George Rekers, “Kraig,” and the lie of “ex-gay” therapy
by Mel Green
An in-depth investigation exposes the true story of the “landmark case” that made disgraced ex-gay therapist George Rekers’ antigay career. Box Turtle Bulletin spoke with family and friends who knew the real “Kraig” to reveal the tragedy of a terrible experiment on a young boy which haunted him for the rest of his life.
Remember George Rekers? He’s the famous “ex-gay” therapist — an ordained Southern Baptist minister, a founding board member of the antigay Family Research Council, and longtime officer and scientific advisor of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) — who became even more famous in May 2010 when he got caught vacationing with a male prostitute he found on Rentboy.com.[caption id="attachment_3480" align="alignright" width="245" caption="Kirk Andrew Murphy at age 4-1/2, shortly before entering treatment at UCLA's Gender Identity Clinic for his effeminate behavior."][/caption]
Now Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin has completed an in-depth investigation into the truth behind the “success story” upon which Rekers built his antigay career:
In the summer of 1970, just before Kirk’s fifth birthday, his parents learned about a new federally funded research program at UCLA for young boys who were showing early signs of being effeminate. Concerned that Kirk was exhibiting some of the behaviors listed by a UCLA researcher on a local television talk show, Kirk’s parents decided to take him in for an evaluation and treatment. Ten months later, Kirk’s therapy was judged a success and his parents were reassured he would now grow up to be a normal, heterosexual man.When Kirk was undergoing treatment at UCLA, he was under the care of a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. In 1974, Rekers and his mentor, Dr. Ivar Lovaas, published a landmark paper describing “Kraig’s” treatment — “Kraig” being their pseudonym for Kirk. That paper, which appeared in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, was “the first experimental study on the subject of childhood cross-gender problems.” That paper launched Rekers’s career, first as an expert in childhood sexual development, and later as an anti-gay activist.
In fact, Kirk — the “Kraig” of the literature — was not “cured” of his homosexuality. In fact, the treatment he received at the hands of UCLA’s Gender Identity Clinic, George Rekers, and his own father — including beatings if he collected too many of the red poker chips “awarded” to him for effeminate behaviors — launched him into an occasionally happy but largely troubled youth and adulthood that included an attempted suicide at age 17 and the ending of his life by suicide at age 38, in 2003. (Kirk was also called “Kyle” in professional literature written by Dr. Richard Green, another UCLA researcher.)
Burroway describes Box Turtle Bulletin’s investigation:
In this original BTB investigation, we speak with his family and friend who knew the real “Kraig” to uncover the truth behind Reker’s greatest success story. Their stories reveals the tragedy of a terrible experiment on a very young boy which would haunt him for the rest of his life. It is not only an indictment of a man who built his anti-gay career on Kirk’s suffering, but a rebuke to others — those in the mental health profession then and in the contemporary ex-gay movement today — who would place their careers and agendas ahead of the well-being of this young boy and countless others like him.
BTB has also assembled source materials from Kirk’s family and friends, some of the professional publications about “Kraig” authored or coauthored by Rekers, and position statements from professional organizations about so-called “reparative therapy” that attempts to convert gays and lesbians into heterosexuals.
Read BTB’s coverage:
- “BTB Original Investigation: The True Story of George Rekers And ‘Kraig’” by Jim Burroway (Box Turtle Bulletin, 7 Jun 2011). An introduction to the investigation.
- “What Are Little Boys Made Of? An original BTB Investigation” by Jim Burroway (Box Turtle Bulletin, 7 Jun 2011). An overview and index to the complete multipart investigation.
Beginning tonight, CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 will air the first of a three-part series on reparative therapy and “The Sissy Boy Experiment” which devastated Kirk’s life.
Here’s an excerpt, in which members of Kirk’s family describe the therapy he was forced to undergo:Tags: Box Turtle Bulletin, ex-gay movement, gender identity and expression, George Rekers, Jim Burroway, Kirk Murphy, psychiatry and psychology, reparative therapy, video