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CNN: Therapy to change 'feminine' boy created a troubled man, family says


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Therapy to change 'feminine' boy created a troubled man, family says

Los Angeles (CNN) -- Kirk Andrew Murphy seemed to have everything to live for.

He put himself through school. He had a successful 8-year career in the Air Force. After the service, he landed a high profile position with an American finance company in India.

But in 2003 at age 38, Kirk Murphy took his own life.

A co-worker found him hanging from the fan of his apartment in New Delhi. His family has struggled for years to understand what happened.

"I used to spend so much time thinking, why would he kill himself at the age of 38? It doesn't make any sense to me," said Kirk's sister, Maris Murphy. "What I now think is I don't know how he made it that long."

After Kirk's death, Maris started a search that would uncover a dark family secret. That secret revealed itself during a phone conversation with her older brother Mark, who mentioned his distrust of any kind of therapy.

"Don't you remember all that crap we went through at UCLA?" he asked her. Maris was too young to remember the details, but Mark remembered it vividly as a low point in their lives.

IReport: Did you participate in similar research?

Wanting a 'normal life'

Kirk Murphy was a bright 5-year-old boy, growing up near Los Angeles in the 1970s. He was the middle child, with big brother Mark, 8, and little sister Maris, just a baby at 9 months. Their mother, Kaytee Murphy, remembers Kirk's kind nature, "He was just very intelligent, and a sweet, sweet, child." But she was also worried.

"Well, I was becoming a little concerned, I guess, when he was playing with dolls and stuff," she said. "Playing with the girls' toys, and probably picking up little effeminate, well, like stroking the hair, the long hair and stuff. It just bothered me that maybe he was picking up maybe too many feminine traits." She said it bothered her because she wanted Kirk to grow up and have "a normal life."

Then Kaytee Murphy saw a psychologist on local television.

"He was naming all of these things; 'If your son is doing five of these 10 things, does he prefer to play with girls' toys instead of boys' toys?' Just things like this," she said.

The doctor was on TV that day, recruiting boys for a government-funded program at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"Well, him being the expert, I thought, maybe I should take Kirk in," said Kaytee Murphy. "In other words, nip it in the bud, before it got started any further."

Kirk becomes 'Kraig'

Kaytee Murphy took Kirk to UCLA, where he was treated largely by George A. Rekers, a doctoral student at the time.

In Rekers' study documenting his experimental therapy (PDF), he writes about a boy he calls "Kraig." Another UCLA gender researcher confirmed that "Kraig" was a pseudonym for Kirk.

The study, later published in an academic journal, concludes that after therapy, "Kraig's" feminine behavior was gone and he became "indistinguishable from any other boy."

"Kraig, I think, certainly was Rekers' poster boy for what Rekers was espousing for young children," said Jim Burroway, a writer and researcher who has studied Rekers' work.

"We have been wondering where is Kraig? A lot of us have talked about it. Where is he today? Is he married or is he gay? Or specifically does he even know that Rekers has been writing about him?" said Burroway. "I found 17 different articles, books, chapters, that he has written in which he talked about Kraig."

Rekers' work with Kirk Murphy helped him build a three-decade career as a leading national expert in trying to prevent children from becoming gay, a career as an anti-gay champion that would later be tainted by his involvement in an embarrassing scandal.

The experiments

The therapy at UCLA involved a special room with two tables where "Kraig's" behavior was monitored, according to the study.

"There was a one-way mirror or one-way window -- and some days they would let him choose which table he would go to," said Maris, who has read about the experiments.

At one table Kirk could choose between what were considered masculine toys like plastic guns and handcuffs, and what were meant to be feminine toys like dolls and a play crib. At the other table, Kirk could choose between boys' clothing and a toy electric razor or items like dress-up jewelry and a wig.

See details about the experimental therapy

According to the case study, Kaytee Murphy was told to ignore her son when he played with feminine toys and compliment him when he played with masculine toys.

"They pretty much told him he wasn't right the way that he was, but they never really explained it to him what the issue was. They did it through play," Maris said.

