At age 38 Kirk Murphy hung himself from the ceiling fan in his apartment. Though many people wondered why a successful young man would do such a thing, the family knew immediately…
After seeing shocking behavior changes in Kirk as a 5 year-old his mother, Kaytee was at a loss for what to do.
“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.”
During his time at UCLA Kirk’s name was changed to “Kraig” to conceal his identity while he underwent a series of tests.
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.
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.
Kirk’s father took a more aggressive approach to “changing” his son…
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.”…
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.
Although she may have had the best intentions Kaytee had to admit to the affects that this process was having on her son.
“It left Kirk just totally stricken with the belief that he was broken, that he was different from everybody else,” she recalled. “He even ate his lunch in the boy’s bathroom for three years of his high school career, if you want to call it that.”
Kirk’s mother said she believes the experimental therapy destroyed Kirk’s life.
“I blame them for the way his life turned out,” she said. “If one person causes another person’s death, I don’t care if it’s 20 or 50 years later, it’s the same as murder in my eyes.”
Dr. Rekers had this to say in his defense:
“Well, I think, scientifically that would be inaccurate to assume that it was the therapy, but I do grieve for the parents now that you’ve told me that news. I think that’s very sad,” he said.
Rekers pointed out that the therapy had been decades earlier.
“That’s a long time ago, and to hypothesize, you have a hypothesis that positive treatment back in the 1970s has something to do with something happening decades later. That would, that hypothesis would need a lot of scientific investigation to see if it’s valid. Two independent psychologists with me had evaluated him and said he was better adjusted after treatment, so it wasn’t my opinion.” he said…
“I only meant to help, do the best I could with the parents, and I’ve written articles you can look up, too, on the rationale for our treatment. And the rationale was positive; to help children, help the parents who come to us in their distress asking questions, ‘What can we do to help our child be better adjusted?’ ” Rekers said.
What would you do if you noticed your son or daughter picking up traits of the opposite sex at a young age? Would you consider seeking out this type of therapy??