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.