"Ex-Gays" | Anderson Cooper | George Alan Rekers | News

Watch: How 'Anti-Sissy' Therapy Destroyed a Man and His Family


Here's the first part of AC360's look into the damaging "anti-sissy" treatment pushed by "ex-gay" proponent Dr. George Alan Rekers that I previewed yesterday:

"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."

Watch the heartbreaking and infuriating report, AFTER THE JUMP...

As you may recall, the State of Florida spent hundreds of thousands of dollars hiring Dr. George Rekers as its star witness in the case against adoption by gays in Florida.

Florida's hiring of Rekers by Attorney General Bill McCollum made headlines after Rekers, who built his career out of this damaging "ex-gay" therapy, was discovered returning from vacation in Florida with a rent boy he had brought with him.

Anti-Gay Leader George Rekers Caught Returning Home from Vacation with 'Rent Boy' [tr]
Photo: 'Ex-Gay' Activist George Reker's Rent Boy 'Lucien' [tr]
Florida AG Bill McCollum Paid George 'Rentboy' Rekers $87,000 to Be Star Witness for State's Gay Adoption Ban [tr]

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  1. Woke up to this incredibly horrendous story this morning. I guess the part that is under my skin is that Reker STILL won't denounce his experiment, that he basically bullied a kid to his eventual suicide because he was different, and that the two-faced, hypocritical bastard gets his jollies with paid rent boys. His "experiments" and writings are on par with "professional" torture: give us what we want and we'll stop.

    I, too, was one of those semi-effeminate young boys. I eventually made my way in the world, and if Mr. Rekers would like to take a trip over here to Texas, I would gladly open a can of whoop-ass on him - with or without a friggin poker chip.

    Posted by: Mark | Jun 8, 2011 7:00:15 AM

  2. The hate that fill my heart for Reker . . . for the mother who would allow her husband to beat her son so mercilessly. I can understand that in the beginning she thought she was doing what was right, but that she did not have the sense when the ritual beatings took place.

    I know I should not hate, but hate totally fills my heart for what was done to Kirk. Seriously . . . I can't think or say anything intelligent or objective. I am literally quivering with anger and sadness.

    When I hear stories like these, I get indignant all over when people suggest that God's best for children is to be raised by one mother and one father. Sometimes I think the only thing one man and one woman are good for is making babies . . . after that it would probably be in the child's best interest to be turned over to gay couples to teach them how to be REAL men and REAL women.

    I know I sound stupid. I know I sound hateful. God help me . . . if there is a God. Rest in peace, Kirk.

    Posted by: Ricco | Jun 8, 2011 7:18:47 AM

  3. No words.

    Of course the mother will become a saint because 8 years later she wishes to gain forgiveness for being such a selfish and despicable human being to her child.

    He is in a better place then with that family.

    Posted by: Rowan | Jun 8, 2011 7:51:31 AM

  4. This really touched me. Thanks for posting it.

    Posted by: Jeff | Jun 8, 2011 7:58:05 AM

  5. From the time I learned of this early “work” by Rekers, I have been waiting for the real story. My hat is off to Anderson Cooper for doing the job.

    The “junk science” of George Rekers, et al, isn’t just dust bin material. The practice and application of these so-called reparative therapies is a devastating “mindfuck” with tragic consequences for the victims.

    I am still waiting for the academic and psychiatric communities to repudiate this work. Any board that would certify George Rekers to practice in this field should have its authority discredited!

    Posted by: Bad Humor Boy | Jun 8, 2011 8:31:52 AM

  6. How incredibly sad. Humans have the highest capacity for cruelty.

    Posted by: Bastian | Jun 8, 2011 8:40:32 AM

  7. When the mother says she wanted her son to have a 'normal' life what she actually means is that she wanted him to be 'normal' to her.

    She wanted the son she expected, not the one she had.

    The fact that she can't understand this, even now, is why she and her husband completely failed as parents.

