Alex Blaze

Putting the "Therapy" in NARTH

Filed By Alex Blaze | May 17, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Marriage Equality, Media
Tags: California, Family Research Council, gender variant, George Rekers, homophobic behavior, LGBT, NARTH, studies, ucla

It looks like media outside of Bilerico and Zoe Brain's blog decided to take a little stroll down Memory Lane and revisit George Rekers's work at UCLA, where he told parents to spank their boys for being too femmy and to psychologically torture them as young as age 4 (which actually isn't that hard) in order to make real men out of them.

What we know now is from a passage in Phyllis Burke's Gender Shock. I'm sure that a plucky LGBT journalist working for an LA or a national publication could find out a bit more about how far Rekers's experiments at UCLA's Feminine Boy Project went. Were children hit by the researchers themselves? What were parents told and promised? How did they secure their government grant? And how many of children they experimented on ended up committing suicide?

Consider this from Rekers in 1977 on whether psychiatrists should help people accept their homosexuality or try to overcome it (remember, this is several years after the DSM removed its entry on homosexuality when it became apparent it was there for no reason other than to stigmatize gay people):

For example, it has been suggested that the only appropriate goal of the psychotherapist dealing with a homosexual individual is to help him adjust to his homosexual orientation and behavior. Some critics go so far as to suggest that a referral to a "Gay Counseling Center" is even more appropriate, with the goal of placing the individual in contact with others like himself. We find this line of argument to be totally unacceptable and irresponsible.[...]

The non-neutrality of "gay counseling" imposes further limitations on the individual's growth potential, and unnecessarily sanctions a debilitating pattern of personal adjustment.

Of course. And spanking boys for being to girly is completely neutral.

This isn't anything that we haven't seen before, of course. Queer people don't need to be told that there are plenty of people who will punish sexual and gender non-conformists with poverty, humiliation, violence, and death. In fact, just looking at today's headlines shows a few stories along similar lines.

In Malawi:

A man whose same-sex "marriage" has become a symbol of the struggle for gay rights in Africa has vowed to become a martyr rather than give in to homophobia, campaigners say. Tiwonge Chimbalanga and his partner Steven Monjeza are facing a possible 14 years in prison with hard labour after becoming the first gay couple in Malawi to declare their commitment in a public ceremony .

Peter Tatchell, the veteran British gay rights campaigner, has maintained contact with the pair at the maximum security Chichiri prison in Blantyre as they prepare to stand trial next week.

A local library exhibit on the Holocaust:

But the German man, born in 1914, faced great persecution at the hands of the Third Reich. In 1936, he was arrested for being a homosexual. He was sent to labor camp at Neusustrum, where he was forced to perform manual labor for 12 hours each day.

He later recalled that the Nazis believed hard work would transform Germany's 2.5 million homosexuals into heterosexuals -- one of the beliefs that compelled them to imprison gay men.

Pauly's story is one of four selected to personalize the "Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945" exhibition, which opened Monday at the Alachua County Library District.

"It's a unique look at an aspect of Nazi persecution that most aren't familiar with," said Sol Hirsch, executive director of the library district.

From Minsk this weekend:

Police wearing black berets and armed with batons moved in after the protesters advanced about 300 meters down the street. They tore away the flags and hauled off the marchers, some of whom had traveled from Russia for the event.

"The police reaction was completely disproportionate to the threat which they thought the protesters posed," Russian activist Nikolai Alekseev told Reuters.

"There were 20 people there, behaving peacefully, there were no scuffles and there was no basis for such a rough operation by the authorities."

Between 5 and 10 of the parade participants were arrested, a Reuters reporter present at the event observed.

It even affects Irish pop stars:

WESTLIFE star MARK FEEHILY has allegedly received a string of "death threats" since he went public with his sexuality - insisting he has been bombarded with "abuse for being gay".

The Irish singer stunned fans in 2005 when he opened up about his homosexuality, having kept his secret since he shot to fame with the band.

Feehily is glad he told the truth about his private life, but admits he has been targeted by homophobes since he 'came out'.

