As noted earlier today, CNN and Box Turtle Bulletin today broke the story of a former child patient of George Rekers who was treated to prevent homosexuality. According to the family, the results were not as portrayed by Rekers and some of the details are so discrepant that I wonder if UCLA will conduct an investigation. Clearly, the situation was not as portrayed in the 1974 report.
Rekers went on from this graduate level research to make a name for himself in gender identity treatment. He became a mainstay at NARTH and a go to guy for those seeking to demonstrate validity of reparative therapy.
In their book, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality, Joe and Linda Nicolosi refer to Kirk as an illustration of Rekers success story. The following description is from Rekers 1974 paper on Kirk’s treatment:
When we first saw him, the extent of his feminine identification was so profound (his mannerisms, gestures, fantasies, flirtations, etc., as shown in his “swishing” around the home and clinic, fully dressed as a woman with long dress, wig, nail polish, high screechy voice, slovenly seductive eyes) that it suggested irreversible neurological and biochemical determinants. At the 26-month follow-up he looked and acted like any other boy. People who view the videotaped recordings of him before and after treatment talk of him as “two different boys”.
A Parent’s Guide refers to Rekers over 20 times. This case should cause a serious re-examination of the reparative theory and efforts to prevent homosexuality via manipulation of gender roles.
Jim Burroway at Box Turtle Bulletin has an extraordinary report on a young man treated by George Rekers in 1970. This is a must read and a significant contribution to understanding the roots of treatment for homosexuality. As most readers of this blog know, George Rekers, former NARTH board member, was caught with a male prostitute last year. His efforts to prevent homosexuality were unsuccessful on that personal level and according to Burroway had tragic consequences for a young man who launced Rekers career.
Here is just a snippet of the report. This section is relevant to the post I did last week on Chuck Colson’s promotion of Joseph Nicolosi’s book on preventing homsexuality.
UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute wasn’t just one of the world’s great research facilities, it was home to some of the top experts on gender identity. Dr. Robert Stoller, who established the Gender Identity Clinic at the Institute in 1963,is credited with coming up with the concept of “gender identity” as a distinct concept in which one’s self-perception of his or her gender can be different from one’s apparent anatomical sex.
Stoller was a leading expert on “transsexualism,” but he didn’t venture much into homosexuality in the 1960s, calling it “a large issue beyond my present understanding.” But by the 1970?s he was willing to tackle homosexuality as well, since he regarded homosexuality and transsexualism as two expressions of the same problem. Stoller believed that the most feminine boys — the most extremely feminine boys — would grow up to become transsexual. But those boys who somehow managed to pick up some stray bits of masculinity along the way had considerably more options available to them. With a touch more masculinity, a boy might avoid becoming transsexual and instead become merely homosexual. Add still more masculinity, and maybe he would be straight but a cross-dresser. More masculinity still, and he’d be “normal.” How much masculinity a boy picked up depended entirely on his mother.
This meant that feminine boys weren’t the only ones in psychology’s crosshairs. Mothers were targeted as well. This was nothing new. Psychology had long blamed mothers for all sorts of problems in their children, including schizophrenia, autism, asthma, and, of course, homosexuality and other forms of gender non-conformity. Stoller told a panel at a 1976 American Psychoanalytic Association meeting, “Most feminine boys result from a mother who, whether with benign or malignant intent, is too protective, and a father who either is brutal or absent (literally or psychologically).” That statement apportions some blame on the father, but Stoller let them off the hook because, after all, it was the mother who chose to have the father in the picture to begin with. “He was chosen by his wife to be a distant, passive, nonparticipating man.”
Stoller was just one of the many stars at UCLA. Dr. Ivar Lovaas, who established the ward that housed the clinic, was head of UCLA’s Neuropsychiatric Institute. He was already famous for his controversial behavioral treatment program for autistic children, some of which involved electric shock therapy. Some of his behavior modification techniques (minus the electric shock therapy) made their way into UCLA’s treatment program for suspected “prehomosexual” or “pretranssexual” children. Another UCLA researcher, Alexander Rosen, published several important articles describing his work with gender nonconforming children and adults. Three of his early papers were co-written with Stoller. Later, he would co-write at least fourteen more with Rekers. Peter Bentler was another noted researcher, and his contributions were in the field of “psychometrics” — in developing psychological tests and performing complex statistical analyses in order to interpret the results. He would write five papers with Rekers and Rosen, including three papers vigorously defending the Clinic’s experimental children’s program against its more vocal critics.
As noted last week, Chuck Colson promoted these same theories in his columns encouraging parents to get Nicolosi’s book on preventing homosexuality. Guess who wrote the only professional recommendation for Nicolosi’s book on Amazon.com? George Rekers is the correct answer. Rekers wrote:
“Every concerned parent will benefit from this practical parenting advice on how to help a child develop a secure gender identity that leads to a normal heterosexual orientation in adulthood. Joseph Nicolosi is an internationally recognized professional expert on therapies that promote normal heterosexual adjustment. He is known for his long-standing leadership in a key professional association that applies scientific findings to psychosexual adjustment. But his breadth of technical scientific knowledge is combined with years of extensive clinical experience helping everyday people. This combination has enabled the authors to explain psychological research findings to parents in a very practical way. Their book provides clear guidance on what parents can do to promote their child’s sexual adjustment.” (George A. Rekers, Ph.D., professor of neuropsychiatry and behavior science, University of South Carolina School of Medicine )
This recommendation should be read in the light of Burroway’s new report. According to Burroway, Anderson Cooper at CNN is also covering this story beginning tomorrow night. I will be following it as well, and providing additional material that highlights the roots of efforts to prevent homosexuality in children and the parent blaming that goes along with it.
