy Boy” experiment aimed at changing him? That is making feminine boys more masculine? It seems he was deeply damaged all his life and much later committed suicide. Was this a result of therapy gone wrong?
NICOLOSI: Who can know what happened in his case? But to put it in context, homosexually oriented people have a much higher rate of psychological problems, substance abuse, disordered family backgrounds, and suicide attempts. This is a known fact. Why did the show not reveal this fact?
VIRTUEONLINE: George Rekers who worked for NARTH as a therapist was cited in a lot of your research as “gays who can overcome their same-sex attractions” yet in the end he was seen taking a young man with him on a trip to Europe who later said he had “massage sex” with Rekers. Does that invalidate all his research?
NICOLOSI: If it happened, it was a grave indiscretion, but I will stay out of that controversy. The real issue is, does Dr. Rekers’ research stand up? Do his theories make sense?
Of course, if we threw out the work of every gay-activist researcher accused of being involved in a personal scandal, there would be no literature on their side of the issue, would there?
Dr. Rekers dedicated 30 years of his life to very important work which has become a well-respected part of the scientific literature.
June 10th, 2011
This is our central site for our seven part investigation, touching eulogies from Kirk’s friends and family, documentation on the “Kraig” case study, statements from professional organizations, a epilogues.
Additional related articles can be found through the following links:
BTB Original Investigation: The True Story of George Rekers And “Kraig” – June 7, 2011 synopsis
CNN’s “Sissy Boy Experiment” – June 7, 2011
Rekers Responds In CNN’s “Sissy Boy Experiments” Tonight – June 7, 2011
The other option – June 7, 2011
What You Didn’t See On CNN’s “The Sissy Boy Experiment” – June 8, 2011
No that is NOT Kirk in a dress – June 8, 2011
The Truth Behind George Rekers’s “Independent Evaluations” – June 9, 2011
NARTH’s Joseph Nicolosi on Rekers’s “Pioneering Research” – June 10, 2011
Chuck Colson v. Warren Throckmorton on preventing homosexuality – June 10, 2011
We are honored to have been entrusted with Kirk’s story and hope that it informs and inspires you. We also invite you to stay and join the BTB community.
Chuck Colson v. Warren Throckmorton on preventing homosexuality
June 10th, 2011
In an ironic bit of timing, Watergate felon turned conservative Christian commentator Chuck Colson has recently been informing the readers of Crosswalk, a webzine for evangelical Christians, about how fathers cause their sons to be gay and what can be done to prevent it. He began his series with a now-familiar scenario:
A little boy I’ll call “Stevie” was a beautiful, healthy child. But by age five, his parents suspected something was wrong. Stevie loved Barbie dolls, the color pink, and dancing around like a ballerina.
His parents took Stevie to see Dr. Joseph Nicolosi, a psychologist who specializes in gender disorders. Nicolosi listened as they described their son’s fascination with feminine activities, which had begun when he was three. Nicolosi confirmed that Stevie was a “prehomosexual male.” Without intervention, Nicolosi said, Stevie had a 75-percent chance of growing up homosexual, bisexual, or transgender.
Colson’s articles provide a rather simple narrative about homosexuality. “Stevie” failed to adequately link with his father. Jessica had been molested by an uncle and “viewed her mother as weak.” Colson even assures us that liberals don’t really believe what they say “because deep down, most people recognize there is a moral order to the universe.”
And he knows all of this because Chuck Colson has read Dr. Joseph Nicolosi’s book, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.
And, yes, that would be the same Dr. Joseph Nicolosi who was on AC360 last night claiming he had no recollection whatsoever of former patient Ryan Kendall (a rather fascinating claim considering that Kendall testified in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial). And, yes, that would be the same A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality that refers to George Rekers over 20 times, and gives special emphasis to the “Kraig” case study.
Dr. Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor at Grove City College, an evangelical Christian university, has to a large extent assumed the burden of correcting much of the inaccurate information about homosexuality that is promoted within the Christian community. Although a defender of the conservative sexual ethic, Throckmorton does not believe that the debate is enhanced by foolishness, deceit, or baseless assertions.
On June 2, several days before we broke the truth behind George Rekers’ famous “Kraig” study, Throckmorton reminded the Crosswalk readers,
Fighting a political agenda is not a good reason to promote questionable theories. There is currently no scientific consensus about why sexual orientation takes the direction it does. Homosexuality is not strongly related to genetics but that does not mean that parenting is the only alternative non-genetic factor. Other prenatal factors, such hormonal variations during prenatal development, are being investigated and might be a part of the picture. The jury is out with much more research to be done, but what has been done on parenting does not inspire confidence in the claim that distant fathers and smothering mothers create gay men.
