Alex Blaze

Keep focused on the child torturer, not the sex worker

Filed By Alex Blaze | May 06, 2010 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: George Rekers, insult, kids, outing, psychology, rent boy, sex worker, ucla

I was working on, and was mostly done with, a post on the Rekers outing, but then Father Tony went and posted on the same subject this morning so I'll be more brief and just add a few comments.

I don't find it surprising that already three people on this site as different as Tony, Waymon, and me all decided to post critically about the gay community's reaction to the Rekers revelation. It's been appalling. And maybe Rekers deserves appalling (more on that after the jump), but the sex worker who was with him doesn't.

The man's privacy has been severely violated. His profile, which included information describing his penis, has been plastered all over the web. His semi-nude photo is on LGBT news sites. Journalists and bloggers sought his real name and published where he went to school. Did anyone stop and ask if he was out to his friends and family? Did anyone consider that he may have had a day job that's at risk now that his night job has been revealed? Sex workers who try to get jobs apart from sex work can face an enormous amount of discrimination, and discrimination against gay and bisexual men isn't over either.

You'd think LGB people would understand why someone would want to keep his sexuality private, but here we are. Apparently there are some among us who are a bit thick. (Futilely, the Miami New Times blurred out his photo. At least they tried.)

He's also been insulted - referred to as a "ho" and a "whore" and a "homo-hooker" (even though he identifies as bisexual... sigh). I don't know how many people I've read who've infantilized him with expressions like "kid" and "barely legal." Rekers himself seems to think that he can just say that the sex worker was a stupid child involved in something he doesn't understand who needs to be "ministered" to (so the excuse is: "I'm not gay, I'm just an arrogant asshole!").

So what's up with all this? I get why people would be mad at Rekers and happy he's been outed, but the sex worker? Do we really have so little respect for people in that line of work that we don't even consider the fact that they're humans with lives?

As for Rekers himself, obviously his actions should be made public and he should discredited. And if he goes to court and testifies, this incident should be brought up.

It's not a question of "compassion," it's simply a question of how we understand the truth and how we want to present that truth. Going into full hysterics, running around like a chicken with its head cut off shrieking "Weeeeeeeeeee!" before falling into a gutter and passing out until the next professional homophobe gets caught with a dick in his mouth, let's say in five weeks, isn't a way to control the media cycle.

The way I see it, there are two core messages Rekers's outing can send:

  1. Look at the faggot! Hahahaha!
  2. Here's someone who devoted his life to being Christian and hating gay people, and look at how even he wasn't able to handle the pain of loneliness, and how we, as humans, Rekers, me, you, and everyone we know, need to be loved and be touched and to love and to touch.

When it comes to Rekers as a human being, though, even I have my limits. This George Rekers is more than just a pol who voted against same-sex marriage because he was afraid of being outed. He's actually a sick piece of work who developed methods of psychologically torturing children into acting straight (via Zoe):

After three years of research and writing, Burke's Gender Shock: Exploding the Myths of Male and Female was published in 1996. It quickly became the focal point of a gender storm. In the book, Burke traces the genesis of the GID designation and treatments back to the 1950s. In the 1970s, a psychologist at UCLA named George Rekers opened a clinic for children. He got hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund his studies, finding children (often through newspaper ads) and testing treatments on them.

All the precision of science was applied in developing these tests to measure such things as how far the hips swayed as the child walked across the room.

The tests--many still used today--strike Burke as Orwellian. In one, a child being tested is asked to draw the figure of a person. Girls who draw boys first, predominately, or in positions of power and strength, are suspect, as are boys who draw princesses or mommies. The Barlow Gender-Specific Motor Behavior test examines such things as how far from the back of a chair a seated child's buttocks are--farther is "masculine," closer is "feminine." All the precision of science was applied in developing these tests to measure such things as the angle between the wrist and the hand, how often a child touched his or her hands together in front of his or her body, and how far the hips swayed as the child walked across the room. Especially damning for boys was a lack of hand-eye coordination.

