Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Shock Therapy for Children

I wish I'd heard about this earlier. I need a TV addict to alert me when important things are airing, like a news program about an LGBT issue, or the Vitameatavegamin episode.

CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" already ran Part 1 of "The Sissy Boy Experiment," an investigative series about a government-funded program at UCLA designed to convert feminine boys into masculine boys. Part 2 runs tonight.

I'll be there. Finally.

"Sissy Boy" tells the story of Kirk Andrew Murphy, who killed himself in 2003 at 38 years of age.

"I used to spend so much time thinking, why would he kill himself at the age of 38? It doesn't make any sense to me," Kirk's sister, Maris Murphy, said in a story on cnn.com. "What I now think is I don't know how he made it that long."

And we're off on another tale of horrors visited upon gay people in the name of conformity. And science. And religion.

Back in the 1970s, Kirk Murphy was a bright, sweet five-year-old, when his mother, concerned that he liked to play with dolls and was evincing feminine traits, took him to UCLA.

There he was treated primarily by a doctoral student named George Rekers.

Oh yes, that George Rekers. Mr. Gays-Are-Awful-So-I'll-Take-One-To-Europe Rekers.

He called Kirk "Kraig" in his written account at the time, and claimed that after therapy Kraig's feminine behavior had disappeared, and he was "indistinguishable from any other boy."

Rekers' work with Kraig laid the groundwork for his ascension to the top ranks of gay-haters. He was a founder of the Family Research Council, a board member of NARTH, and he served as an expert witness against gay adoption.

Rekers would still be one of our most powerful enemies, had he not been photographed returning home from Europe with a rent boy. Funny how that made his credibility go pfffft.

So what kind of experimental therapy did Rekers put the little boy through? A room at UCLA was outfitted with two tables. At one table Kirk chose between masculine toys, like plastic guns, and feminine toys, like dolls. At the other table he chose between boys' clothes and things such as wigs.

His mom was instructed to ignore Kirk when he opted for the feminine toys, and praise him when he went the masculine route. I guess if he shot the doll's eye out, he got extra credit.

Rekers wrote that, at home, Kirk received blue poker chips for masculine behavior and red chips for effeminate behavior. Blue chips meant candy; red chips meant a spanking from dad.

The spanking was severe. Kirk's brother Mark tried to protect him, while his sister Maris would go to his bedroom after a beating and "lay down and hug him and we would just lay there, and the thing that I remember is that he never even showed anger. He was just numb."

As will everyone else be when they read this.

Kirk's mother thinks the therapy ruined her son's life. His sister said, "It left Kirk just totally stricken with the belief that he was broken, that he was different from everybody else."

Oh George. Your personal mix of conservative Christianity, educational training and latent homosexuality made you more twisted than Chubby Checker.

Rekers ignored CNN's interview requests, so CNN producers hunted him down in Florida. He sports a beard now—the better to hide behind, presumably, or else beefing up his own masculinity. Give the man a blue poker chip.

He said, "I only meant to help, do the best I could with the parents, and I've written articles you can look up, too, on the rationale for our treatment. And the rationale was positive; to help children, help the parents who come to us in their distress asking questions, 'What can we do to help our child be better adjusted?' "

I can accept that this happened over three decades ago when the thinking about gay people was much different and some parents and academics believed they were being helpful. But that day has long passed and George Rekers owes the planet a mea culpa the size of Los Angeles.

Instead, in some quarters, his work is still cited, and Kraig's case called a success.

"The research has a postscript that needs to be added," said Maris Murphy. "That is that Kirk Andrew Murphy was Kraig and he was gay, and he committed suicide."