I posted last week that Florida Attorney General and Republican candidate for Governor, Bill McCollum hired George Rekers as an expert in a gay adoption case over the advice of his staff. The state lost the case and the ban on gay adoption was set aside by Judge Cindy Lederman. Lederman took strong exception to Rekers’ work, saying that Rekers’ testimony “was far from a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence.” Despite the apparent harm the testimony did to the case, AG McCollum defended Rekers in a brief filed August 6, 2009 before a Florida state court of appeals seeking to overturn the lower court ruling. More specifically, McCollum defended Rekers’ religious writings and the evidence Rekers presented in defense of the ban on gays adopting children.
However, on one point McCollum contradicts his expert without acknowledging the contradiction. Rekers testified that one might exclude Native Americans from adopting if it could be shown that, as a group, they had higher rates of many distressing conditions. Here is Rekers’testimony:
Q. Well, Dr. Rekers, earlier you testified that Native-Americans have a higher rate of alcohol abuse than the general population does, right?
Q. It’s a very significantly elevated rate of alcohol abuse, I mean compared to the general population?
Q. So if Native-Americans have significantly higher rates of alcohol abuse, and if they also have significantly higher rates of psychiatric disorders, and if they also have higher rates of relationship instability, is that enough for you to say that all of a sudden they should be categorically excluded?
The Court: I think you can add violence to that, as well.
The Witness: Yeah, violence, yeah.
Q. And violence, as well.
A. Yeah, if it turned out that a majority of the individuals in the Native-American population, that a majority of them were high risk for one of these things happening, as a lifetime prevalence, there could be a parallel rationale for excluding them, as adoptive parents, because it would be not only them, they would tend to hang around each other. So the children would be around a lot of other Native-Americans, who are doing the same sorts of things, you know. So it would be a high risk, and, in fact, since you can’t perfectly predict human behavior, the best you can do and the best the State can do is to look at risk levels, and if a particular kind of household poses multiple high risks for condition that would be detrimental for children, then that would be a rationale for excluding that group.
Perhaps, with hindsight, Dr. Rekers would reconsider his testimony. However, there is no indication that it was ever amended or directly addressed by the state of Florida. However, here Rekers provides a rationale for excluding Native Americans along with homosexuals. The line of questioning seems as though it was designed to get Rekers to make some sort of distinction between sexual orientation and race. However, at least in this instance, he did not.
As I have looked into this, I have been puzzled about why Mr. McCollum would not dismiss his witness at that point or seek to distance himself from the testimony. I have also been puzzled about why Native American groups did not speak out when this was first repored in May. One representative of a Native American advocacy group, speaking on condition of anonymity said that such criticisms of Native Americans are made frequently and they do not take them seriously.
Perhaps one reason they do not take such arguments seriously is because such arguments would likely be dismissed in a real public debate or in a court proceeding. When arguing racial issues, courts take a more strict review of any governmental action to discriminate on the basis of race. Generally, on matters of race, if a government policy burdens an individual due to racial category, the government policy will not survive. AG McCollum argues in the 2009 appeal that the adoption case should be decided on a rational basis test. In this test, the government is generally given the benefit of the doubt in crafting laws when no fundamental rights or suspect classes are involved. McCollum argues and all agree that adoption is not a fundamental right and he also argues — and this is where the disagreement comes — that homosexuals are not a class worthy of the strict scrutiny test.
On page 8 of the appeal, McCollum discusses the matter of Native Americans and adoption.
McCollum here contradicts Rekers by saying that the category of Native American “would likely fail strict scrutiny.” This means the Florida legislature would have to have a much higher burden of proof as to why violation of the equal protection clause — e.g., excluding Native Americans — would serve a compelling state interest. What surprised me here, and perhaps it is because I am not a lawyer, is that the appeal narrative does not mention the testimony of Rekers in this section, even as Rekers is defended in the other sections of the appeal. Rekers clearly testified that the basis for exclusion in his opinion was the higher rates of distressing conditions. In the appeal, McCollum addresses the theory but does not address the fact that his own expert failed to make categorical distinctions.
The ways that some conservatives think about gays confuse me. On one hand, gays are considered a cohesive enough group with characteristics so common that they can be lumped together. When viewed this way, Rekers-style testimony is offered about the high rates of distressing problems and thus, how the entire group of people should be viewed negatively. However, on the other hand, some social conservatives do not consider homosexuals to be related enough to be a suspect class. Some go so far as to say there is no such thing as a homosexual, rather heterosexuals with homosexual behavior or problems.
