CNN Covers The Ultimate “Sissy Boy” Cure: Suicide

Five-year-old Kirk Andrew Murphy used to play with dolls and wigs. So his concerned mom enrolled him in an experimental therapy at UCLA where then doctoral student George Rekers told his parents they would turn Kirk from a femmy boy into a masculine young man.

They rewarded Kirk for any “masculine” behaviors and physically punished him for any “feminine” ones. By the end of the therapy, his siblings said they no longer recognized Kirk as the same person. Decades later, Kirk came out as gay, could never sustain intimate relationships, and then committed suicide at the age of 38.

This week, silver fox Anderson Cooper ran a three-part series on George “Rentboy” Rekers’ “ex-gay” therapy. We’re presenting all three parts of his report along with small vignettes from each, though each video is worth watching in full.

Keep in mind that Kirk’s treatment was not a proven therapy but an experimental therapy where they rewarded Kurt with blue chips and parental affection for acting masculine and red chips and physical abuse for acting femmy. When the therapy ended, Rekers said that Kirk was “indistinguishable from any other boy.” His sister says that for the next three years Kirk chose to eat his school lunches in the boy’s bathroom rather than face others.

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  • Caliban

    This story on CNN has covered some important, painful territory, and includes the “early days” of one our nastiest critics and foes, the obvious closet case George Rekers. Awful, terrible stuff but important for people to think about and discuss, straight or gay.

    And you gave it the shittiest fucking headline imaginable!

    Seriously, out of ALL the material this story covers, THAT’S what you came up with?!

    I really have seen improvement in “the new Queerty,” but I swear to god sometimes I look at this stuff and ask “What the fuck were they thinking?!”

  • Daniel

    @Caliban: Oh great critic of headlines, please tell us what your magnificent fucking headline would have been.

  • MC

    I had to stop for a minute, and decide, whether or not, there was a significant connection between the fact that he was forced to play with toy guns and toy army units, and that he later decided to enlist.

  • Tommyixi

    I know that as a “Journalist” you’re just trying to make a satirical, eye-catching headline that people would want to read but out of respect for the family and the gay community don’t you think you could have chosen a more appropriate title?

    “Indecent parenting results in tragic chid’s death”
    “Closet case psychologist tries to ruin others lives from the closet”

  • Jake the libertarian

    Snarky comments above aside, I have to say that I have watched this coverage. Good for CNN for telling a story that needs to be told. Good for Anderson Cooper for continuing to be an honest and wonderful member of our community. Trolls be damned, I like the man, have great respect for him, and thank him for his near constant honest reporting about us gays. I was really moved by this series and I hope millions of straight people watched and were also moved. Thanks CNN and good job Queerty for pointing it out.

  • Caliban

    How about “George “rentboy” Rekers Still Driving Gay Kids To Suicide After All These Years”?

    Or “What We’ve Always Said: The Tragic Price Of Ex-Gay Therapy”?

    How about you stop spending so much goddamn time trying to be a SMART ASS or “cute” and treat serious stories seriously? Save the cutesy shit for Britney Spears or some other pop-culture bullshit because when it comes to serious topics they sometimes actually deserve RESPECT.

    “The Ultimate “Sissy Boy” Cure: Suicide” Nice.

  • Jake the libertarian

    @Caliban: If you don’t lighten up you’re never going to find a man. It was a good story buddy. CNN covered it with the gravity it deserved. Queerty pointed it out. What’s the fucking problem?

  • Drew

    @Jake the libertarian: Because “it” isn’t just a story. We’re talking about a real person. He suffered a horrible tragedy, and his family and countless others still live with the permanent damage. We wouldn’t talk like this about 9/11; it doesn’t apply here either.

  • Daniel

    @Caliban: Did you even read the fucking article? God, you’re a shithead. Why didn’t you apply to work here, you goddamned genius? Seeing as you’re so amazing with humane and serious headlines.

  • kuy

    Conductivists are idiots.

  • Amber024

    Such a sad story. I really hate this world sometimes.

