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June 10th, 2011
01:37 AM ET

Video: 'Sissy' therapy still has influence

Editor's note: CNN's Randi Kaye reports on how the research of Dr. George Rekers is still being cited to 'treat' some gay kids and teens.

Related: Researcher responds to man's suicide

Related: Reporters find tragic story amid embarrassing scandal

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

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Filed under: 360° Radar • 360º Follow • Gay & Lesbian Issues
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. Pat Ellson

    Good for you! Having been a nurse in both baby care, and on the "Sex change" ward of a major hospital, I have a firm belief that we are not all born "normal". Attempts to make us "normal" for emotional and religious reasons are simply wrong and these beliefs should not be forced on a child for being how he or she is. It is not a sin to be "Not Normal"! It is a fact of life, and our differences should be embraced, not negated. Thank you for having the courage to stand up and face this on your show Anderson Cooper, and kudos to the people brave enough to come forward with their experiences.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
  2. Steve

    I am disappointed that there is so much emphasis on equating feminine behavior to homosexuality in men. They are two different things. There are tons of naturally masculine homosexual men – they just go under the radar unnoticed.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:50 pm |
  3. Bucky

    Anytime you are telling someone that what they are is bad, evil or wrong of course you are going to be doing harm in a mentally capacity. There is no changing this and all you will do is ruin this young person's confidence. You would think by this time in our history we would have become more tolerant but guess not. Hell the Romans where more tolerant.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  4. J Donovan

    There are multitudes of people who have come out of homosexuality, according to the organizations who have helped them, and so it seems biased not to interview some of those people.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  5. Mohammad

    I watched just yesterday broadcast of the show and it seemed like there was a clear agenda behind proving that reparative therapy is bad all together. I am sure that just like any therapy, it has its own successes and failures. There are always exceptions to rule so just by focusing on exception does not mean rule does not exist or is completely invalid.

    You cannot expect an iron to be cold by putting it on a burning stove. If someone does not want to change and yet has to attend therapy to change, the result is certainly not going to be pretty, which is what I suppose happened.

    I am not trying to advocate anything here but just calling out some fundamental issues.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:37 pm |
  6. dave

    This is a stupid subject to chase. Some people have been gay since before Christ's time and they dealt with it. If we have a problem today it is becasue the parents did not teach their child how to deal with being different. There are winners and losers out there, not all winners. Success is a measure of effort and work. Anyone that cannot hack it has been dealt a blow by the nambypamby parents that do not know how to be parents. Just because a person can biologically reproduce that does not mean they can be parents. The first 12 to 13 years of a childs life is the programming years where they learn to deal with it by setting their gut level values in place. After that only significant emotional events, be they world, national, local, or personal events will change what the gut level events were to start with. Basically that is the way everyone operates. Now if people are bullies then their parents taught them or allowed them to be. We have laws that protect against that nonsince. If parents are not held responsible for their childrens actions then our programming years have been a failure and so are the parents. If you have a child that displays homosexual tendencies then deal with it. Don't let the child wander around in discovery by themselves. It will be a disaster. Guide them, tell them how to deal with society in a nongay way. It will get them through this period and teach them how to live in the real world. Once they are on their own they can then defend themselves and deal with situations by themselves as well. One of the biggest problems is how mom works with her children. If she promotes a gay life then child assumes it is acceptable everywhere and IT IS NOT by the general population. Don't cripple your children by going that direction. Show them what disgression is and when and where their feelings can be openly displayed. To do less is almost criminal or child abuse.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  7. todd

    Here's a thought, let boys and girls grow up the way they want to. I know, radical, huh?

    June 10, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
  8. Jack O'Fall

    I'd like my kids to be smarter, taller, and more attractive. Countless research shows they will be more successful if that can happen. Where do I send them for that sort of therapy?

    June 10, 2011 at 12:24 pm |
  9. esmith512

    This "therapy" simply sounds like child abuse in the name of "manhood". Their sense of "being a man", "butching up", "being masculine", or "not being a sissy" seems to have little to due with innate heterosexuality and more with forcing a person by abuse and deprivation of civil rights into some constrained, utilitarian, and very unhappy social role they regard as "manhood". Another interesting issue in the report is the complete non-mention of lesbianism. Joseph Nicolosi's arguments are interesting, but I wonder about the scientific basis of his assertions. From the context of this report, the "patients" appear to be showing behaviors consistent with severe emotional abuse, not any form of "reparative" function.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:19 pm |
  10. Michelle

    I've been following this story closely, and I have heard or read anyone questioning the motives of the mother. I feel she is equally to blame, ignorant or not.

