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“The Sissy Boy Experiment” Delves Into The Damage Done By Rekers And The Ex-Gay Movement

06/08/11-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire


CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 has aired the first of a three-part series entitled “The Sissy Boy Experiment” which delved into the effects of a government-funded gender-normalization therapy experiment on a five-year old boy named kirk Murphy in 1970. The therapy was carried out by Family Research Council co-founder George Rekers, who was disgraced not long ago when it was revealed that he was enjoying the services of a young rent boy while on vacation.

The experiment, which would today be considered highly unethical, has been used repeatedly by the FRC and their minions to try and bolster their case that reparative therapy succeeds. Unfortunately, this ignores some very real issues with this narrative. Kirk came out as gay in 1985, and committed suicide at 38.

As Igor Volsky of ThinkProgress reported:

After ten months of treatment, Rekers pronounced that Kirk’s feminine behavior was “gone” and he used the case to launch his career. Kirk, meanwhile, struggled for the remainder of his life. His “outgoing personality changed and he began to behave in the way he knew his parent and George Rekers wanted him to,” his brother Mark recalls. “He had no idea how to relate to people. It was like somebody came up to him and turned his light-switch off.” Kirk eventually came out as gay in 1985 and after one unsuccessful attempt at 17, committed suicide at the age of 38.

“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. What I now think is, how did he make it that long,” his sister Maris asks.

Going back to the early Twentieth Century, the Father of Modern Psychology Sigmund Freud actually refused to try and change people’s sexualities because he maintained that it was impossible to do so, and even harmful. In fact, in one case, Freud was contacted by a woman who wanted her son’s sexuality changed, but he refused because he said flat out that the best and most proper thing he could do to help the young man was to make him comfortable with his sexuality.

Today, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association, along with many other groups, have denounced the whole of reparative therapy as bogus research.

Box Turtle Bulletin’s Jim Burroway has done an in depth series investigating Kirk’s story as well as the harmful effects of ex-gay therapy.

There have been very, very few cases of people who have come out as being ex-gay successfully. Most of them have turned out to be bisexual in reality like evangelist Ted Haggard, who came out as bisexual after disappearing for a while.

Here is part one of the series:



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One Response to “The Sissy Boy Experiment” Delves Into The Damage Done By Rekers And The Ex-Gay Movement

  1. Shane

    June 11, 2011 at 2:53 am

    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.