    This story utterly enrages me. The two parents and the 'psychologists' involved ought to face criminal charges.

    Posted by: yonkersconquers | Jun 8, 2011 8:44:08 AM

  8. This makes me SO ANGRY. I am a "former" sissy boy who had to turn inward and change my behavior just to survive (strong family and societal pressure). My heart is with Kirk. Thank you Anderson for the story and investigation. Thank you.

    Posted by: David | Jun 8, 2011 8:47:39 AM

  9. This story reminded me so much of the John Money "Being Brenda" gender assignment experiment. So I went a researched it a bit to find that the subject(s) in that experiment also committed suicide- one at the age of 38.

    I too was that "sissy boy". I can imagine my mom agreeing to this type of treatment (back in the day), primarily because it was a time when "Doctor knows best". I'm just thankful I grew up on the East Coast, far from LA and George Rekers.

    I'm also thankful that the world spins forward...

    Posted by: Don P. | Jun 8, 2011 9:00:27 AM

  10. Another gentle soul beaten into oblivion for being different. Could have been me. Could have been many of us.

    I agree with YONKERSCONQUERS, especially about criminal charges being brought.

    Posted by: Grant | Jun 8, 2011 9:50:48 AM

  11. Such a tragic story. It brought me to tears.
    George Rekers should be charged with cruelty and reckless endangerment.

    Posted by: John Freeman | Jun 8, 2011 9:55:31 AM

  12. On the one hand, I can say from personal experience that gays and lesbians are just as capable of parental cruelty and manipulative selfishness as straight people. So let's not paint straight people with a broad brush on this one.

    That said, this is a horrifying example of how hard it is to be a person with different gender expression in our society. Never underestimate the strength of the sissy. Anyone who can make it through the crucible of growing up as obviously effeminate deserves respect in my book.

    Posted by: The Milkman | Jun 8, 2011 9:56:36 AM

  13. I have no words for this, just tears.

    Posted by: jay_max | Jun 8, 2011 10:34:10 AM

  14. "So let's not paint straight people with a broad brush on this one."

    Good thing not a single commenter has done this then, I guess. But thanks for bashing gay parents. I, too, hate it when gay parents enroll their effeminate sons in psychological torture experiments meant to destroy who they are and then voluntarily include extreme physical abuse just to make sure it sticks. Gay parents are definitely every bit as bad as straight ones.


    Anderson is doing a great thing by exposing this. That they actually track down and force Rekers to appear on camera is amazing. Kirk's family is beyond brave for fighting back once they learned his tragedy was being spun into lies and exploited to promote hate.

    Posted by: ohplease | Jun 8, 2011 11:12:19 AM

  15. It is time, that poeple like Rekers be convicted of a crime and child abuse. I also blame the parents for putting their own son through this torture!

    Posted by: JC | Jun 8, 2011 11:31:41 AM

  16. I'm 52. I'm gay. My husband and I have been together, exclusively, for 16 years (on June 25th), and have been married since November 2, 2010.

    At the age of 11, I made it possible for my father to discover I had been being molested by a neighborhood man since I had been 8. My father became enraged; I became his personal punching bag and whipping boy. My father, apparently, believed this man when the man said what all child molesters say, when confronted: "He seduced me!" My father believed it so much that on the Monday after that weekend, my father took me to school. I sat in the principal's office, covered in bruises, while my father and a horrified principal pulled me out of gym class, because of "what (I) might do to the other boys."

    Within months, our home (in a suburban sub-development) was up for sale. My parents found a small farm in the middle of nowhere, moved us there, and when my sisters would ask them why we moved, my parents - instead of saying they had wanted to own some land and farm most of their lives - would say: "Go ask your brother. He embarrassed us so much we had to move." Somewhere during this time, I had begun drinking - helping myself to the contents of my father's extensive "Jim Beam" decanter collection.