  • Jake the libertarian

    @Drew: We talk like this about 9/11 all the time. I agree that this is a horrible tragedy. I complimented CNN for giving it proper coverage. Queerty pointed the story out… I just don’t understand why everyone is getting their bedazzled thing in a bunch over the headline. It is a shot at NARTH and the Family Research Council, not the victim. You just seem like over sensitive bitches to me… Be happy that this is getting good coverage. It’s important the people see it.

  • Jake the libertarian

    @Jake the libertarian: thong, not thing… although both work

  • Jay P

    All I have to say is yay for lady boys. :-P

    Its just another reason why we should break down the masc/fem ideals in the gay community. Its bad enough a lot of these people can’t find acceptance in the straight world. It shouldn’t be that way in the gay community. The reality is that even gay men play a role in this.

    This makes me want to be gayer than I already am…I don’t even think that’s humanly possible.

  • Shane

    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.

  • adam

    @Shane: Rekers does not look genuinely upset. He looks a bit put out that a “success story” he has been heralding for decades has been taken away from him and he is eager to shove off any blame.

    A psychiatrist, Dr. Green, who followed up with teenage Kirk in a book he published about sexuality and gender reported way back then that Kirk told him he was bisexual and had attempted suicide because he didn’t want to become gay. Rekers has never acknowledged that, he’s just went on claiming Kirk had been transformed by his methods into a well adjusted heterosexual person.

    George Rekers was experimenting with children in a way that obviously could produce lasting harm and trauma. It was unethical. Science has long since moved on and advanced from the time the notions about gender and sexuality could have been supported as even potentially true, but Rekers has continued to irresponsibly tout outdated faulty psychology and misrepresent results for his twisted self-hating agenda which hurts gay children and attempts to keep loving gay potential parents from being able to adopt.

    There was no “cultural conflict” that could be at play in the teen suicide attempt. His siblings who were too young to bear any blame and took what actions they could at the time to help and comfort Kirk trace Kirk’s suicide back to the misery and trauma inflicted on him by the therapy. They say they watched their brother lose his confidence, ability to socialize comfortably and happiness from the therapy and never regain it. They say it left him unable to form a serious romantic attachment to another man. Some event or factor in India may have touched off the successful suicide attempt but Kirk’s serious underlying issues trace back to the therapy.

    The 360 pieces were fair. The pieces clearly mentioned that knowing for certain the causes of a suicide is impossible. They also showed the circumstances of Kirk’s life and what his loved ones had observed about his sources of unhappiness, which is entirely appropriate and as strong circumstantial evidence supports inferences about causation.

  • Cam

    If you want to complain to that they are still carrying these ex-gay books….

    You are asked to sign in on this page, but if you look down towards the bottom of the box, there is a “skip Sign In” link. So you can do this either way. Once you are on the next page you have three options to choose from; Express, E-Mail, Phone. There is an option to select an order that you are writing about but you can leave this blank if your E-Mail does not pertain to any of your orders. The next selection is where you may choose the subject of your message. At the bottom of the list is “Other Questions & Comments”.

  • mudgeboy711

    We really need to try to focus on the issue here: that reparative therapy does tremendous harm to kids and this harm follows us into adulthood. I am one who voluntarily underwent reparative therapy because I didn’t want to be gay! For the longest time I fell in love with straight people because I saw them as “safe,” in the sense that the relationship would never be reciprocal. It sounds convoluted and I certainly didn’t understand it when I was going through it. But some queerty readers, like me, grew up at a time when the word “gay’ wasn’t used. I never heard of anyone, other than myself, being gay in high school. There were no “out” actors, politicians, or anyone. It was a criminal offense to practice homosexuality. Things have changed somewhat since I was in HS, but we have a long way to go. There are still gay porn producers who try very hard to convince us that all of their models are straight, and of course some are. But why are we attracted to “straight” models, rather than people who are gay like us, with whom we have a chance at a relationship? Arguing among ourselves about the headline queerty used will not help the situation.

