BTB, CNN Reveal Story behind George Rekers ‘Sissy Boy’ Experiment
In 1970, a five-year-old boy named Kirk Murphy was subjected to an ex-gay experiment. Under the care of Dr Ivor Lovaas and George Rekers, then a doctoral student, of UCLA, he underwent therapy to eliminate supposed effeminate behaviors.
In 1974, Lovaas and Rekers jointly published a paper about the boy they renamed “Kraig,” heralding his treatment for “childhood cross-gender problems” a success and claiming he had been transformed from a gender-confused homosexual-in-waiting to a healthy, heterosexual young man.
On the back of this study, Rekers built a career as an anti-gay activist and a supposed expert in childhood sexual development. He co-founded the Family Research Council and championed reparative therapy to turn gay men straight.
In 2003, Kirk, aged 38 years old and gay, committed suicide.
In 2010, George Rekers was photographed with a male escort who had accompanied him on a trip overseas. His reputation was already ruined by the time rent-boy Jo-Vanni Roman, aka “Lucien,” outed Rekers as a homosexual and revealed the allegedly erotic details of their relationship.
Now Kirk’s story is in the media spotlight. Last night, Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin revealed the results of an investigation into the Rekers experiment and the real story behind “Kraig.” What Are Little Boys Made Of? contains extensive interviews with family members, and several supporting documents giving insight into Rekers, the study and its tragic outcome.
CNN has carried out a parallel investigation, the results of which will be aired in three installments of “The Sissy Boy Experiment: Uncovering the Truth,” beginning tonight (Tuesday, June 7) at 10pm ET on Anderson Cooper 360. George Rekers will appear.
It breaks my heart and saddens me greatly to read of this experiment and the resultant suicide of Kirk.
I don’t suppose this series will air in the UK anytime soon?
This “experiment” was conducted around the same time that Marlo Thomas made her “Free To Be You and Me” record, children’s book and TV special. It included a song based on “William’s Doll”, a 1972 children’s picture book by Charlotte Zolotow about a boy who wants a doll even though dolls typically are considered a toy only for girls. “Free To Be You and Me” also included Rosey Grier, a member of pro football’s famous “Fearsome Foursome,” who sang the song “It’s All Right to Cry.” (Grier was later the bodyguard who subdued Bobby Kennedy’s assassin, Sirhan Sirhan.)
What is the difference between the way Rekers “treated” this boy, and other forms of child-abuse? Five-year-old children are clearly not ready to understand sex or sexuality. They might be ready to understand gender-normative roles, but even that seems a stretch.
Steve, there is no difference what-so-ever. It is child abuse in every way, but it also a hate crime since it is targeted towards a child who allegedly had “gay tendencies.”
It is unlikely that the reparative therapy made any positive contribution to the adjustment of the deceased individual. But this cannot be examined due to the lack of systematic evidence.
Rekers seemed genuinely upset when learning about the suicide. From his distorted perspective, we need to appreciate that he believes that he is doing good. He doesn’t wake up in the morning with a desire to make gays miserable. Yes, his entire life work probably reflects his self-loathing for his latent gay sensibilities. But he has nevertheless employed robust psychological principles in his behavioural therapy.
To suggest that the “reparative” therapy had a CAUSAL effect on the suicide of the individual – and this IS the underlying implication in the report – is quite unfounded, and to be honest, borderline libellous.
The guy committed suicide while living in Delhi. What about factors such as social isolation, cultural conflict, lack of support network, breakdown of family relationships, etc? If I were his parent/sibling, I would certainly want to absolve myself of any guilt by completely directing blame at a so-called charlatan.
As a piece of journalism, it is disappointing that the report wasn’t more balanced. But given the TV anchor involved, perhaps this was inevitable.