5 Things You Need to Know: Gay Reversal Therapy

Published: June 8, 2011

Anti-gay therapy sounds like an absurd joke, but the family of Kirk Andrew Murphy isn’t laughing. A 12-year Air Force veteran with a hotshot finance job in India—and a survivor of 10 months of experimental “sissy boy” therapy as a 5-year-old—Kirk Andrew Murphy hung himself in 2003 at the age of 38.
 
Six years after Kirk Murphy’s suicide, a book co-written by the man who conducted that sissy-boy therapy, Handbook of Therapy for Unwanted Homosexual Attractions, cites the dead man’s case as a success.
 
Murphy’s mother told CNN that the experimental therapy destroyed her son’s life.
 
"I blame them for the way his life turned out," she said. "If one person causes another person’s death, I don’t care if it’s 20 or 50 years later, it’s the same as murder in my eyes."

In the 1970s, anti-gay therapy was a secular pursuit. The popular conception of a brimstone-baiting homophobe wielding theological ire to scare the gay out of God-fearing believers may have basis in reality, but it was not initially the story of George A. Rekers. A doctoral student at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1970, Rekers ran the sissy boy experiments on 5-year-old Kirk Murphy. The therapy, conducted on the UCLA campus, consisted of crude behavioral manipulation. In 1974, Rekers published a study that concluded Murphy’s 10-month ordeal had made him "indistinguishable from any other boy." Relying largely on his self-described success with Kirk Murphy, Rekers built a three-decade career as a gay buster. That career collapsed in 2010 when the anti-gay crusader popped up packing along a self-described “rent boy” on a 10-day European cruise.
 
In America, anti-gay therapy has become a branding strategy—albeit an often-failed one. Exodus International, Focus on Family, Renew Ministries, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), Love in Action and, naturally, Homosexuals Anonymous all claim to know the true path to gay reversal. High-level slips from the straight and narrow have plagued them all.

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