McCollum then continues his argument that sexual orientation does not warrant a strict scrutiny standard.
McCollum here continues to argue that one distressing condition is not sufficient, or else only Asian males could adopt. However, McCollum wants the appeal court to know that the lower court did not demonstrate any other group like homosexuals, who have as many problems. Without acknowledging it, McCollum disagrees with his expert to further serve his case.
In this situation, I don’t think there is a fundamental right to adopt or be adopted so I am not sure how this case will turn out. However, a troubling thing here is the reasoning which invalidates individual rights due to membership in a particular group. It should make everyone a little nervous when individual gays are judged due to rates of distressing problems among larger groups of gays. Even on a practical level, such stereotyping can become the basis for predjudice and discrimination. Christians complain about this and we have freely chosen our beliefs. We don’t like it when such logic is used against us, and we should be very careful about where such thinking can lead.
Documents have been released demonstrating the process behind hiring George Rekers as an expert in the FL gay adoption case. His staff opposed hiring Rekers due to bias Rekers had demonstrated in prior cases and in his writings.
McCollum’s office was brought in by the Department of Children and Families to defend the state’s three-decade old ban on gay adoption after it was challenged by Martin Gill. Gill is a North Miami man who wanted to adopt two foster children that are living with him and his partner.
Records show that DCF did not want to hire Rekers as an expert witness in the lawsuit because he wanted to charge $300 an hour. DCF only agreed to his hiring after McCollum strongly recommended it.
The state considered over 30 other people who declined.
The e-mails released Thursday show that an attorney in McCollum’s own office warned against hiring Rekers, whose testimony had been deemed suspect in an earlier Arkansas lawsuit that challenged a ban on placing foster children in homes with gay parents.
Assistant Attorney General Valerie Martin wrote in a July 2007 e-mail that after talking to Arkansas officials and reviewing the background of the former University of South Carolina professor that she would “recommend NOT using him.”
E-mails also show that during a conference call Martin — who said the state considered more than 30 possible expert witnesses — was ordered to hire Rekers “against my strong cautions.”
This is an interesting revelation. I was one of those 30 people contacted by the FL AG’s office. I declined the request because I did not think the law was defensible or appropriate.
There are other aspects of this situation that are disturbing. For instance, Rekers testified that Native Americans could be excluded from adopting because of high rates of substance abuse, domestic violence, and suicide as compared to other groups. Subsequently, McCollum’s office defended Rekers’ status as an expert. Rekers offered a legal basis for discrimination and he was defended in a later appeal. In the appeal of the lower court’s findings (allowing the children to stay with their gay parent), McCollum says gays and lesbians have higher rates of problems on a variety of distressing conditions and this is one reason they should be excluded. He erroneously said no one from his side argued that distressing conditions alone would be a valid reason to exclude an entire class. However, Rekers did say Native Americans could be excluded on the same basis as McCollum argues that gays can be.
UPDATE: Rekers continues to deny the claims of JoVanni Roman and says he is resigning to fight those claims.
NARTH Responds to the
Recent Media Coverage of Dr. George Rekers
“I am immediately resigning my membership in NARTH to allow myself the time necessary to fight the false media reports that have been made against me. With the assistance of a defamation attorney, I will fight these false reports because I have not engaged in any homosexual behavior whatsoever. I am not gay and never have been.” –George A. Rekers, Ph.D.
NARTH has accepted Dr. Rekers’ resignation and would hope that the legal process will sufficiently clarify the questions that have arisen in this unfortunate situation. We express our sincere sympathy to all individuals, regardless of their perspective, who have been injured by these events. We also wish to reiterate our traditional position that these personal controversies do not change the scientific data, nor do they detract from the important work of NARTH. NARTH continues to support scientific research, and to value client autonomy, client self-determination and client diversity.
George Rekers resigned this morning from the board of NARTH, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, amid a gay escort scandal.
NARTH vice president of operations David Pruden tells TPMmuckraker that Rekers first offered his resignation last Thursday, and officially resigned today.
NARTH is a group that promotes the idea that homosexuality can, and should, be cured.
Pruden also denied a report in the Miami New Times that NARTH had been involved in helping Rekers respond to the media.
“NARTH has never had any role in advising Dr. Rekers except to suggest that if he is innocent he needs to get a good lawyer,” Pruden said in an email. “He has friends who are members of NARTH and they are free to talk with, advise, and needless to say, they are free to help him in any way they might select.”
“NARTH as an organization has taken no official role in this other than asking him to explain to us what has happened and in accepting his resignation,” he said.
Apparently, at least some of Rekers’ work is going with him. The link to his controversial work opposing gay adoption is gone from the NARTH website as of this morning. NARTH’s Dave Pruden told me that NARTH did not agree with Rekers that Native Americans could be excluded from adoption based on high levels of substance abuse and other issues. As I reported last week, Rekers told the Florida court in the Gill adoption case that — using the same logic as he did in testifying against gays — he believes the rationale could be used to exclude Native Americans. As of now, Rekers remains on the NARTH Advisory Board.
UPDATE: He is now missing from the NARTH Advisory Board page as well…(May 13)