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Posts Tagged ‘George Rekers’

UPDATE: Two more episodes about Kirk’s story has aired since I posted this entry. You can view the stories and read about it over at CNN Anderson Cooper 360.

Abigail Jensen, a friend and activist over at Transmentors International, contacted me about Kirk Murphy’s story. Abigail and I have worked together on initiatives to address the  oppression of  transgender  people at the hands of non-transgender gays and lesbians. She shared with me a link to the story: Reparative Therapy for Trans Youth: Kenneth Zucker is different from George Rekkers how? It is well worth reading.

Yesterday (as I was in the cosmetic aisle buying new eyeliner and concealer for my transgender Bible play) Abigail and I talked on the phone about how so often transgender and gender non-conforming narratives get co-opted by gays and lesbians on blogs and such and then get absorbed into a political discussion about sexual orientation. As a result, the reality of transgender identities and experiences get erased and get folded into the “gay” narrative. In Kirk’s case he ultimately identified as gay, but there are many sissy boys (and tomboys/butch girls) who identify with a gender different from the sex assigned at birth based. They may be assumed gay or lesbian because they present in gender non-conforming ways, but in reality theirs is a distinctly different narrative.

When addressing stories with gender variance in a child, we simply do not know who that child will grow up to be. Transgender and gender non-conforming children and young adults may fall into the hands of reparative therapists who attempt to “fix” their gender. The impulse to seek “help” from parents and other adults in the child’s life arise from a gay panic with the hope that therapy will curtail any gay or lesbian desires/identities in the future. But the gender presentation may very well have nothing to do with the individuals orientation.

In sharing Kirk’s stories and others like it, we need to be careful to be inclusive of the transgender experience. This sort of terrible treatment does not just happen to gays, lesbians, and bisexuals.

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Kirk Andrew Murphy

Last night Anderson Cooper 360 featured the story of Kirk Andrew Murphy, who as a young boy exhibited gender non-conforming behavior. Kirk did not act like the other boys, and after seeing a therapist on TV, his parents turned for help to  who they thought were experts. Seeking a cure they ended up subjecting their child to cruel and dangerous treatments at the hands of George Rekers and other anti-gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender practitioners.

Kaytee Murphy (Kirk’s mom) took Kirk to UCLA, where he was treated largely by George A. Rekers, a doctoral student at the time.

In Rekers’ study documenting his experimental therapy (PDF), he writes about a boy he calls “Kraig.” Another UCLA gender researcher confirmed that “Kraig” was a pseudonym for Kirk.

The study, later published in an academic journal, concludes that after therapy, “Kraig’s” feminine behavior was gone and he became “indistinguishable from any other boy.”

“Kraig, I think, certainly was Rekers’ poster boy for what Rekers was espousing for young children,” said Jim Burroway, a writer and researcher who has studied Rekers’ work.

And of course the treatments did not “work” in the ways that Reker’s reported. Kirk did not change, he simply suppressed whole parts of himself. Like many ex-gay survivors he went underground. He took on masculine roles, and according to his sister, avoided love and possible partnership. He ended up moving far away from the US to India where we ultimately took his life at age 38.

This is a tragic tale about the dangers of  people who offer help while dishing out colossal harm. People like Alan Chambers of Exodus International. People who run local “ex-gay” ministries. Ministers and Christian therapists who counsel lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people in their congregations that “change is possible.” People who insist that heterosexuality and gender conformity are God’s best and the only healthy way to live. People who target girls and boys who do not behave according to society rules regarding gender and desire. People who offer false promises of a happy fulfilling life if one embarks on a straight and very narrow self-abusive path.

I once forced myself down that very path.

While a few claim they are happy and healthy living ex-gay, seeking an alternative to a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identities, the vast majority of us who went down this path say we experienced a world of woe as a result. I spent 17 years chasing the promised change in hopes of being a masculine, heterosexual man of God. Oh I changed, but not how I had dreamed. I grew depressed, isolated, self-destructive, and confused. I have met thousands who have had similar experiences. We have begun to gather, to connect and to share our stories. You can read about some of our experiences at Beyond Ex-Gay.

I am so grateful to Jim Burroway for his in depth, thorough, and thoughtful research and reporting about Kirk and his experiences.  I have consistently been impressed with Jim’s attention to detail and his compassion that runs deep and in many directions (read his report about parents who seek a cure for their queer children.) I feel grateful that Kirk’s brother and sister found in Jim someone willing to get to the bottom of the story. I am also grateful to Anderson Cooper and his producers for properly covering this story–highlighting the harm and not falling into the trap that they somehow have to “show all sides.”

If you went through “change” treatments or on your own attempted to change or suppress your gender identity, gender presentation, or orientation, and you see the harm that has come from it, please get help. As Kate Bornstein repeats over and over–Stay Alive. To me this means not merely surviving, but finding how to reclaim our lives, to embrace lief as we undo the damage of these soul crushing experiences.

One resource that may help is Dr. Jallen Rix’s excellent book Ex-Gay No Way–Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse.  For my part I used comedy and storytelling to expose the horror of my own experience. Also, visit us at Beyond Ex-Gay where you will discover narratives, many articles, artwork (including our survivor collages created by Christine Bakke) and more.

