What Rekers Represents

I have not dwelled on the Rekers scandal, because the man is a human wreck. But the wreck is instructive. Sometimes I wonder how much of the most aggressively anti-gay campaigning is done by closeted and tortured gay men, who seek to extirpate from others something they could not banish from themselves. The list of the closeted gay-baiters is long. From Roy Cohn and J Edgar Hoover all the way to Larry Craig and George Rekers. I have no doubt that the primary anti-gay forces in the Vatican are gay themselves, and working out their tortured psyches by demonizing others more honest and principled than they are.

These are men terrified by their own inherent orientation, who equate it with emasculation, and end up, in some cases, raping children and in others, merely abusing them, to keep their own demons at bay. This is one exercize that Rekers imposed on a child who was acting effeminately:

In 1974, Rekers, a leading thinker in the so-called ex-gay movement, was presented with a 4-year-old "effeminate boy" named Kraig, whose parents had enrolled him in the program. Rekers put Kraig in a "play-observation room" with his mother, who was equipped with a listening device. When the boy played with girly toys, the doctors instructed her to avert her eyes from the child.

According to a 2001 account in Brain, Child Magazine, "On one such occasion, his distress was such that he began to scream, but his mother just looked away. His anxiety increased, and he did whatever he could to get her to respond to him... Kraig became so hysterical, and his mother so uncomfortable, that one of the clinicians had to enter and take Kraig, screaming, from the room."

Rekers's research team continued the experiment in the family's home. Kraig received red chips for feminine behavior and blue chips for masculine behavior.

The blue chips could be cashed in for candy or television time. The red chips earned him a "swat" or spanking from his father. Researchers periodically entered the family's home to ensure proper implementation of the reward-punishment system.

After two years, the boy supposedly manned up. Over the decades, Rekers, who ran countless similar experiments, held Kraig up as "the poster boy for behavioral treatment of boyhood effeminacy."

At age 18, shamed by his childhood diagnosis and treatment, Rekers's poster boy attempted suicide, according to Gender Shock, a book by journalist Phyllis Burke.

This kind of stuff kills people. And it's based on a lie. It's time we took a stand against tortured gay men abusing children to vent their own demons. In saying that, by the Wieseltier rule, I am dangerously propagating anti-gay tropes. But when the tropes are true in some cases, they are simply true.