    At our new home, in Lebanon County, PA, my parents enrolled me in a program similar to the one at UCLA, but it was held at Philhaven Mental Hospital in Lebanon, PA. M experience didn't last long; my mother refused to allow them to attach electrodes to my testicles after the first couple of rounds actually left permanent burn scars on the skin of my testicles.

    My parents' motto: Do anything you want, just don't leave a mark.

    About 4 weeks prior to my 18th birthday, I was out of their house, off to college on the other side of the country. After my first year of college, they cut me off. Over the next 6 years, I would work a year, go to college a year, etc... during one of those years of college, finances became tough, and I had to move back in with them. Finally, after years of a mutual love/hate relationship between me and my entire family, we'd all had enough. One Saturday morning, ironically, in another October, I walked out the door of their house in Ohio, flew back to California, and that was it.

    For 25 years, there was absolutely no contact between myself and any member of my family. No holiday or birthday cards or telephone calls. No internet chats. Absolutely nothing. In that 25 years, I learned there was nothing wrong with being gay, had a couple/three lovers, managed to luck out and be HIV-negative (living in NY, 1984-1986; LA, 1986 - 1989; and SF 1989 - 2002, at my first HIV test in 1991, I was absolutely certain I was going to be told I was positive). Met the man I would marry - and knew that the moment we met.

    And managed to make peace with my family. Both my parents are gone now, having died in the last 3 years. At the very end, with both of them, I was able to, at least, talk with them (with my father, we actually visited each other, on "neutral ground"), apologize for anything I'd done to hurt them, outside of my control. They managed to apologize to me, as well; my father even met - and liked - my husband.

    I watched this, and felt such a kinship with Kirk. I can't count the number of times I couldn't get my mind out of suicidal thoughts, and the time I climbed into our hayloft with my 30.06, absolutely certain I would not be climbing back down to the floor of the barn... but not having the guts, ultimately, to blow my brains out.

    I hear Kirk's mother so calmly recite the physical beatings her husband inflicted on her own child, her calm statement: "Today, it would be considered abuse," and see the look on her face, and am absolutely stricken with the thought: She thinks they did absolutely nothing wrong, and would think nothing of doing it again, as long as the "sissy" stops.

    And I see Reiker, that self-loathing fag, attempting to dodge any responsibility the way he dodges the press. If there's any fag who should seriously contemplate suicide simply for being gay, it's Reiker.

    And then, I think about the third gay man in this news piece: Cooper himself. Doesn't he realize his actions, in remaining closeted, can be causing as much harm to gay kids today as Reiker did thirty years ago?

    Posted by: Eric Payne | Jun 8, 2011 11:46:50 AM

  17. Wow Eric, what an amazing story. To have survived so much abuse, and even to have been able to reach peace with your family.

    You have a deep strength, and deserve to have only joy and happiness yourself from now on to make up for those past decades of cruelty.

    Your story, and that of others like you, should be part of this conversation also.

    Posted by: Patrick M | Jun 8, 2011 11:59:23 AM

  18. I don't know whether to be more sad or angry about this whole despicable mess. On the CNN website they're asking for more people who've gone through this sort of "therapy" to contact them, so maybe that will lead to more exposure for this sorts of BS. If "sunlight is the best disinfectant," the more we know about it the better, despite how painful it is.

    One thing no one has really commented on was that this was a GOVERNMENT funded study! Taxpayers funded what was done to Kirk and the other children.

    Rekers has been using the experimentation (and that's what it was, a lab experiment) on Kirk for decades as one of his success stories, even years after he'd committed suicide. Rekers based his graduate thesis on Kirk's "case," so it could be said he built his whole nasty career on the back of a child who he AND the parents tortured mercilessly. And he's never going to admit Kirk's suicide had anything to do with him. Technically he's correct, nobody can *prove* that a suicide 30 years after this "study" was his fault. At the same time, no one can deny that an organized campaign of punishing a child for expressing himself, reinforcing over and over that their parents didn't love them, even hated them for who they ARE, was never going to end well.