He tells Britain's Daily Star Sunday newspaper, "I'm the one who always gets the death threats and hate mail. It's generally abuse for being gay from a few psychos."

I just pulled those from the international news today. Tomorrow's news will have more, and there'll be more afterwards. There's plenty of that going on in American news as well. And don't forget that most instances of homophobia go unreported.

What's often interesting about homophobia is that it isn't rash or enraged. Lots of times its violence is calm and cloaked in the language of science, law, philosophy, or religion. George Rekers wasn't telling parents to beat up their kids if they acted in gender variant ways - he told them to give them chips that represented a single spanking. There were rules to keep emotions from getting involved in the process (even if the entire project was driven by an emotional reaction to homosexuality).

In that sense, it's therapeutic for society at large, especially people insecure in their own genders and bodies and sexualities, and especially people like George Rekers who devote their entire lives to researching ways to cure themselves, to see gender variant people get punished. There's absolutely no evidence that punishing people could ever change their sexuality - Lord knows people have tried that for centuries - yet folks keep on being motivated to go down that path.

Did Rekers feel relief when he saw those kids spanked? Did it make him feel hopeful when he saw children modify their behavior after being punished? Did it devastate him when these kids kept on growing up to be queer and often suicidal?

I'm guessing the last answer is "no." He kept on doing what he was doing - trying to punish people for being gay or gender variant. He must have known by the time he was testifying against gay adoption in Florida that changing someone's sexuality through punishment is impossible; he is, by all accounts, an intelligent man who should have easily put two and two together.

Of course, that would assume that the point of his - and NARTH's - "therapy" is to actually change people, to actually make them straight. But their persistence, after all these decades, in punishing gender variance and homosexuality, shows that it's about something quite different. It's about making these people feel good in their own skin.

Unfortunately, it isn't just a few troubled individuals who experience this pain in quiet; it's the force that drives the movement against us.

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Alex I have been thinking about Rekers and Obama. I am real close to concluding that Rekers is less of a threat to simple human dignity and justice than Obama. I'm not exactly there yet but lets look at the importance of both. One the one hand you have an openly prejudiced hate monger who appeals to a small group of religious freaks who think God hates in spite of everything Jesus said. One the other hand you have a highly educated Harvard lawyer of mixed race who has been elected to the highest office in the land and is very skilled at subterfuge. It is a dilemma. Obama has escalated the 2 wars we are mired in, stalled the movement towards basic human rights, increased deficit spending, bailed out the "haves" and oh yes, he has made it clear that hospitals should not bar visitation rights of significant others.

So, who is a bigger problem?

Mental health professionals are as prone to irrational thinking as anyone else. That's why scientific method requires replication of results. It's too easy for people to come up with results that reflect their prejudices and projections. I don't believe Rekers is evil, though he did great harm. He probably believes his own hype. He is not the first, nor will he be the last, to inflict great cruelty in the name of science. This is why a free scientific community and its opinion as a group is so important. One person can fool themselves, but they cannot usually fool the whole scientific community for long.

Jilian wrote:

That's why scientific method requires replication of results. It's too easy for people to come up with results that reflect their prejudices and projections. I don't believe Rekers is evil...

Jillian... he belongs to a cult that said this about the Scientific Method, in the context of Psychology:
We affirm that the scientific method is useful in carrying out the creation mandate of Genesis 1:28 to subdue and have dominion over creation when the investigators have Biblical presuppositions and when the Bible does not directly give us the answers we seek; that the use of the scientific method is entirely controlled by the presuppositions of the investigators and therefore the results are a pronouncement of faith rather than of scientific fact; and that the faith nature of the results of scientific investigation is evidenced by the investigators' proselytizing intent, that is, their attempt to transform man into their idea of what man should be. We deny that the scientific method can ever be applied in psychology without its being thoroughly determined by the presuppositions of the investigators.
That didn't stop Rekers et al from publishing papers and getting them accepted by peer review. This wasn't inadvertent, a mistake. This was deliberate distortion and propaganda.

