Los Angeles (CNN) -- Kirk Andrew Murphy seemed to have everything to live for.
He put himself through school. He had a successful 8-year career in the Air Force. After the service, he landed a high profile position with an American finance company in India.
But in 2003 at age 38, Kirk Murphy took his own life.
A co-worker found him hanging from the fan of his apartment in New Delhi. His family has struggled for years to understand what happened.
"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," said Kirk's sister, Maris Murphy. "What I now think is I don't know how he made it that long."
After Kirk's death, Maris started a search that would uncover a dark family secret. That secret revealed itself during a phone conversation with her older brother Mark, who mentioned his distrust of any kind of therapy.
"Don't you remember all that crap we went through at UCLA?" he asked her. Maris was too young to remember the details, but Mark remembered it vividly as a low point in their lives.
Wanting a 'normal life'
Kirk Murphy was a bright 5-year-old boy, growing up near Los Angeles in the 1970s. He was the middle child, with big brother Mark, 8, and little sister Maris, just a baby at 9 months. Their mother, Kaytee Murphy, remembers Kirk's kind nature, "He was just very intelligent, and a sweet, sweet, child." But she was also worried.
"Well, I was becoming a little concerned, I guess, when he was playing with dolls and stuff," she said. "Playing with the girls' toys, and probably picking up little effeminate, well, like stroking the hair, the long hair and stuff. It just bothered me that maybe he was picking up maybe too many feminine traits." She said it bothered her because she wanted Kirk to grow up and have "a normal life."
Then Kaytee Murphy saw a psychologist on local television.
"He was naming all of these things; 'If your son is doing five of these 10 things, does he prefer to play with girls' toys instead of boys' toys?' Just things like this," she said.
The doctor was on TV that day, recruiting boys for a government-funded program at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"Well, him being the expert, I thought, maybe I should take Kirk in," said Kaytee Murphy. "In other words, nip it in the bud, before it got started any further."
Kirk becomes 'Kraig'
Kaytee Murphy 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.
"We have been wondering where is Kraig? A lot of us have talked about it. Where is he today? Is he married or is he gay? Or specifically does he even know that Rekers has been writing about him?" said Burroway. "I found 17 different articles, books, chapters, that he has written in which he talked about Kraig."
Rekers' work with Kirk Murphy helped him build a three-decade career as a leading national expert in trying to prevent children from becoming gay, a career as an anti-gay champion that would later be tainted by his involvement in an embarrassing scandal.
The therapy at UCLA involved a special room with two tables where "Kraig's" behavior was monitored, according to the study.
"There was a one-way mirror or one-way window -- and some days they would let him choose which table he would go to," said Maris, who has read about the experiments.
At one table Kirk could choose between what were considered masculine toys like plastic guns and handcuffs, and what were meant to be feminine toys like dolls and a play crib. At the other table, Kirk could choose between boys' clothing and a toy electric razor or items like dress-up jewelry and a wig.
According to the case study, Kaytee Murphy was told to ignore her son when he played with feminine toys and compliment him when he played with masculine toys.
"They pretty much told him he wasn't right the way that he was, but they never really explained it to him what the issue was. They did it through play," Maris said.
Rekers wrote that Kirk would cry out for attention, even throwing tantrums, but Kaytee Murphy was told to keep going.
Read the rest here.
Well, if it wasn't bad enough that religions were trying to "pray the gay away," here is one example (likely among multiple others) of parents fearing their child's homosexual behavior and attempting to remove it with therapy which sounds positively Skinnerian. The article mentions that the "negative reinforcement" on Kirk/Kraig became far more severe - spanking which gave rise to welts.
And once again, a failure to recognize the natural occurrence of such behavior and the subsequent desire to suppress or remove it causes what might have been an otherwise healthy young man to take his own life. I have to ask: if religion didn't specifically proscribe homosexuality, would this even be happening.
I'm reminded of the movie, Little Big Man, with Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman's character made this observation of one of the Cheyenne upon returning to them:
It was Little Horse; the boy who wouldn't go on the raid against the Pawnee. He had become a "heemanee" for which there ain't no English word. And he was a good one, too. The Human Beings thought a lot of him.
Apparently, no one ever told the Cheyenne, who, along with the Sioux, took down Custer and the Seventh Cavalry at Little Big Horn, that being a "heemanee" was an abomination, worthy of derision or death.
I wonder when the white man will get the message....
Looks like the bottom line is Rekers is nothing but a christian homophobe, probably with at least unacknowledged same sex attraction. He was so invested in his pseudoscientific behavior modification techniques and bigotry that he can't back out years later and say "I was wrong, I'm sorry". Plus he has a reinforcement loop going where his religion justifies his pseudoscience which provided generous income which solidifies his rightiousness which supports his religion.
Personally, I would like to see him have some public humiliation, such as being caught in bed with another "rent boy", before he dies. He deserves some of the same ostracisizing from his community that his victims got and that his activism evangelizes. If his practices wer not so heinous, he would deserve ridicule.
More on the Reparative Therapy story from CNN here.
"Reparative Therapy," eh? Does this remind anyone of kids being forced to write right-handed when they are naturally LEFT-HANDED? Do we want to start curing people of being green-eyed or brown-haired?
Neither Rekers nor Nicolosi in the above interview EVER want to meet me.
Of course they didn't believe you.
[sigh] And shall we mention that probably 99% of them were raised to believe all of the above, and none of them had the ability to question what they had been indoctrinated with?
Nah, I wasn't Catholic, but my parents were. They went through a much darker message than I ever received. For instance, my mother was told by her Sunday School nun, the priest , and her own mother that she was probably going to Hell because she broke a important rule at the age of seven: do not eat (in her case, had a cough drop) before Mass.
In my case, my parents brought my brothers and me to different Protestant denominations, looking for something that would both fit in to the Texas Christian discourse, but be morally sound. They did not want a church with creeps or gossips running it. They did not want to be told for whom to vote. I was raised to be Christian...but the denominational differences were lost on me.
There were a few wierd things about each denomination that I remember. At my Lutheran confirmation, I was expected to assert that I would fight the Devil in all its manifestations. Because the Devil was rarely talked about, I did not really believe in it. Little did I know, but my parents also doubted in the existence of the Devil.
While I was not given as many overt messages of my wretchedness as my parents, my Protestant background(s) did generally try to emotionalize the service. It was kind of like a roller coaster ride, but instead you start at the bottom. A service would begin with a welcoming, and then the first message was about sin and our depravity. Next, we were told about forgiveness and how to get it, and the music would make a change both in theme and mood to reflect change in the message from woe to yeah.
The problem is that it was easier to convince me that I was a wretch than I was forgiven because forgiveness did not seem to make me a good person or anything. I wanted to be good, and the message of my imperfections being as bad as they were, I wanted to be purified and perfected. All the prayers of confession had underlying moral statements in them:don't doubt, only trust god, feel bad about what you do whenever you are not doing your utmost godly stuff, etc...
Sorry for the long, rambling post, but no one's story is very simple and mine in really no exception.
"Shaping your child's sexual identity"---eww. That sounds so wrong. Parents have no place meddling with their kid's sexuality.
If it is an "adaptation"...what is wrong with that? Other than religion, there is nothing.
Notice also the implication that the parenting is inadequate...I don't know why more parents don't get defensive at an automatic accusation of such bullshit.