  • sdyue

    Ouch, Kirk may really be a Wolffian Female (aka mtf ‘trans’ sexual), but often given only ‘sexual orientation’ thought of as too an effeminate male, as choices later on as only ‘gay’ as an outlet. She was female, pushed towards masculine malehood. In the old days, many Wolffian Females went through the ‘am I Gay’ (due to prevailing theories recently) and many later realized they were simply female, period.
    I had experienced considerable stress before age of 5, being very affectionate, my mother had deliberately emotionally went stone cold on me to ‘masculinize’ me… push me away, tough it out the way boys should be. But that never altered my inner female feelings.
    I myself am a Wolffian (de-Müllerianized) Female (not a Müllerian (de-Wolffianized) Female).

  • sdyue

    OMG, and yes, all Wolffian Females go through a hyper-masculine career in hopes of making sense of the world’s denial that Wolffians can ever be female (brain gender identity); and many of us go through this hyper-masculine career like a ‘tour of duty’ in to nullify this forbidden femaleness in ourselves. So Kirk, was ultimately never ‘gay’, but very Female; not Male at all (but the Wolffian version instead of the more common Müllerian version).

  • sdyue

    A breach in relationship with a father? Not a chance. Imagine my mother being told old day psychology teaching to emotionally detach from their Wolffian Daughters (assumed to be Sons). Who doesn’t know female children (whether Wolffian or Müllerian) are emotionally very affectionate and attached to their parents? Typical male children (whether Wolffian or Müllerian) would most likely be quite happily independent of parents, quite the opposite of their female counterparts. And I was close to both my mother and father, except it was my mother distressing me out by pushing me away emotionally. After my mother abandoned me at 5, all I had left was my father, who always was receptive to me, and bonding with him was always undamaged and never blocked. Hardly follows so called documented science. I feel too many mother’s followed the ‘Baby Book’ of Dr Benjamin Spock, who no doubt, like so many other doctors relied on all these works by Reker and others for treating/teaching others what to do with their children who happen to be Wolffian Females!!!
    Today, I feel strongly that the neurosciences back up that all ‘sexual preferences’ (covering gay/lesbian/bi) as being distinct from ‘gender behavior’ of being neuroplastically fluid; that sexuality can be a choice. It just happens most of us have been neuroplastically conditioned down narrow paths (social pressures) as though these paths were the only ones, when in fact there is NO limit to those paths. Thus, later in life, even if one did go down one path, be it ‘straight’ or ‘gay’, that both and all other diverse sexual orientation paths CAN be neuroplastically RE-Mapped if ‘aware and desired’ (must be pleasurably desirable, not imposed).

  • Chris

    It’s always nice when writers use terms like “shithead” to describe their readers. Especially when said readers are making extremely valid points. Whatever credibility this author had is flushed down the drain.

  • oldgayvermonter

    After watching the 3 part AC360 expose I have a few comments. 1) Thank you Anderson Cooper!! If you prevent just one case of this abuse from happening you deserve support from the entire gay community, 2) how about some investigative journalism from Queerty? – what organizations still are engaged in “reparative” therapy? Who funds them? How can we attack and disable them, or put them out of business?

  • OVERITalready

    My blood “boils” when I see “docs” like these.
    After all the years I spent “going down to the altar”, going to men’s “healing retreats”,and “with all head’s bowed” at the end of every church service, raising my hand for prayer for release and relief from my closeted feelings, I finally, for my own sanity, walked from my church and never went back. With that, lost almost all my social life and contacts, because my life was all wrapped up in the church. I’d tried counseling with my pastor. He really didn’t know what to do with me, because I was on the board and had a very visible presence in a very large “growing” fellowship. At that time, probably 2500 members. I was still married at the time, so really wanted to be “right” with my wife, my God and my Church. I always felt “slam-dunked” on Monday mornings when I’d wake up and find I was still the same person with the same “struggle”. It wasn’t until I “walked” that I began my real healing. All of this strife, like the gentleman in the last segment said, comes from religious beliefs, and when religion has such a stronghold in our society, one will have a hard time being totally free from this kind of oppression.
    So sorry to rage, just had my “feathers ruffled” by this

  • alan Balehead

    Hopefully the gay activist celebrities will also complain about this guy too!….not just the black comedians…right???