Ex-gay survivor John Holm

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Sometimes it’s a good thing to be a failure, particularly when one tries to destroy their personality and sexuality (or assist others in destroying theirs.)  The vast majority of people who have attempted to “de-gay” themselves through reparative therapy, straight camps and ex-gay ministries ultimately come out gay. Sadly many of these come out psychologically disheveled and need therapy to recover from the therapy. With stories flying around about George Rekers, a strong proponent of treatments to “cure gays” and legal actions to deny LGBT people rights (all the while using some of his anti-gay earnings to fund European vacations with a gay rent boy while asserting “I am NOT gay!) I thought it might be useful to hear from some folks who took part in some of these failed treatments.

Dr. Jallen Rix is an ex-gay survivor. He has already told his story through his widely read sex column and in the feature length documentary film Fish Can’t Fly. He now has a new book, Ex-Gay No Way! Survival and Recovery from Religious Abuse.

Jallen Rix, as a young Southern Baptist, joined an ex-gay ministry when he discovered his same-sex attractions. Although the ministry did not make him heterosexual, it did manage to destroy any sense of stability and self-esteem.
Ex-Gay No Way is Dr. Rix’s journey through the ex-gay world and what he did in the aftermath to reintegrate positive sexuality with healthy spirituality. Further, he demonstrates that the tactics used in these oppressive environments are many of the same damaging schemes used everywhere in power-abusive religious organizations today.

Jallen along with singer/songwriter Melissa Etheridge will appear on LA Talk Radio today May 14, 2010 from 6-8 PM PST. Check out the Tony Sweet program and learn more. Also check out this video of Jallen talking about his book.

Unlike ex-gay leaders like George Reker’s and others caught out there failing to live a life that they demanded of others, Micheal Bussee, one of the original founders of Exodus International, left the anti-gay ministry and chose to come out with his ministry partner (and then life partner Gary Cooper.) You may remember that Michael was one of three former Exodus officials who issued a public apology in 2007. This apology can serve as a model for people like John Smid, the former director of Love in Action, who has struggled to come up with a clear statement that reveals why he is apologizing and the steps he is taking to undo the damage.

In Michael’s personal apology he issued the same day as the group apology, he talks about the early work of offering “alternatives” to gays, and how it did not work, and more importantly it caused great harm.

I need to say that some had a positive, life-changing experience attending our Bible studies and support groups.  They experienced God’s love and the welcoming fellowship of others who knew the struggle.  There were some real “changes”—but not one of the hundreds of people we counseled became straight.

Instead, many of our clients began to fall apart – sinking deeper into patterns of guilt, anxiety and self-loathing.  Why weren’t they “changing”?  The answers from church leaders made the pain even worse:  “You might not be a real Christian.”  “You don’t have enough faith.”  “You aren’t praying and reading the Bible enough.” “Maybe you have a demon.”  The message always seemed to be:  “You’re not enough.  You’re not trying hard enough.  You don’t have enough faith.”

Some simply dropped out and were never heard from again.  I think they were the lucky ones.  Others became very self-destructive. One young man got drunk and deliberately drove his car into a tree.  Another (a fellow leader of the ex-gay movement) told me that he had left EXODUS and was now going to straight bars – looking for someone to beat him up.  He said the beatings made him feel less guilty – atoning for his sin.  One of my most dedicated clients, Mark, took a razor blade to his genitals, slashed himself repeatedly, and then poured drain-cleaner on the wounds—because after months of celibacy he had a “fall.”

In the midst of all of this, my own faith in the EXODUS movement was crumbling.  No one was really becoming “ex-gay.”  Who were we fooling?  As one current EXODUS leader admitted, we were just “Christians with homosexual tendencies who would rather not have those tendencies.”  By calling ourselves “ex-gay” we were lying to ourselves and to others.  We were hurting people.

Over at the blog Box Turtle Bulletin, ex-gay survivor (in a very sexy This American Life voice) Daniel Gonzales has begun to post a series of short videos where Michael talks about his role in Exodus, his regrets and the terrible things that happened in a ministry that set out to help the struggling homosexual.

In this video Michael talks about the the inherent harm that comes from ex-gay treatment and comments on John Smid’s “apology.” Bussee makes it clear that:

It’s the message that’s destructive, it’s the overall message.

As that message sinks in to your sense of self that you’re damaged, you’re broken, you’re in need of repair… that’s the damage.

There are people that don’t become aware of that damage until years later.

(Transcript here)

In this video Michael talks about what happens after people LEAVE ex-gay treatment and reveals how they never offered any kind of after-care or even checked in to see how people where doing. (Read full transcript here.)

And in this video Michael Bussee, who has known LOTS of ex-gays in his life reveals that NO ONE including the leaders actually changed in spite of what they publicly said. We Were All Still Struggling Silently As We Promised Change (Transcript here)

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Zack and I dive into this week’s scandal of Dr. George Rekers of the Family Research Council and NARTH and his hiring of rent boy “Lucien.” How does the media cover ex-gay issues? How does the LGBT community respond to sex work?  Will Lucien be cast aside after the scandal subsides like Mike Jones after Ted Haggard, or will the community support him? We discuss many of the sides of the story that aren’t getting much attention. Also, Zack shares some news from the higher ed job front and Peterson talks about his zaniest summer jobs.

The Queer and Queerer Podcast!

Listen to this week’s episode

// Here’s some more information about what we talked about this week:

» Miami New Times: George Rekers Is a Homosexual, Escort Says

» Joe Jervis of Joe.My.God Interviews Lucien

» Miami New Times: Things Rekers Said To Lucien When He Didn’t Think We Were Listening

» For more on ex-gay survivors, check out Beyond Ex-Gay

» Zack’s post on the higher education job search

» TransForm NH (Friday, July 23 – Sunday, July 25)

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