In keeping with the behaviorist theories of the time, Rekers devised treatments that treated gender-atypical children with an intricate system of rewards and punishments. "Becky," a seven-year-old girl brought to UCLA, was diagnosed with "female sexual identity disturbance." She liked basketball and climbing and she refused to wear dresses. She liked "rough and tumble play." In the clinic, Becky was watched through a one-way mirror as she played in a room equipped with two tables, one of dress-up clothes, the other of toys. Each table had boy-appropriate toys at one end (football helmet, army belt), girl-appropriate toys (lipstick, baby doll, Barbie) at the other. Becky wore monitoring equipment as she played, consisting of a wristwatch-like "counter" (similar to those worn to keep score at golf) and a "bug-in-the-ear" through which she could hear the voice of her therapist talking to her from behind the mirror.

As Becky played, she was interrupted from time to time and told to press the wrist counter if she had only played with girls' toys since the last time she heard the doctor's voice. Becky grew anxious to accumulate points to please her doctor. In this way, Becky was supposed to be trained to develop an aversion to masculine playthings. Other parts of Becky's therapy consisted of having a team of four therapists come into her bedroom at home to watch, take notes on a clipboard, and time her with a stopwatch as she played with her toys. After seven months, she was declared cured, now showing "a decrease in excessive aggression and an increase in general compliance."

Parents who brought their children to Rekers had to agree to participate in the "curing" of them. "Kraig," a four-year-old who participated in the UCLA Feminine Boy Project, was also monitored in the clinic's play-observation room. Only this time, it was his mother who wore the bug-in-the-ear, listening for her behavioral cues from the folks behind the wall. While playing, "Kraig would have seen her suddenly jerk upright, and look away from him toward the one-way window," Burke reports (based on transcripts of his case):

His mother was being prompted, through the earphones, by the doctor. She was told to completely ignore him, because he was engaged in feminine play. Kraig would have no understanding of what was happening to his mother. 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, but she just looked away. She must have seemed like a stranger to have changed her behavior toward him so suddenly and for no apparent reason . . . He was described as being in a panic, alternating between sobs and "aggressing at her," but again, when his distraught mother finally looked at him and began to respond, she stopped mid-sentence and abruptly turned away, as if he were not there. Kraig became so hysterical, and his mother so uncomfortable, that one of the clinicians had to enter and take Kraig, screaming, from the room.

Kraig's treatment continued in this vein. He was also put on the "token system" at home. Inappropriate, feminine behaviors earned him a red token, masculine ones, a blue token. Each red token earned him a spanking from his father. After more than two years of treatment, Kraig's behavior had turned around. He was now described by his mother as a "rough neck," and he no longer cared if his hair was neat or his clothes matched. But when he was eighteen, after years of being held up (under a pseudonym) by Rekers as "the poster boy for behavioral treatment of boyhood effeminacy," Kraig attempted suicide, because he thought that he might be gay.

Rekers didn't get caught trolling bathrooms for sex or chatting up men or outed by the prostitute he saw a couple hours at a time occasionally. He got caught in a 10-day vacation with another man. Unless it was 10 days of self-loathing in Europe, it's hard to square that away with his career.

This seems less like the profile of a closet case trying to punish himself than the profile of a sicko who likes to hurt others. It's appropriate that he'd lead the NARTH and the FRC.

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I'm with you on this one, Alex. It's sickening the way we treat each other. In the early 70s when I was a kid struggling to come to terms with my attraction to boys, my fear of admitting to myself and others that I was homosexual centered not so much around the fact that the attraction was wrong but around the fact that every homosexual I knew of or about was ugly and pathetic. Why would anyone want to come out into a community of people who savor the pain of others every chance they get? We sure are giving "Lucien" a crash course in gay manners.

Andrew Belonsky Andrew Belonsky | May 6, 2010 1:49 PM

I too agree. It's really disheartening to see this kid get trashed. How can we talk about "community" and then tear down a 20-year old who's clearly trying to make a buck. At least now, as happens, he'll be able to bring in some green with books and the other goodies that have become part and parcel of a scandal's aftermath. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

This reminds me of the fabulous book by Daphne Scholinski, now Dylan Scholinski, called "The Last Time I Wore A Dress." That's worth ordering and reading. It talks about these types of treatments and what a failure they are and a horror to the kids involved. The book is so well written, I couldn't put it down.

That test about kids and how they sit and walk, etc., I have no idea how that'd be conducted. I teach in elementary schools and kids aren't that masculine or feminine at that age. Not saying there aren't any differences, but they're not that precise and they're not like that.