    As well, I think this is case and point of how we as a society force gender roles on children. "Pink is for girls, blue is for boys." Maybe we should let men and women figure out what THEY like, not what we are told we are to like.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
  11. Ed

    I go with the kid. Listen to your inner self. Stay away from people that say they can change you especially preachers and religious groups and shrinks. They will screw you up faster than anything. You can't change your orientation and your personality to make you more masculine. I know been there done that and guess what after 60 years I am still gay with a lot of regrets of not listening to myself and enjoyed life. Accept who you are and seek friends that will do the same. If they can't then they weren't or aren't much of a friend. They are out there. Don't ever give up.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:16 pm |
  12. Mike

    The nature of spirituality is waking up ... the struggles Jesus faced in His day are not unlike those of today.
    If a person of "religion" argues that one’s sexual orientation is of greater importance that the person themselves … they are yet again crucifying the same savior.
    If Jesus thought sexual orientation was of some importance … He would have spoken about it 2000 years ago!
    Worldly people of today try to “fix” what they have yet to fully understand. Seek wisdom and truth … they will set you free.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  13. andrew marek

    it saddens me that in today's medical world, after all we know about the human psyche that we are still trying to change peoples minds to suit our own needs and ideas on how someone else should be.
    This doctor took it upon himself to play god for his own wants, not thinking about how it would effect a human being and a valuable life.
    Some therapists are on a power trip. They all should be held accountable for what they do.That means all treatments that they do.
    Why is it in our civilized society we cannot accept non violent people for who they are?
    They all have a gift to share.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:09 pm |
  14. Lisa

    Ah.. so this is based on the research of "George Rekers" – the man who famously hired "RentBoy".

    They way he re-words statements is appalling. Always based on the wishes of the child, eh? Right – so long as the child wishes to be heterosexual then they can "make it so".

    Simply appalling and should not be legal to do to kids under 21.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:08 pm |
  15. David

    Thank you for covering the tremendous damage that these "therapies" can inflict on young people. Unfortunately, oftentimes parents put their kids through them not because they're horrible people, but because they don't know any better. There's a great new resource for parents who have recently learned that they have a gay or lesbian child - it's a 35-minute film called LEAD WITH LOVE. It's available for free online (http://leadwithlovefilm.com). Unlike Nicolosi's work, this film's message is actually consistent with mainstream scientific information on sexual orientation, and offers parents support, comfort, and guidance on how to be a good parent to their child.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  16. AIR

    "masculine" and "feminine" are little thought cages into which you lock your young at birth. Then you promise to unlock the door when they get to adulthood, provided they promise never to leave the cage. Trying to make a gay person turn straight is just about as stupid and counterproductive as trying to make a "lefty" right-handed.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
  17. Frank

    I'd say being more masculine is good for both gay and straight.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  18. Sarah in Texas

    Of course it's harmful. We are supposed to tell children they are perfect just the way they are and to be themselves. That does not apply only to children we think are appropriately masculine or feminine. There is too much emphasis on children's gender in the first place. Children are children; they do not need to be sexualized and gender-funneled into some ridiculous pre-defined norm. When I was in my early teens I babysat for two children, including a boy who was three at the time. He liked to mimic his sister's play, wearing her tutus, playing with Barbies, and even putting on his mom's high heels when his older sister did. His father was always bothered by this. I just came across the kid's profile online – he is now a grown-up teen in high school with a long list of accomplishments, interests (including sports), tons of female friends and looks handsome and well-adjusted. So much for the "sissy boy" theory. Anyone who would torture a child that way is just projecting their own insecurities and shortcomings.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:05 pm |
  19. Brian P

    You can become more masculine, but it doesn't mean you can "therapy" the gay out of someone! It's not a choice. Believe me, I would have chosen anything else but to be gay. But here I am. 40 yrs old and guess what? Yep, still gay.

    June 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
  20. lance corporal

    teens are hurt by any "therapy" that tells them who they are is wrong, and that pain can fester later in life. why are some people so threatened by OTHERS se x uality??

    June 10, 2011 at 11:59 am |
  21. Dave

    Its easier to fix your religious beliefs than it is to fix homosexuality.