After the research by Box Turtle Bulletin and CNN was revealed, Dr. Throckmorton returned to Crosswalk to warn evangelical Christians that theories on preventing homosexuality are not strongly based and may even harm their children.
In their book, A Parent’s Guide, the Nicolosis refer to Kirk as an illustration of Rekers success story. The following description is from Rekers 1974 paper on Kirk’s treatment:
When we first saw him, the extent of his feminine identification was so profound (his mannerisms, gestures, fantasies, flirtations, etc., as shown in his “swishing” around the home and clinic, fully dressed as a woman with long dress, wig, nail polish, high screechy voice, slovenly seductive eyes) that it suggested irreversible neurological and biochemical determinants. At the 26-month follow-up he looked and acted like any other boy. People who view the videotaped recordings of him before and after treatment talk of him as “two different boys”. (p. 38)
Rekers built his career on cases like Kirk’s and others like Nicolosi have used these studies as evidence for the efficacy of their recommendations to parents. As the reports point out, what the doctors reported was at odds with what the family recalls, and may, in some cases, have adverse effects. At the least, parents should exercise caution and ask for additional evidence and get other opinions when considering how to respond to children who display gender non-conforming actions and preferences.
I think it might be fair to say that Colson may regret the timing of his series. And those readers here with a faith background could hardly be faulted for humming the 1771 hymn by William Cowper, “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.”
Kathleen Gilbert, writer for anti-gay Catholic LifeSite, twists Kirk Murphy story
June 9th, 2011
Kathleen Gilbert, writing for LifeSite, an anti-gay advocacy “news” site, has her own spin on the life of Kirk Murphy. Gilbert, already a Certified Cameronite for her distortion and dishonesty, borrows freely from Box Turtle Bulletin to reassemble various snippets into a tale that would not be recognized by anyone in the Murphy family, or anyone who is familiar with what happened at UCLA in 1970.
Relatives say the family was partially prompted to pursue therapy out of concern for how Kirk’s father, Rod, acted colder towards his younger son than to Mark, the elder brother.
“They said he had to go to UCLA because of his relationship with his dad,” said Kirk’s cousin Donna, according to Burroway. “They said it was Rod’s fault because he didn’t love Kirk enough.”
Gender identity therapists have recognized a lack of affection from one’s father as a risk factor for males developing gender identity disorders.
That, of course, is not at all why Kaytee took Kirk to UCLA. It was, rather, an explanation given to a child as recalled from Donna’s childhood. Here is the actual context from which Gilbert ripped her fanciful tale:
Mark clearly remembers a “before” and “after” with Kirk’s treatment. His memory is helped by the fact that they moved to a new house in 1969, just before Kirk entered treatment. And so he recalls with confidence that the family deteriorated noticeably during and following Kirk’s therapy. “I can remember a clear difference with our parents in our first house,” he said. “There was none of the ranting and raving, the fighting and drinking. Boy, that sure came after that.” Rod always drank some — “Those Irish Murphys you know,” Kaytee said, “they liked their beers!” — and so she doesn’t attribute Rod’s worsening drinking to the stresses surrounding Kirk’s therapy. But worsen it did, and that added more friction in the family.
Rod was clearly under a lot of pressure. While psychologists had placed a great deal of emphasis on the mother’s role in their children’s development, researchers at UCLA (Rekers included) were turning their attention more directly toward fathers in deciding which parent was more at fault in making a child “prehomosexual.” Donna remembered overhearing the adults in the family blaming Rod for Kirk’s “problem.”
“They said he had to go to UCLA because of his relationship with his dad,” she said. “They said it was Rod’s fault because he didn’t love Kirk enough. Kirk wasn’t interested in sports the way Mark was, and he would play sports more with Mark. Kirk was quieter and more interested in music. And I know it was discussed that he didn’t love his son enough. I don’t believe that was true, but there was a discussion that I remember.” Rod remained resistant to taking Kirk to UCLA. “I don’t think he bought into the whole thing,” she said.
But Gilbert selects this recollection to present as support for her fanciful fiction.
After the sessions finished, the Murphys were instructed to continue encouraging normative behavior on a token reinforcement system, using red and blue poker chips to reinforce both gender-related and other habits. Rekers concluded at a three-year follow-up session that the child’s more masculine habits “have become normalized,” and the therapy was deemed a success.