Sarasnavel | May 6, 2010 9:53 PM

Something to remember is that this was at the height of the gender-as-a-purely-social-construct movement that birthed both NARTH and Second Wave feminism. The tests and the treatments were based on this premise, but so were a lot of careers and reputations. The researchers discovered that being able to repair gender variance was an easy sell. Many of their careers still based on it in some cases (see the current DSM-5 rewrite). And, the clinic originally treated "prehomosexuals" but then once the new DSM came out in '73-'74 switched to "pretranssexuals". The treatments were also contemporary with Masters and Johnsons's wholly discredited-as-in-faked gay conversion therapy. Lest it sound like I'm defending any of this (having lived through it myself), I'm not. There was a whole lot of evil going on and it was all done in the name of erasing gays, lesbians, anyone that crossed gender lines. Funny how many of the "scientists" moved over to NARTH (and even the Vatican) once homosexuality was delisted. They merely exchanged one authority backing them for another. The rest moved over to "treating" trans kids, like Zucker and Green and their crowd. They needed their fix of power and control. Question really is, "power over what or who?".

Regarding the independent contractor, he has done nothing wrong but has had to pay a price. I can only hope that some good can come of this for him. But who will go out to the various forums and comments and defend him?


One minor flaw:

"The man's privacy has been severely violated. His profile, which included information describing his penis, has been plastered all over the web. His semi-nude photo is on LGBT news sites."

You can't complain that his internet profile where he personally describes his private business is public knowledge. His privacy hasn't been violated in this respect since he knowingly put the information out there to begin with, including those pictures. We surely must be compassionate about his situation, assuming he was forced into this profession. (Or hey, maybe he chose to be a sex worker. All the power to him if he did.) Privacy doesn't include information you knowingly put out in public.

The only thing worth focusing on in this story is on Rekers himself and the hypocrisy he spews daily. It's not that the boy deserves more privacy than he's allotted himself, but his story is far less important to the community in this situation.

You see, I think that we should have a more complicated understanding of privacy than the law does. I'm not saying that it's illegal to post his pics (far from it), but that doesn't mean that we're not violating his privacy by taking them out of the context they were originally in.

It's like those people who hang out in front of sex shops or bathhouses and take pictures of the cars and post their license plate numbers and addresses and names online - not really illegal since they were driving out in public, but that doesn't make it any less deplorable. I had one of those online gay pen pal ads back in the days before web 2.0, and if someone printed that out and gave it to my parents that wouldn't be illegal either.

Another example is how newspapers often run mugshots, names, and addresses of men busted in sex stings, resulting in lost jobs and suicides. Even some gay blogs and papers, I notice now, will post that info, as if it's at all relevant. Sure, it's out there and it's public information, but does it need to be plastered everywhere? That's what I'm getting at with the sex worker's online profile - he put that information in a place where he assumed the people he didn't want to see it wouldn't see it. Gay people should understand what that's like.

It just seems to me that in 2010 you assume the risks of any actions you take publicly. It is naive as hell to think that anything you post on the internet is somehow private and will never be seen by the people you don't want to see it. Gay people should more conscious of that fact than anyone. If you put your picture and information on a dating site, you cannot be surprised when someone you know finds it. It's out there, and anyone can access it.

The same with people walking into sex shops. While it is tasteless to take pictures of people walking into a sex shop, you assume the risk by walking in there in the first place. It's the nature of the media age. Every public action has the risk of being public knowledge. You have to contemplate before you act. And is someone who commits a crime entitled to anonymity before the law? Mug shots are public record and the public has a right to do with them as they please. If you're worried about your privacy, don't commit a crime.

I question what you mean by "out of context." His profile, including pictures and descriptions of his business, was created and published specifically for the purpose of courting clients for the various sexual acts he listed. In the course of that transaction, he was caught with a public figure and his information became more widespread than he intended, but no more public. Again, the problem with people constantly covering the sex worker is that his identity is irrelevant. It could have been any sex worker. The boy is not the story. Get off of finding out his life story and focus on what matters: a closeted bigot was caught in the act of his own hypocrisy. The argument isn't about privacy but journalistic integrity. Blogs, newspapers, etc. need to stop attending the FOX News school of journalism and report what matters about these types of stories.