    June 10, 2011 at 11:57 am |
  22. Andrew

    I'd like to see them change the more than 500 species of mammals who partake in homosexuality. They have no basis in reality. The medical community should take their medical licenses away since they're doing psychological and psychiatric damage. Isn't that what happens when a doctor butchers surgeries consistently? These guys are destroying lives, and if you're not going to abide by medical fact and reality that reparative therapy ruins lives, then what do we do as a society? Remove their power to destroy lives.

    June 10, 2011 at 11:54 am |
  23. corey

    Religion vs freedoms have always been at odds, even freedom of religion. If its not their way, its no way.

    June 10, 2011 at 11:52 am |
  24. Leslie

    Please....why should 99% of the population be FORCED to accept abnormal behavior? When has it EVER been proven that being gay was normal by the way? Show us that data please. Why should we ACCEPT this behavior in the first place? If only 1% oh, excuse me 2% of the population is gay shouldn't it be considered an illness to be treated like everything else?

    June 10, 2011 at 11:51 am |
  25. Gillian Andersen

    What an incredibly terrible thing to do to a human being. George Reikers would never be allowed t do these experiments today. It is so sad that a wonderful, sensitive man lost his life over this. This stil makes me cry.

    June 10, 2011 at 11:50 am |
  26. Bill D.

    I am concerned that some children may be medicated as part of reparative therapy. What can you tell me about this pracrtice?

    June 10, 2011 at 11:43 am |
  27. EddyL

    This is the same psychobabble they used to use in forcing left-handed kids to be righties. Parents who subject their kids to this crap should be visited by child protective services.

    June 10, 2011 at 11:31 am |
  28. jc

    The "expert" quoted by Nicolosi as a pioneer in the reparative therapy field was caught in a
    male escort scandal last year. I am surprised that wasn't mentioned in the segment.

    June 10, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  29. Heinz M

    This 'Dr.' Rekers is a charlatan who has NO idea what he is screwing with and should be banned from any type of medical practice. I have seen enough gays committing suicide or attempt such to understand that this is no minor thing, and even less a 'choice' as many religious nuts will claim. It is my opinion, that it is an unchangeable hormonal imbalance towards the female, probably manifested while they were still in uterus. Rekers is a moron!

    June 10, 2011 at 11:26 am |
  30. Andrew

    Is this harmful? OF COURSE!

    June 10, 2011 at 11:19 am |
  31. Spencer McClymont

    How is CNN running this article- "asking the question if it is harmful to brainwash a child (or anyone, for that matter)?" Of course, it is wrong. Ask the American Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association, for starters. When is it ever OK to brain wash someone? The last time this was societally accepted was in Germany circa 1939. It makes me extremely sad. It makes me sad for the parents who don't love their children.

    June 10, 2011 at 11:18 am |
  32. svann

    Hey if you want to make your kids more macho just give them beer at meals. (sarcasm)

    June 10, 2011 at 11:10 am |
  33. Will

    As a gay american I am successful, have a wonderful family, my partner and I are community leaders, my partner is in medicine saving lives every day, my day is filled with solving community problems, so exactly what do you want us to become, hate filled like you, loathing my self image like you, circled by dispair like you...? No thanks

    June 10, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  34. John Sharp

    This is such an ignorant treatment. It is almost like using leaches in hospitals.
    The damage it does to these children is severe.

    June 10, 2011 at 11:07 am |
  35. Adam

    We are all going to be in God's presence. That's such a mind boggling truth. It has excitement, fear, shame, and triumph written all over it.

    This is how we should live our lives: Focused on living how God wants us to live. Because whether we believe in God or not, we will all stand before Him and answer for how we lived our lives.

    June 10, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  36. DDM

    Of course such 'therapy' is harmful – you can't change Mother Nature, so it's just an exercise in frustration & self-condemnation. Think of kids that are born with BOTH genitalia – pray it away? Of course not. The possibilities of nature happen & human demands won't change that. Praying to change may drive a homosexual to seek the priesthood, but he will still be a homosexual, as we have seen many times.

    June 10, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  37. jimsim

    Why does the media so adamantly promote this obviously abnormal behavior? Unlike other persecuted groups with whom homosexuals compare themselves, the broad and overwhelming perception of the abnormality of homosexuality is not based on a particular religion or race. It is worldwide. I'm not necessarily condemning homosexuals, just as I would not condemn anyone else with a behavior disorder. But I wouldn't celebrate if a loved one began demonstrating abnormal behavior either. If homosexuality wasn't a seriously abnormal behavior, homosexuals would not feel the need to surround themselves with supporters telling them that what they are doing is okay.

