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.
Rekers’ research on Craig continues to be cited as proof of ex-gay therapy’s success, even as recently as in a book published 6 years after Kirk’s suicide.
Rekers went on to join the Family Research Council and become a founding member of the National Association for Research and Therapy Of Homosexuality (NARTH), a group he resigned from when he was discovered having a holiday with a young prostitute from Rentboy.com.
Rekers claims that two independent psychologists agreed with his assessment that Kirk was “well-adjusted” (a claim refuted by the in-depth report on Kirk and Rekers at Box Turtle Bulletin). But Kirk’s family said that Kirk learned to lie and not trust his own intuitions especially around his “therapists.”
Rekers also said that it’s a leap to associate Kirk’s suicide to his childhood treatment. We think it’s a leap to associate Rekers’ lisp and love of sexual massages to his self-professed heterosexuality.
Joseph Nicolosi PhD runs an ex-gay therapy based on the “proven experiments” of Dr. Rekers. Nicolosi doesn’t recall treating Ryan Kendall, a young man whose parents put him in Nicolosi’s ex-gay therapy for a decade. But Kendall claims that Nicolosi regularly told him to “man up” and not to cry. “No,” says Nicolosi. “That’s not our language.” Nicolosi says that in ex-gay therapy, the therapist wants to look like a good father figure and a man who accepts you for yourself.
Yes, a man show accepts you for yourself… as long as your self is straight.
Kendall also said that Nicolosi told him that only one percent of the world is homosexual. Nicolosi raises his eyebrows in disagreement and says, “No. It’s two percent.”
Nicolosi thinks it’s horrible to say that ex-gay therapy seeks “to get the gay out of people.” He would rather you say it tries “to bring out the heterosexuality in you.” Ah! See what he did there?
Years later, Kendall had to change his name and legally separate from his family rather than endure the psychological abuse any longer. He says the therapy drove him to do drugs, consider suicide, and even go homeless for a while.
Anti-gay groups like the Minnesota Family Council continue to tout ex-gay therapies for “unwanted homosexuality” and programs like Utah’s Evergreen program to help cure “same-sex attraction.” However, the American Psychological Association—the largest psychological organization in the United States—and many other professional psychological and medical organizations have said these programs actually do more harm than good and perpetuate violence against gays.
And yet Amazon still carries Nicolosi and other ex-gay books.