Rekers was a public figure and he put his thoughts on this issue out there, but the sex worker wasn't.

The purpose of advertising on that site is, as you said, to get clients. When people post it on an LGBT news site, that's not the context it was originally in, which protected people's identities since only people looking for something would be going there in the first place.

The mug shots in newspapers I find to be one of the horror stories of gay history, considering how many lives were destroyed with those. Sure, the papers have a legal right to publish them, but I'm talking about "should" here, not "are they legally allowed to."

But it seems like the solution you're spelling out, with all this surveillance nowadays that you're saying is justifiable, is for everyone to stay in their little boxes and never get out, never do anything they wouldn't want their families and employers to know about, never explore their identities or their desires, because it could all come crashing down on them.

Personally, I find that suffocating and an affront to our autonomy. That's the way the law is set up now, but it's not the society I want to live in.

The solution, in my view, isn't the law banning the publication of these pictures, but us telling people in the media that it's inappropriate and it shouldn't be happening and not getting exciting and asking for more. Because the problem isn't relevance, (since they aren't posting every sex worker's profile so they seem to think that this one was relevant), it's privacy. Anything can be deemed relevant if people want to know about it, so there has to be a balancing value preventing people's private lives from being splayed all over the papers.

I fundamentally disagree with your assertion that I'm advocating for people to stay within their "little boxes." I'm suggesting that the risks of exposure are very real and very obvious and should people engage in activities in the public sphere, they are subject to public scrutiny. The problem you have is those who seek to shame people for their actions. It goes back to societal values. If people are being shamed for walking into a gay bar, a sex shop, or whatever, then it is the duty of those who disagree to walk in with pride and change the discourse. It is our duty to show that the exploration of ones personal identity is natural and not to be shamed. It's unfortunate that without legislation like ENDA or the repeal of DADT that men and women have to risk their employment, or because of "family values" people risk losing their families, but that's why we fight these fights and have these debates.

Richard L | May 6, 2010 2:44 PM

I definitely agree that "Lucien" should not be the focus of our conversations, but let's also not paint him as a victim of privacy invasion. Yes, his picture and profile were plastered all over the internet... where he had already made it available. Obviously, keeping his sexuality private was never a major concern. He's giving interviews with the news crews and posing for more pictures. Most importantly, he's standing up and telling us the truth, which is far more than Dr. Rekers will do.
In regards to "Lucien's" profession, people are going to have widely varied opinions. He will be called names by some, but not by all. Before going into that line of work, I'm pretty sure he knew of the controversy around it.

Personally, I don't really care one way or the other about the rentboy or what he does for a living, but I will certainly listen to his account of the ten days spent with Dr. Rekers. I think he's the only chance we have for some actually honestly in the situation.

He's giving interviews with the news crews and posing for more pictures. Most importantly, he's standing up and telling us the truth, which is far more than Dr. Rekers will do.

Do you have a link? Last I checked no one had an interview with him. Maybe he'll come around, but I don't think he's talking just yet.

Ah, here we go:

I see the MNT is protecting his identity and blurring out his face, though. This guy doesn't want fame, at least not right now.

Sister Mary FP | May 6, 2010 4:36 PM

As far as I've heard, 'Lucien' has not said much of anything other than 'no comment.' Interesting take on /that/ view of respect of privacy: despite the extraordinary situation, he's sticking with the standards of the profession.

tinagrrl | May 6, 2010 3:03 PM

First, Lucien advertises of a "rentboy" site. If anything, this will bring him more business. It appears he is already using his newfound fame to ask Rekers to stop being a part of the anti-gay movement.

Next, Rekers, who has caused CHILDREN to commit suicide does not "deserve" any sort of consideration. He has done untold damage to an untold number of young (and older) people. This person deserves to be outed, shamed, unmasked.

If he were "merely" a politico who voted against pro-gay bills -- I might cut him some slack -- but, this monster spent his entire life attacking all LGBT people.

Save the sympathy for those who have not caused deaths, ruined lives, and whose work continues to harm LGBT people.