    Posted by: Codswallop | Jun 8, 2011 11:59:47 AM


    Posted by: Hollywood, CA | Jun 8, 2011 12:02:58 PM

  20. Throw the blue ones.

    Make him "man up" to what he's done.

    Posted by: Eric Payne | Jun 8, 2011 1:38:45 PM

  21. This is the kind of torture that gays put up with growing up in redneck families. If it isn't a Goebbels like madman like Reiker, it's the father trying to beat some manhood into the kid. It twists many into dementia and causes an inability to love correctly - an excess of passion and compassion but tripping dysfunction elsewise.

    I immediately spotted the mother's redneck accent. One thing they teach in all of our allied countries now, but we're not allowed to discuss here, is how the American redneck is the bane of civilization worldwide, having ruined the world with Bush and still on the rise politically. These are considered worldwide to be the stupidest most ruinous-to-Civilization people on the planet, and are a third of our population.

    In most redneck areas, being gay is still a taboo worse than murder. The red state redneck areas, not coicidentally, exactly match the slave states map.

    Posted by: greg | Jun 8, 2011 1:54:49 PM

  22. Greg,

    You're correct. Both my parents were born and bred in West Virginia coal mine company towns - they were the first, in either of their families, to break that cycle. I also, keenly, caught the "hick accent" of Kirk's mother.

    I had left, on the AC360 site at CNN the same comment I posted, here. The only change being to the final paragraph where I co not call out AC by name, but refer to the damage done by the nebulous "they" who are in the public eye, but choose to live a life of comfort in the "those that need to know, know" closet.

    It's been deleted. Not just the final paragraph; the entire comment/post.

    Posted by: Eric Payne | Jun 8, 2011 2:30:59 PM

  23. Please also note, this experiment was federally funded by "United States Public Health Research Grant 21803 01A1 from the National Institutes of Mental Health."

    Here is it:

    Hilary Clinton recently acknowledge and apologized for the Tuskegee experiments as a violation of human rights. Think we'll get an apology for the way government funded pseudo-science has ruined the lives of gay people and defamed our community?

    Posted by: David | Jun 8, 2011 2:48:38 PM

  24. I weeped when I saw this last night. As for Anderson I applaud him for bringing this to light.I have many people in my family who won't watch Rachel Maddow because of her "lifestyle/ gay agenda" Hey you can't choose your family. They watch Anderson's show and have been moved by his anti- gay bullying stories. I know many people will disagree but I would rather they be exposed to this topic while watching Anderson show than not see it. These handful of relatives avoid shows where there is an openly gay host even cutie Nate Berkus.Back to the topic this stuff is still going on today in churches and ex gay seminars/camps. Lastly I believe people are more tolerant when they know gay people in their day to day lives rather than some gay celeb in NY or LA

    Posted by: Kim | Jun 8, 2011 3:06:26 PM

  25. Eric, I'm very sorry for what happened to you. However, being out in the way an average person is out (out at work, dating out in public, out to family, out to friends) without making an official statement to the public at large about your sexuality is in no way the same or similar to what Rekers did and continued to do.

    Rekers is lying about his own orientation. Rekers actively instructed parents to ignore and beat feminine boys for feminine behavior. Rekers has turned his head away from the tragic direct consequences of his work and from all of the science that has soundly debunked his theories and kept on hurting people through spreading hateful false information and giving testimony in court against gay adoption rights.

    Anderson is not lying about himself or attacking the gay community. He is giving positively by being out to people he knows, doing reports like this one and participating in some gay charity events. He could give more, but you can say that about most people in regard to most good causes. He did not have a background like yours that would impassion him about gay activism. Most out celebrity gay men spent a good while of their celebrity keeping quiet or lying about their sexuality, and many of the glass closeted ones who eventually made official announcements after being pressured to do so have went on to express public resentment about it and a feeling of having been inappropriately bullied about a personal process and personal public relations choices.

    Posted by: brianb | Jun 8, 2011 3:27:37 PM

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