Rekers wrote that Kirk would cry out for attention, even throwing tantrums, but Kaytee Murphy was told to keep going.

Harsh beatings

At home, the punishment for feminine behavior would become more severe. The therapists instructed Kirk's parents to use poker chips as a system of rewards and punishments.

According to Rekers' case study, blue chips were given for masculine behavior and would bring rewards, such as candy. But the red chips, given for effeminate behavior, resulted in "physical punishment by spanking from the father."

Mark said he was told to participate in the chip reward-and-punishment system as a way to make Kirk feel like the system was OK.

The family said the spankings were severe. Maris remembers "lots of belt incidents." She escaped the screaming by going to her bed to "lay in the room with my pillow on my head." Later, she would go to Kirk's bedroom and "lay down and hug him and we would just lay there, and the thing that I remember is that he never even showed anger. He was just numb."

During one particularly harsh punishment, their mother recalls, her husband "spanked" Kirk "so hard that he had welts up and down his back and on his buttocks."

She remembers her son Mark saying, "Cry harder, and he won't hit so hard." She says, "Today, it would be abuse."

Sometimes Mark would try to protect his brother, to make his beatings less severe.

"I took some of the red chips and I put them on my side," said Mark, as tears came to his eyes. But he said the beatings were still frequent.

The number of stacked red chips became a telltale sign about the level of tension in the house. When he returned home each day, Mark often looked for the chips in their easily visible location between the living room and the kitchen.

"You looked and were like, 'What's the chip count today? What happened? What changed? How bad is it going to be?' And it was always bad. There was whipping every Friday night. There was no way out of it."

Kirk's formal clinical treatment lasted 10 months, but the family said some of the treatment techniques and practices lasted longer at home.

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"Rekers' work with Kirk Murphy helped him build a three-decade career as a leading national expert in trying to prevent children from becoming gay, a career as an anti-gay champion that would later be tainted by his involvement in an embarrassing scandal."

George Rekers was one of the founders of the Family Research Council and the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, and was THE leading medical voice in the "gays can be converted into straights" movement.

If he hadn't been caught with a male prostitute last year and gone into hiding, you would be seeing George Rekers on Fox News today telling us his expert medical opinion about how homosexuality is nothing but a values choice, how letting gays be involved in Boy Scouts would turn innocent straight kids into homos, how gays shouldn't be permitted to adopt children, and so forth.

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What a sad story. So much wrong here. Instead of being the poster child for preventing homosexuality, he has become essentially another victim of the bigoted crusade against homosexuality. How many more people have to kill themselves after this kind of "therapy" before the fringe whackos finally accept that sexual orientation is not a choice. It was never a choice for me to be attracted to women, I have always been naturally attracted to women. I have gay friends, and they say for them the attraction to the same sex was always there for them. This crap of trying to "fix" what doesn't need to be fixed leads down this dark road.

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The ghey isn't any more "curable" than the straight. And I'm glad that our ignorance of that fact, as a society, is decreasing.

FOXNEWS! FOXNEWS! FOXNEWZZZZZZ!!!!!!!!!!!!!1!!!11!!eleven

Sorry. :)

I'm sorry if I mentioned Fox News, but that was where I first saw Dr. Rekers put forth as the No. 1 expert on homosexual issues. On Hannity, I believe.

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So, did the treatment make him straight? Didn't really see a conclusion on that front.

Also, I'm glad that Mr. Rekers was forced out of the closet, so please embrace him and don't use his rather uncomfortable "coming out" as a sword against him. He is, after all, just another victim of our homo-phobic culture. He and male escort boy have every right to date, and eventually marry.

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I'm sorry if I mentioned Fox News, but that was where I first saw Dr. Rekers put forth as the No. 1 expert on homosexual issues. On Hannity, I believe.

It's cool, and if you saw that (no reason to doubt you) that's absolutely asinine.