  • Daniel

    @Chris: I’m not sure how calling someone who acts like a “shithead” a “shithead” ruins my credibility. If anything, it shows I how accurate and honest I can be. :D

    I don’t respect those who don’t respect me. My work speaks for itself. And I speak for myself.

  • Ogre Magi

    @Shane: O what shall we do with the Rekers and his ilk?

    Roast ‘em alive, or stew them in a pot;

    Fry them, boil them and make them hot!

    Bake and toast ‘em, fry and roast ‘em!

    Till beards blaze, and eyes glaze;

    Till hair smells and skins crack,

    Fat melts, and bones black

    In cinders lie

    Beneath the sky!

  • Ruhlmann

    This is so sad and depressing. How lonely and broken he must have felt in the last moments of his cruel life. Rest in peace Kirk.

  • Shannon1981

    Rekkers needs to be in jail. This is horrific.

    Hey Daniel, did you read my job application?

  • Daniel

    @Shannon1981: The job apps all went to the big boss. He says he’ll let me know who makes the cut. Fingers crossed!

  • Shannon1981

    Thanks Daniel! *sigh* Talk about a dream job!

  • Shannon1981

    @oldgayvermonter: The thing is, it is very difficult to investigate something like this. Other than the big groups like Exodus, it is a very hush hush situation indeed. I went to one of these camps, run by the church I grew up in. My parents had to ASK for help from the pastor on “what to do with me.” From the outside, it looked like any normal summer camp for kids. On the inside, anything but. Furthermore, remember, there are lots of laws protecting religious practice, and a lot of people who look at homosexuality as just another trial/tribulation. To prove that what these people do is harmful and even possibly criminal would be very difficult indeed. It would go into their barrel of ammunition for the argument that the “gay agenda” is an attack on Christianity.

  • Paco

    This man should be tried and incarcerated for child abuse. How dare they destroy as innocent a soul as that of a child’s.

  • Hermes3X

    You reported part of this story incorrectly.
    “Keep in mind that Kirk’s treatment was not a proven therapy but an experimental therapy where they rewarded Kurt with blue chips and parental affection for acting masculine and red chips and physical abuse for acting femmy. When the therapy ended, Rekers said that Kirk was ‘indistinguishable from any other boy.’ His sister says that for the next three years Kirk ate his school lunches in the boy’s bathroom rather than face others.”

    1: I don’t believe that the boy received any ‘reward’ for the blue chips, actually the blue chips augmented the red. So, if he had 5 blue and 5 red they canceled each other out. Regardless, the older brother stated that the punishments got harsher and this went on past the year long experimental therapy administered by Rekers. Affection was denied or rewarded during the experiments at the clinic.

    2. You seem to suggest that he ate lunch for the ‘next’ three years which would be grades kindergarten thru 2 grade. This wasn’t the case, his sister made it clear that it was during high school that he wouldn’t each lunch in public. This is important because the ‘two independent psychologists’ did a follow up of kirk at that age and reported that he was well adjusted at the time, a significant ‘fact’ in all of the evil books and writing that were to be based on this case.

    Why aren’t people outside protesting these clinics and ‘psychologists’ like the protester’s at abortion clinics? Why do these people have a license?

    @Cam. You suggest we complain to that they are still carrying these ex-gay books. What ex-gay books? I am serious! what are the titles of the book that Amazon carries which I should object to? You expect Amazon to know, or care, which titles are promote this failed experiment? Unless I complain about a specific title, Amazon will ignore my email as just another babbling idiot who read something on some queer blog somewhere.

    P.S. I think the headline is brilliant.

  • Caliban

    Yes I read the article. I actually thought it was well-written. Congratulations. So why use a tabloid headline that cheapens it? Considering that Queerty’s homepage is nothing but headlines, it’s important. If you deny that Queerty has in the past used headlines that are the exact polar opposite of the content of the actual story, seemingly putting page views above truth or accuracy, you aren’t telling the truth. I am FAR from the first person to complain about Queerty headlines, so *maybe* you ought to listen! Queerty has employed tabloid headlines to mislead readers in the past. It’s dishonest. I can’t count the number of times I’ve followed a Queerty headline that proclaims “Some Shitty Thing Happened!” only to find out the truth is far more ambiguous or even the the opposite. It doesn’t inspire trust.