However, according to the family’s recollections, the reinforcement regimen took an ugly turn when brought back home: instead of the “spanking” advised for Kirk’s misbehavior, according to his children and wife Rod Murphy physically abused his son so violently that Kirk’s sister Maris recalls hiding in her room under pillows to avoid hearing Kirk’s screams. Mark Murphy broke down in tears as he recalled how he would try to save his younger brother from his father’s beatings.
Again, Gilbert’s tale has as little to do with Kirk’s life as does Rekers’ fictitious “Kraig” reports. And the motivation is the same.
Like George Rekers, Kathleen Gilbert isn’t interested in the truth. She despises the truth, prefering lies that advance her church’s doctrine, especially that which demeans gay people and enforces civil inequalities. And, sadly, she is more than willing to abuse a family already the victim of those who share her view of the world.
It’s hard to understand just what compels someone like Gilbert to cause needless pain to the Murphy family. How can she hurt others just to advance a political doctrine, and yet consider herself to be an advocate for God? What kind of person would willfully disregard the truth in a quest for heterosexual supremacy and Catholic privilege?
Those who read here will know that there are a few words we use very sparingly. But it is hard for me to think of Kathleen Gilbert and her deliberate abuse of this story in terms other than “evil”.
The Truth Behind George Rekers’s “Independent Evaluations”
June 9th, 2011
In this episode, CNN tracks down George Rekers, the therapist who treated four-year-old Kirk Murphy and turned him into Rekers’s poster boy for ex-gay therapy. Here we see Rekers learning about Kirk’s suicide at the age of 38. He responds by saying that there is no evidence that Kirk’s suicide was the result of Kirk’s treatment. He also tries to exonerate himself by saying:
Two independent psychologists of me had evaluated him and said he was better adjusted after treatment. So it wasn’t my opinion.
According to Rekers’s writings, two psychologists followed up with Kirk when Kirk was fifteen. As I wrote in our newest epilogue, The Doctor’s Word:
Buried in a footnote, Rekers wrote, “I express my appreciation to Drs. Larry N. Ferguson and Alexander C. Rosen for their independent evaluations.” By 1979, Ferguson was working as a research psychologist at Logos Research Institute, a conservative religious-based think tank that Rekers had founded in 1975. With Rekers as his employer, Ferguson’s participation in such an evaluation could not be seen as independent. As for Rosen, he had been Rekers’s longstanding colleague at UCLA: the two of them co-wrote at least fourteen papers — including three defending the kind of treatment Kirk received at UCLA against growing criticism. Rosen may not have been as personally invested in Kirk’s reported outcome as Rekers, but he was certainly invested in UCLA’s reputation.
Rosen has since passed away. Ferguson told CNN that the family was well-adjusted and he didn’t see any “red flags” with Kirk. But when Kirk was fifteen, the family was falling apart, with Kirk’s father was drinking heavily and leaving the family — hardly the picture of a well-adjusted family. As for not seeing any red flags with Kirk, his sister Maris had a ready answer: “He was conditioned to say what he thought they wanted to hear.”
But there was one set of independent evaluations that Rekers wasn’t a part of. Those occurred when Dr. Richard Green interviewed Kirk at the age of seventeen and eighteen for his 1987 book, The Sissy Boy Syndrome. That’s where we learn that at Kirk was still attracted to men, was deeply conflicted over those attractions, had engaged in an anonymous sexual encounter with a man, and tried to commit suicide because of it. For the remainder of Rekers’s career, he would never acknowledge what was uncovered in the The Sissy Boy Syndrome interviews. As far as Rekers was concerned, those interviews never happened and “Kraig”, his pseudonym for Kirk, remained a success story.
You can learn more about those so-called independent reviews and the perils of accepting a researcher’s writings at face value in our newest epilogue, The Doctor’s Word, the latest addition to our investigative report, “What Are Little Boys Made Of?”
George Rekers And His “Independent Evaluations”
June 9th, 2011
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?“
What You Didn’t See On CNN’s “The Sissy Boy Experiment”
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.
No that is NOT Kirk in a dress
June 8th, 2011
In CNN’s teaser and on the live broadcast last night, when discussing Kirk’s effeminacy, a picture of a child in a frilly dress floated by. London’s Daily Mail presented the picture with the descriptive footer: “His mother says she was concerned about his effeminate behaviour, which included liking girls’ clothes.”