I just thought, and still think, that this thread was one of those Captain Obvious kind of things where we'd all agree for the most part. I'm just sick of the partisan crap everywhere all the time. And that's not what you did, but that's usually what the "FauxNoozers" are doing.

Anyway...I don't see anyone how anyone could think you could send someone to Hetero School, and give them the "proper" human sexuality, but NOT think they could go to Gay School and do the reverse. It's just so moronic at its core that it frustrates me to even talk to people like that.

To say nothing for the fact that you can have two kids raised in the same house, the same way, and one ends up gay, and one straight. If the nurturing is the same? What's left? Oh yeah.

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It's cool, and if you saw that (no reason to doubt you) that's absolutely asinine.

I just thought, and still think, that this thread was one of those Captain Obvious kind of things where we'd all agree for the most part. I'm just sick of the partisan crap everywhere all the time. And that's not what you did, but that's usually what the "FauxNoozers" are doing.

Anyway...I don't see anyone how anyone could think you could send someone to Hetero School, and give them the "proper" human sexuality, but NOT think they could go to Gay School and do the reverse. It's just so moronic at its core that it frustrates me to even talk to people like that.

To say nothing for the fact that you can have two kids raised in the same house, the same way, and one ends up gay, and one straight. If the nurturing is the same? What's left? Oh yeah.

Rekers was always the most famous "scientific" advocate for the contrary argument. He testified before Congress and State Legislatures many times. He was brought in as an expert witness in numerous high profile lawsuits about gay adoption, gay marriage, and so on (for which he was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the taxpayers of Arkansas, Florida and other states. Like I said before, he was one of the 2 founders (with James Dobson) of the Family Research Council, which may be the single most powerful social conservative group in the United States.

He was a big figure in this area. The anti-gay arguments have not changed, they have just stopped calling on George Rekers to deliver them.

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Hmm a 38 yr old took the cowards way out instead of embracing an unnatural lifestyle so liberals bashes those who do not agree with the deviant lifestyle. Nothing new.

And it going to take generations of more of propaganda directed at more elementary and middle school kids for them to foolishly believe that being gay is normal.

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Is it really that unusual for a five year old boy to play with dolls? It doesn't seem as if gender rolls would have developed yet along with the ability to distinguish the difference between "girls toys" and "boys toys".

That study is pretty disgusting and unethical. Why would any parent subject their child to a sudy where they received beatings for playing with the wrong type of toy.

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And NavyDave once again proves what an ignorant fellow he is.

Ignorant, Liberal definition: Not agreeing with leftwing thinking when it comes to social issues.

Defining Deviancy Down: Thanks to the Left, Mission Almost accomplished.

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Hmm a 38 yr old took the cowards way out instead of embracing an unnatural lifestyle so liberals bashes those who do not agree with the deviant lifestyle. Nothing new.

And it going to take generations of more of propaganda directed at more elementary and middle school kids for them to foolishly believe that being gay is normal.

What is your purpose here, other than to troll?

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Is it really that unusual for a five year old boy to play with dolls? It doesn't seem as if gender rolls would have developed yet along with the ability to distinguish the difference between "girls toys" and "boys toys".

That study is pretty disgusting and unethical. Why would any parent subject their child to a sudy where they received beatings for playing with the wrong type of toy.

Quit using logic and reason

Is there a definitive link to the therapy or beatings? (other than speculation by his siblings)

---------- Post added June-8th-2011 at 06:44 PM ----------

Sad story. Sexuality should not be even an issue to parents of kids who are five years old.

Agreed,both in this case and the one where parents decide to raise a male as a female...or genderless

http://www.wral.com/golo/blogpost/9636107/

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Hmm a 38 yr old took the cowards way out instead of embracing an unnatural lifestyle so liberals bashes those who do not agree with the deviant lifestyle. Nothing new.

And it going to take generations of more of propaganda directed at more elementary and middle school kids for them to foolishly believe that being gay is normal.

To quote Ricky Gervais: "Its a strange sort of bigotry that you can effect other peoples lives whom have no effect on yours".