    I will admit that I am particularly sensitive to to this story. I read about “Kraig” a decade ago in Phyllis Burke’s book “Gender Shock” and even in then I felt enormous sympathy for this 5 year old child who couldn’t understand why his mother (who was the one who took him for “treatment”) rejected him for playing with the “wrong” toys, who was punished for being himself. You don’t need a postscript to know what they did to that child was cruel and truly evil. It was all right there in the original “experiment.” Now we learn that George Rekers was behind it, the darling of the “ex-gay” movement who gives it academic legitimacy, all while hiring young men from to “carry his bags.” He has PROSPERED on the back of Kirk/”Kraig,” using that bit of research to validate the things he does well after Kirk had killed himself. (I guess it’s immaterial Kirk attempted suicide first at age 17.)

    People have good reason to have “issues” with the accuracy or tone of Queerty headlines. Don’t pretend people are being “picky” when the stories are the exact fucking opposite of what’s stated in the headlines. I’m being an asshole over what I considered to be a too-light headline for a serious topic? OK. Fine. I’ll accept that. I’m a dick. Mea culpa. For your part, how about Queerty STOPS writing misleading headlines? I’ll own my shit. Can Queerty own theirs? I don’t care how much you think you need traffic, the way you build that is through TRUST that your stories have content, not through bullshit headlines that don’t pay off. The gay community needs reliable information, not hysterical hyperbole in order to get page views. You want to be a respected source? Then act like one.

  • Maris

    While I realize my comments come well after the people who have commented on here have likely moved on, I will still post in hopes someone will see this.

    Thank you for sharing Kirk’s story. To those of you who have judged our parents harshly, while I understand, I also ask that you take a moment and realize that you have seen very little of what my mother actually had to say on the topic (unless perhaps you read the series of articles on Box Turtle Bulletin).

    Regardless, I did an hour long interview yesterday on an AM sports radio channel in Minneapolis on Kirk and The Sissy Boy Experiment if you are interested in hearing additional context.



  • Canadian Dan

    I just noticed this article and then the comments. I’m actually stunned that so many seem to have missed the point about the title of this article. I say stunned because of how I felt a long time ago when I was so deep in the closet I didn’t even understand I was gay. Death, as a solution/cure has been a constant “companion” on the back burner through out my life because of that. The sad truth is that out there there are people that absolutely believe and even teach that the only good gay is a dead gay. How that gay dies isn’t important as long as he or she is dead. How that guy LIVED isn’t important as long as he or she is dead. The age of that gay is of no consequence. Or maybe it is? As in the sooner the better? THAT is what that title was all about.

  • Maris

    One other thing to note: CNN gave it the title “Sissy Boy Experiment” because Dr. Richard Green, who was one of the doctors involved and who wrote a book about his case studies (my brother being a significant part of his writings). The name of the book was called “Sissyboy Syndrome”.

  • xander

    Maris : Thanks for everything you’ve done to make sure your family’s story has been told. I’ve pointed several colleagues and friends to the BTB reports and related coverage, and it HAS made a difference.

    Be well, and thanks again!

  • Barry Waterfield

    Why this human obsession with sexuality. Just what is it with us as a race that we cannot simply do it and enjoy it. What a stupid creature we are collectively. This is confirmed for me, by our dependence on abstract notions such as religion, the substance of which forms the very life blood of this man Rekers and others like him. I have never let another human being influence me in my sexual tastes and never will, neither have I ever taken the slightest notice of books such as the bible, my own copy of which went in the garbage when I was a boy. Let’s not beat around the bush, Rekers is a homosexual,that much is as plain as the nose on your face, he’s also without doubt what I believe would be called a closet queen and finally he’s a liar, I have no problem with the first two but I despise the third. However when he, and people of his kind, proceed to reconcile their own self hate by hurting others I come out fighting. With so much adultery within marriage I would have thought anyone short of an idiot would be fighting divorce to protect family unity not homosexuality. Rekers you’re an utter fool. The only question outstanding is just how did you get away with it.

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