They don't believe in a scientific method as we know it, nor an objective reality different from what is in the literal word of an inerrant Bible.

It's rare to see the face of true evil. I see it in George Rekers though.

I saw the story elsewhere yesterday about the young boy who's mother was told to turn away from him and avert her eyes every time he played with a "feminine toy" (dolls). He was set up on a blue and red chip system. Be masculine and get a blue chip he could turn in for treats. A red chip meant he got a spanking from his father. The group would do home visits to make sure it was happening.

The kid attempted suicide when he was either 14 or 18, I forget which.

18. He was 18 when he first attempted suicide.

You'll see more on the subject at

Including a link to interviews with the victim.

Some of Rekers work. That was in the 70s. He's been practicing as a Child Psychologist ever since then. We don't know how many other victims there are yet, and unless someone in MSM investigates, we won't know.

The thing is... I've found worse in other programs. The use of cattle prods on kids. They still do that to autistic kids, it's just not publicised.

This goes well beyond just another right-wing nutter getting caught with his pants down. This is up there with the Tuskegee experiment.

Wendell Cochran | May 18, 2010 12:30 PM

"I don't believe Rekers is evil, though he did great harm. He probably believes his own hype."

A german philosopher wrote that the "greatest sin is limiting the horizons of other people according to the limits of their own horizons." Rekers had a very limited appreciation for his own tortured existance and therefore had to inflict the same pain on others in order to belong. To say that he isn't evil is not unlike saying Hitler wasn't evil -- they both were motivated by unfullfilled egos due to their failures to achieve successes they inwardly felt were their due and had been denighed from birth. Creators of evil designs who perpetuate harm -- physical, psychologial, social, are evil. The question is: Is redemtion possible for a person like Rekers? I think that his being outed might be the opening of a new door to his coversion toward seeing a new horizon that is not nearly as bleak and threatening as he once supposed. Out of his beleak closet, I can only hope that he finds enlightenment.

I once heard a nugget of wisdom about the dark side of mental health practitioners: sometimes emotionally unstable people enter into the field of study to figure out how to fix their own problems. Being too afraid to face their fears or hang-ups directly, they instead work with people who share their psychological issues and live vicariously through the therapy of others. Most important of all is the fact that, as the healer, they are never, ever called on to heal themselves.

I would have usually laughed this off, but I've lived with someone who had this complex to a T. You can find some odd ducks in this world...


I came to that conclusion myself.

They hate themselves, you see. The sin within them. They're not conscienceless. They just prefer to whip and scourge their sins from others, taking an unholy joy in it. And to do so, they must live in a world of darkness, inhabited by evil spirits and demons, unfettered by rationality or fact.

A world where they can hire rentboys to massage their genitals and anal regions without being at all gay. Enjoying the delicious thrill of control, over themselves and others. Breaking up families, torturing children with scarcely hidden delight, and all in God's Holy Name.

Yes, it turns out George Reckers belongs to a cult that is wayyyy to the right in the Religious Reich. here's their psychologists creed:
We affirm that the subject matter of counseling is precisely the same as that of the Bible and, therefore, the Bible completely equips us with the theory and principles of counseling. We deny that the Bible is inadequate for the theory and practice of counseling....We affirm that creatures who have only a spiritual dimension exist, that some serve God faithfully (angels) and others are in active rebellion against God (demons), and that the latter may possess unregenerate persons and oppress or influence regenerate persons. We deny that the Christian counselor may neglect the reality of demons, and that personal problems, organic or non-organic, are never the result of the influence of or possession by demons.
SERIOUS nut-jobs here. Ones who torture kids with beatings and worse.

I've just scratched the surface, I'm an Australian blogger not an investigative journalist with the backing of a major news organisation. But this needs one, there's political connections too.

More over at my blog. Where - in another context - I've been made aware of a new acronym CSS. Conditional Skin Shock. Otherwise known as using cattle prods on children - literally - to enforce compliance. They were doing that at UCLA when Rekers was there, just not in his program. He just used tokens which led to physical beatings.