No NavyDave, your extreme right wing bull**** is frankly disgusting, your dehumanization of homosexuals is the reason why right-wing ideology is looked upon with such disdain. Are those individuals not breathing, thinking Humans? So they should teach children at school to exile homosexuals from any type of well-being? It is not their homosexuality that makes their lives abnormal, its the animistic, draconian bigotry that individuals like yourself promote.

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To quote Ricky Gervais: "Its a strange sort of bigotry that you can effect other peoples lives whom have no effect on yours".

No NavyDave, your extreme right wing bull**** is frankly disgusting, your dehumanization of homosexuals is the reason why right-wing ideology is looked upon with such disdain. Are those individuals not breathing, thinking Humans? So they should teach children at school to exile homosexuals from any type of well-being? It is not their homosexuality that makes their lives abnormal, its the animistic, draconian bigotry that individuals like yourself promote.

Couldn't have said it any better. The lack of empathy I see in some people for their fellow human beings simply because the human being in question happens to be homosexual, which their ideology tells them is wrong (meaning you get to treat them as if they are sub-human), can get downright disgusting.

This is a really sad story and I definitely feel for the family...but mostly the siblings. The parents are partially to blame here. They were the ones who not only decided that there must be something "wrong" with their son and he had to be made "normal" but they went ahead with a therapist's direction to essentially treat their own son like an animal, complete with beatings for doing the "wrong" thing; as if a 5 year old understands why that is happening to them. All they end up understanding is the pain and suffering and that they need to avoid it at all costs.

It is no wonder that the guy likely grew up with deep-seated issues that he probably never fully understood. And that was likely part of the culmination that led to him taking his own life. Really sad.

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Hmm a 38 yr old took the cowards way out instead of embracing an unnatural lifestyle so liberals bashes those who do not agree with the deviant lifestyle. Nothing new.

And it going to take generations of more of propaganda directed at more elementary and middle school kids for them to foolishly believe that being gay is normal.

Gee, I'm a lesbian and always have been. Due to attitudes like yours, I was raised to think girls/women like me were dirty, nasty, lower than dirt. So I tried the great heterosexual experiment, had numerous boyfriends that I didn't love, got pregnant twice when birth control failed, had 1 abortion and 1 child was born. I came to my senses right after my daughter was born and I've never been with a man since. I'm almost 60 years old. My first memory of attraction to anyone was a woman walking down the street when I was 4. I had crushes on girls all through school.

So shut up NavyDave, you don't know what you are talking about. Or maybe you can tell us all exactly when you decided you'd be heterosexual, hmmm?

The boy in the story grew up gay. He had a miserable life because of the severe punishment he endured as a child, he grew up emotionless. They took a perfectly nice kid and ruined him for life. And he couldn't take the pain any longer. Why don't you look up the story on CNN and watch it for yourself instead of spewing your hatred on here. We might start to think that thou dost protest too much.

---------- Post added June-8th-2011 at 08:33 PM ----------

I apologize to everyone here (except NavyDave to whom my post was directed). But this continued crap really makes me angry. I spent 26 years of my life trying to be something I was not, and then trying to build up my self-esteem from being inculcated with the message that I was by nature dirty, nasty, and lower than dirt. I can identify with this boy/man even though he was younger than I. I also feel sorry for his siblings who had to witness the abuse of their brother. A ruined family for sure.

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I don't think you need to apologize to any of us. You gave an honest reaction to an issue you feel deeply about and understand better than most of us or at least understand differently from many of us who have never walked in those shoes. It's good for us to hear your uncensored POV.

I can't remember when I had my first crush, but like you it certainly wasn't taught. It was a chemical, biological response.

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Yeah, LadySkinsFan, no need to apologize.

I think there has been a lot of progress made in the fight for gay equality, especially in my lifetime. Homosexuals are not "gross" untouchables that deserve to be outcasts. They're people. They come from all walks of life, all races, and all political persuasions. The ones I've met are good people. They deserve to have the same kind of opportunities straights have in this nation.

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