You've already said everything I could say about "Lucien" and the way he's been treated (and quite eloquently, at that), so I'm just going to make a quick observation about Reker's methods:

In one, a child being tested is asked to draw the figure of a person. Girls who draw boys first, predominately, or in positions of power and strength, are suspect, as are boys who draw princesses or mommies. ... Especially damning for boys was a lack of hand-eye coordination.

This is hilarious because when I was a kid, I always drew boys. I actually couldn't draw girls all that well because boys were the ones I liked to look at. And I had excellent hand-eye coordination; how else could I have drawn all those boys?!

It would have been unimaginably traumatizing to go through that "treatment," though. Especially at such a young age when you can't possibly understand why Mommy refuses to look at you. Did Kraig end up okay? Does anyone know?

Hold on there, folks - this kid is getting all kinds of praise for finally ratting out this Rekers nutjob. So is his friend Michael who talked him into it. He's not being trashed.

And may I remind the court, the young man was soliciting sex on the internet, with pix etc., and whatever else you may think of it, that's not an activity engaged in by the privacy-minded.

I say, if you want to complain, do it here - the Florida A.G.s office complaint webpage. They hired Rekers to slander us in court as state's expert witness. How do they like him now?

I complained about Rekers' solicitation of prostitution, and demanded that his now-fraudulent testimony be stricken from the record, and that the AG demand a return of the $87,000 the office paid this nutjob.

When it asks whom you are complaining about, here's our guy:
George A. Rekers
17890 W Dixie Hwy, Apt 417
North Miami Beach, FL 33160-4825

I completely agree, not only did they put his pics out, his name and what school he went to, Queerty posted a ton of pics of his With friends, didn't even bother to blur out out their faces.

This kid's personal life is ruined (on a national level) not only thanks to Rekers but also to the media.

Yes he's a rentboy but to plaster his face for everyone in the the US not to mention the world to see his private life wrong.

I'm thankful that he decided to speak up when he found out what kind of hipocritical work Rekers did for a living, which I find far lower than being a rentboy.

I agree with everything you said about "Lucien", Alex. I'm not sure why there is such glee at attacking him and his private life. It has gone so far as to have a post on devoted to over 30 private pictures of him and his friends from the beach, parties, just hanging out. The post includes a rant on how he's paid for sex, which makes him fair game. It's sickening.

I've posted about my personal struggle with dealing with Rekers. I know in my mind there is a fine line in how we should speak about and use his outing. I'm just too personally affected by him and his actions to even care about anything than dancing on his anti-gay career's grave.

Lucien is a different story. He's not a hero or anything like that, but he's a young person trying to put himself through school and survive in life in a way that too many of our youth have to do. We should be closing ranks and supporting him, not participating in the destruction of his life by plastering his name and face all over our websites. That will only cause him further issues when it comes to jobs, housing, school, and family.

Let's focus on Rekers, not Lucien. He's speaking up about now what happened to expose the hypocrisy of Rekers and end his anti-gay work. We should be happy about that and not attack him.

This is all well and good, but I dont think I'm gonna be too surprised when it's revealed that Lucien has hired an agent, a PR man, and an entertainment lawyer. He's a walking movie of the week, and if he's smart...

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | May 6, 2010 10:39 PM

I hear Ron Howard is already casting a movie about all of this. Rumor has it that former Idaho Senator Larry Craig will be cast as Rekers, and they're still searching the Minneapolis airport for an underemployed luggage carrier to minister to. A really uplifting story.

Thank you, I've said similar things on many sites. Cut the kid a break, he's a 20 year old student who probably didn't have the first clue who hired him until th media shit storm hit. It's quite true he should have been smarter and had better privacy settings on his facebook and myspace accounts, but some people have lost sight that he isn't the bad guy here, and he deserves better than to be used as a weapon against the Christianist whack job.

the_czarina the_czarina | May 8, 2010 3:15 AM

Great article, Alex!

Thank you, thank you, caseyvt, for reminding me of my civic duty!

A Floridian for all of 2 weeks :) transplanted from New York; an activist straight ally anxious to get seriously involved here in my new, beautiful, but egregiously backward state; filling out that official complaint to the Attorney General felt more empowering than the hundreds of links to blogs, and 'preaching' I do day after day in forums such as on Facebook; while I wait for the organizations I've joined to announce plans for their next actions!
Please, everyone, especially Florida residents: please follow caseyvt's link above.