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Sunday, September 30, 2012

SB1172 Will Help Instead of Harm Kids "Just Like Him" | Maris Ehlers Photography

I find it funny, in an ironic sort of way, that the universe doesn't typically give me a heads' up to tell me when the day before me is going to be extraordinary in one way or another.

Take today, for example. Sure, the sun was shining when we woke, but there were no signs that the day would soon sparkle with a light filled with progress, healing and hope. The universe did not give me a clue.

Today is the day that California Governor Jerry Brown signed SB1172 into law, and that is the light I am referring to. Today is the day California became the first state in the nation to ban the practice of reparative therapy on minors, which is basically religious quackery designed to try to change the sexual orientation of a child, i.e. make a gay child straight. Healthcare professionals have for decades warned the world of the dangers of this type of therapy, how it can have disastrous results, including suicide, and how it never works, but until now, the world wasn't listening.

So why would I care? Why would I be writing about it? Because our brother, Kirk, was the original "poster boy" for this type of therapy in the 1970's at UCLA via a government funded research program designed to make feminine little boys "straight", and it destroyed his soul. He was spied on, rejected, traumatized, beaten and humiliated simply because he wanted to be himself, because he didn't want to play sports or "rough", and because he wanted to play with my toys instead of his. If affected his entire life, how he perceived himself, what he believed about himself and others. Kirk committed suicide in 2003 at the age of 38.

During therapy (and after), Kirk was punished for doing things that were perceived as "feminine" and rewarded for doing things that were "manly". My parents were blamed, and they were also part of the problem. They were afraid and they were listening to doctors from one of the top medical schools in the country. They were lied to, traumatized, and ignorant. They were a product of their time, and lived in a world where having a child who "might" be gay was truly a horrible thing. They didn't listen to their gut, and they didn't protect their child. Homosexuality was illegal in every state of the nation, and they were afraid for their child, and these doctors preyed on that fear.

The hardest part in all of this is that the doctor who conducted the therapy, Reverend Dr. George Rekers, later admitted to having ulterior motives for the therapy, and they were religiously based. He used his work with Kirk to launch himself as one of the most fervent anti gay activists in the United States for over thirty years. He enjoyed professor emeritus status at more than one university, made hundreds of thousands of dollars as expert witnesses for various states in cases against gay rights, gay adoption, you name it. The damage this man has done is incredible. The worst part, however, is that he used his "work" with my brother as the foundation for everything he did and said about changing people from gay to straight since his work at UCLA, even after my brother identified to another doctor in the study as being gay, even after he said his conflict over the therapy, not being cured, and still being gay caused him to try to kill himself at the age of 17.  Even after Kirk died, George Rekers was still writing, speaking and saying gay people can be cured because he cured "Kraig", his patient in 1973.  Kraig, you see, was Kirk. Rekers was still preaching and profiting about his "success" with Kraig when he was caught with a male prostitute in May of 2010.

So today, the sun is shining a bit brighter, the day is remarkable, and the light of hope and progress is there.  I can see it!

I'm sure so many of you have wondered why we would have come forward and share such a painful story about our family in such a public way. It wasn't fun, it wasn't pleasant and it wasn't easy.  It was gut wrenching, life-changing and terrifying to feel so vulnerable and exposed, and to put ourselves and those we love out in public to be judged. However, once we knew what had actually happened to our brother in those therapy rooms so long ago at UCLA, what had actually been done to the core of his soul, it was worse than when we actually lost him to suicide in 2003.  It was far worse, because once we knew, we realized why, and that was almost more than we could bear. We knew his story had to be told, even at the expense of our own "comfortable" lives, in the hopes that people would wake up and realize that the soul crushing things that had been done to him are still being done to children today, and he deserved to have us acknowledge what he endured, what was done, and how it affected his entire life.

Our dream was that reparative therapy would be banned, but it seemed impossible. Today, however, that dream became a reality, even if only in California, and it means that youth that identify as #LGBT have a layer of protection, in a world where they often have very little.  Our goal must be that this law spread to every state in the union and beyond.

Thank you to governor Jerry Brown, for signing the law and making it official. Thank you to Senator Ted Lieu for authoring the bill, and for telling Kirk's story to the California senate. Thank you to young men like Ryan Kendall, who lived the same nightmare Kirk did, but lived to tell about it. Thank you to journalists like Brandon Thorp, Penn Bullock, Jim Burroway, Randy Kaye and Anderson Cooper for telling Kirk's story and making the world aware and helping make this topic mainstream (as well as the wonderful team behind the scenes at CNN). Thank you to the hundreds of thousands of you who wrote to the California governor asking / demanding that he sign this bill.

Today is truly a day in which I feel that Kirk's life not only lives on, but that his life has now been used for good, to help save the lives of kids "just like him", instead of being used to torture, hurt and harm kids "just like him".

If you are new to this story and would like to "catch up", please use the videos and links below.  You can also simply google "sissy boy experiment" and find hundreds of articles and posts on Kirk's story. 

Links can be found here: 

What Are Little Boys Made Of - Box Turtle Bulletin

Sissy Boy Experiment on AC 360 Part 1: 

Sissy Boy Experiment on AC 360 Part 2: 

Sissy Boy Experiment on AC 360 Part 3: 

Sissy Boy Experiment on AC 360 Part 4: 

My interview with Dan Barreiro on @KFAN is also available to listen to. 

P.S.  And just in case you are wondering, I will be voting NO regarding the shameful marriage amendment here in Minnesota.  To quote Jesse Ventura, "love is bigger than any government ought to be".

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1 comment:

Photo MOM said...

Maris, you are brave, strong, courageous and fearless woman! Your brother is looking upon you with nothing but pride I am sure! The sunshine was for you and all the others ahead and behind you in this fight! Congratulations! I am bawling right now as I read your story yet again! This hits close to home for me too! I have nothing but respect for you! Xoxo <3