This gave the distinct but false impression that Kirk was the child in the dress. But the picture is not of Kirk; it is of his sister Maris. However this picture is valuable to the family as it illustrates Kirk’s character and selflessness. See the importance of this dress at Maris’ Eulogy
CNN’s Sissy Boy Experiment – Day One
June 8th, 2011
Here is the CNN coverage of Kirk Murphy’s story
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Follow-up On Rekers’s Rentboy Scandal and UCLA Therapy Program
June 8th, 2011
Penn Bullock and Brandon K. Thorp, the two Miami New Times reporters who first broke George Rekers’s rent-boy scandal have posted an update on CNN.com, where they are working as freelance reporters on the Kirk Murphy story. I may have missed it, but among the new tidbits that I hadn’t seen before is the contract that Rekers’s allegedly signed with his male escort outlining his duties during that famous European vacation. The first delineated task in the contract does indeed cal on the escort the carry “the suitcases of George Rekers and any other objects when George Rekers request such assistance.” But the fourth item requires the escort tp “provide George Rekers a massage for at least one hour each day of the trip in their shared room, using the same procedures that [redacted] provides to George Rekers in Florida.”
Bullock and Thorp go on to describe how they came to find out about the Murphy family, an account which is very similar to how I found out about them. For my part, it all started with this comment Maris left on BTB right after she found out that Kirk had been the subject of Richard Green’s book and George Rekers’s papers. Bullock and Thorp also want to hear from anyone else who underwent treatment at UCLA or elsewhere:
We now know the fate of Kraig. But what became of the dozens of other children upon whom Rekers conducted his experimental therapy?
What became of “Becky,” a 7-year-old girl with purported tomboy tendencies, who underwent 102 “monitoring” sessions in a lab and a further 96 in her bedroom?
Rekers deemed Becky cured when she became “enamored with the (adult) male examiner and wanted to give him her phone number so that he could call her ‘every night and every day.’ ”
And what of “Carl,” an 8-year-old treated at UCLA for 15 months, whose “sex-role development” was thought to have been “normalized” when he declared that he “used to be a queer, but not any more.”
Rekers Responds In CNN’s “Sissy Boy Experiments” Tonight
June 7th, 2011
CNN has just posted their online report at CNN.com about
“Kraig, I think, certainly was Rekers’ poster boy for what Rekers was espousing for young children,” said Jim Burroway, a writer and researcher who has studied Rekers’ work.
“We have been wondering where is Kraig? A lot of us have talked about it. Where is he today? Is he married or is he gay? Or specifically does he even know that Rekers has been writing about him?” said Burroway. “I found 17 different articles, books, chapters, that he has written in which he talked about Kraig.”
Rekers’ work with Kirk Murphy helped him build a three-decade career as a leading national expert in trying to prevent children from becoming gay, a career as an anti-gay champion that would later be tainted by his involvement in an embarrassing scandal.
As part of my investigation, I had wanted to speak to George Rekers. But after the rent-boy scandal, he had all but disappeared, and I was unable to find any working contact information from him. CNN was able to track him down:
“Well, I think, scientifically that would be inaccurate to assume that it was the therapy, but I do grieve for the parents now that you’ve told me that news. I think that’s very sad,” he said.
Rekers pointed out that the therapy had been decades earlier.
“That’s a long time ago, and to hypothesize, you have a hypothesis that positive treatment back in the 1970s has something to do with something happening decades later. That would, that hypothesis would need a lot of scientific investigation to see if it’s valid. Two independent psychologists with me had evaluated him and said he was better adjusted after treatment, so it wasn’t my opinion.” he said.
Those independent evaluations are an important part of the story. I will have more about that tomorrow. But I think it’s important to note what Maris, Kirk’s sister, told CNN:
But Maris Murphy says Kirk lied to those examining him. “He was conditioned to say what they wanted to hear,” she said.
CNN’s “Sissy Boy Experiment”
June 7th, 2011
While I was interviewing the Murphy family and putting together our investigative report, “What Are Little Boys Made Of?”, the Kirk’s family were also speaking with CNN about the crude therapeutic attempts to make four-year-old Kirk straight. This video provides a small hint of what you will see tonight on the first installment of CNN’s three part series, “The Sissy Boy Experiment,” Anderson Cooper 360, beginning at 10:00 p.m. EDT.
BTB Original Investigation: The True Story of George Rekers And “Kraig”
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.