    June 10, 2011 at 10:51 am |
  38. JPB

    Wow, my gaydar pinged incessantly when looking and listening to the therapist. Talk about closeted.

    June 10, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  39. blake

    It all depends on whether or not individuals are born gay or become gay as a result of environment and lifestyle choices. The liberal media has yet to convince me that homosexuality is inborn.

    June 10, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  40. Serge Crespy

    Could a trauma suffered by a young child or, as an infant (male or female), an event sub-consciously rooted, later manifests itself as a person being of gay or lesbian character?..... We must retain an "open-mind" and understand the importance of an individual's initiall programming / conditioning stages ..... Eventually, all becoming sheer "HABIT"!

    June 10, 2011 at 10:48 am |
  41. Joan B

    What was done in the name of "saving" the child in the sissy-boy therapy is happening again, now, to another group of children, autistics, particularly asperger children. Parents want them to be more social but their brains are wired differently. These are the geeks and inventors among us. But some parents are not seeing this potential, only that their kid is awkward socially, perhaps is an embarassment, or they want "the best" for their child. Aa a result many of these children are now being subjected to "therapy" very similar to what the sissy-boys endured. It makes them see themselves as flawed. Depression is rampant amoung asperger children/young adults because of this. Anderson, speak out for these children.
    Joan

    June 10, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  42. pippin

    Can someone please tell me why all of these so called thearpists that work for this discusting organization that are trying to "man up these boys" all appear to be effeminate themselves? Could it be a deep rooted dislike of themselves that drives them to do this?

    June 10, 2011 at 10:41 am |
  43. JJ

    There will always be nincompoops who think they can shape human nature to their idea of "good." Remember Hitler? Remember as well the word used to refer to the person who graduates dead last in medical school. "Doctor."

    June 10, 2011 at 10:40 am |
  44. Meme

    I wouldn't really call this therapy to "change" them as just to unbreak them from the evil influence of a liberal society that has lost its way. I don't know much about the therapy but it can't be as bad as the void of morality that the homosexual community will supply someone with.

    June 10, 2011 at 10:36 am |
  45. SpursMike

    Sodomy is a choice and an abomination according to the Bible.

    June 10, 2011 at 10:25 am |
  46. Howard

    You can't "fix" gay anymore than you can fix stupid! What this so called Dr did is, in my opinon, comparable to the nazi's hideous medical experiments in the camps! It is no less than sadistic torture of normal human beings!

    June 10, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  47. Jeff

    Enough already! Could someone at the LOGO channel PLEASE hire Anderson Cooper away from CNN before he digs up another obscure gaycentric story from the lands of time. Seriously, is this some clause Cooper had written into his contract...... "I get to do X many gay hating stories per Neilson period"

    June 10, 2011 at 10:18 am |
  48. Samwise

    Wow, that was really powerful. Especially Ryan's portion. I'm so glad he's survived and now wants to advocate for children's rights. His story affected me almost as much as Kirk's. There is NO REASON for this to be going on. It's child abuse, plain and simple.

    June 10, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  49. Sarah

    This series has been an important and fascinating one. Although many of us know that such anti-gay "therapies" exist, we seldom hear about the devastating impact that such negativity produces in the lives of gay/questioning children, teenagers and adults. In watching the reports, I have wondered about the credentials of the so-called "doctors" involved. Can groups like the American Psychiatric Association (which Anderson stated has disavowed these kinds of programs) sanction members who treat homosexuality as a "disease?" Do any state medical boards take the same view as the APA, and are they willing to impose sanctions? Also, do the doctors profiled actually hold medical degrees and current licenses to practice?

    June 10, 2011 at 8:16 am |
  50. Henry Sutton

    i watched the sissy boy experiment i have to say something .. im bi sexual my parents were the best my family the greatest but when it came to religion and sexuality in my family i quote my father find your own path .. well i found my path at a young age kidergarden i remember seeing boys and girls not has sexual but has art the body is a beautiful thing later i began getting desires and it translated into my bi sexuality .. being gay is not learned being bi is not learned or caused by enviromental factors thats bull but i was always this way .. these sissy doctors who think they can cure alternitive people like me or these church groups who try to force it out by praying and emeaning people like me need to stop .. i belive if this continues someone or a group may lash oout and a fight may start and that makes me very sad that people are so small minded they just cannot accept some of us are born this way ..

    June 10, 2011 at 2:03 am |
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