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Why We Should Question the Work of George Rekers (2012)

Why We Should Question the Work of George Rekers (2012)

©2012 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (2012, 27 February). Why we should question the work of George Rekers. TG Forum.


TG Forum Post



Last month I wrote in this forum about Sweden’s horrible practice of forcing sterilization upon candidates for sex reassignment. This month I’m happy to report the government, under pressure from individuals and organizations both inside and outside the country, has done away with that requirement. My thanks to those of you who contacted the Swedish government to register your outrage.


Why We Should Question the Work of George Rekers

By Dallas Denny


When news of Christine Jorgensen’s sex reassignment broke in late 1952, physicians and mental health professionals around the world—and the general public—realized that perhaps sex wasn’t immutable.

Responses in print to Jorgensen’s medical team’s report of her case were quick and in some cases nasty. Psychiatrist Mortimer Ostow likened sex reassignment to a wish to die and accused the medical team of complicity. George H. Weideman wrote “The difficulty of getting the patient into psychiatric treatment should not lead us to compliance with the patient’s demands, which are based on his sexual perversion.” The medical team’s work was called “collusion with delusion” and “collaboration with psychosis.”

The medical rationale for sex reassignment—which was brilliantly laid out by Harry Benjamin in 1966 in his The Transsexual Phenomenon, was just this: because transsexuals are in terrible anguish about their bodies and social identities, and because their wish to change sex is not treatable by other means, it makes sense, in certain cases, to gratify their wish by providing them with medical assistance in the form of hormones and surgery. This is what Ostow, Wiedeman, and others found so objectionable.

Attempts were certainly made to cure transsexuals of their desire to change their sex. The most prevalent was the talking cure—psychoanalysis—but any number of other methods were tried”behavior modification, institutionalization, incarceration, psychotropic drugs, and psychosurgery. None of these methods worked. It was transsexual in, transsexual out. There was no cure.

 … the psychoanalysts had to concede that neither psychoanalysis nor other forms of psychotherapy had yet relieved a single transsexual of his or her desire to live as the other sex.

—Meyerowitz, 2002, p. 119.

There were certainly claims of cures. Perhaps the most laughable was that of psychoanalysists Robert Bak and Walter Stewart, who in 1974 claimed to have cured a crossdresser of his “pathological feminine identification.” That crossdresser was Dr. Richard Raskind, who later had sex reassignment as Renée Richards.

Other area of concerted effort to “cure” transsexuals was behavior modification.

Applied behavior analysis is a discipline with high ethical standards, but where transsexuals were concerned, ethics went out the window. Attempts to cure transsexualism in adults and effect behavioral change in cross-gender behavior in children were, to put it mildly, barbaric.

In 1994 I presented a paper about this horrific behavioral research at the Association for Applied Behavior Analysis in Atlanta; the paper was published the same year in shortened form in Transgender Tapestry Journal. Here’s a call-out:

In 1963, A.J. Cooper published a paper about an incredibly aversive and even life-threatening behavioral treatment of a crossdresser. The subject was kept awake for one week with amphetamines and given drugs to make him violently nauseous on an hourly basis. He developed cardiac problems and had to be hospitalized for a month in a cardiac unit. The author suggests frequent EKGs for persons being given nausea-producing drugs. He did not suggest that his treatment may have been a bit extreme.

If you have a bit of imagination—a word, I know, I should not use at a meeting of behavior analysts—you can see this man, this crossdresser, wild-eyed and perspiring from the amphetamines, smelling of vomit, going into cardiac distress. It’s a scene straight out of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange—but let me remind you that the protagonist in the film brutalized and killed people. Cooper’s patient merely sometimes wore women’s clothing.

In 1969 Gelder and Marks reviewed behavioral studies with crossdressers and transsexual subjects; they concluded that while aversion therapy was somewhat effective with crossdressers who were motivated to stop their behavior, transsexuals, who had no motivation to change, were largely unaffected.

When it comes to young boys, things are a bit different. First, cross-gender behavior and apparent identification in most cases results in adult identification as a gay or bisexual man (see Brody, 1986). Richard Green discovered this to his surprise; he selected and followed into adulthood 44 extremely feminine boys he believed to be pre-transsexual. Only one subject contemplated sex reassignment.

Second, children are powerless against adults and can easily be deceived, manipulated, coerced, shamed, and lied to. For decades researchers like Kenneth Zucker and George Rekers have done reparative therapy on feminine boys, using a variety of behavioral techniques to stamp out feminine behavior.

These researchers couch their goals as “reinforcing masculine behavior” or “increasing the range of options” for male children, but it’s clear from even the mildest of reads between the lines the children are being bullied into submission, shamed and punished for acting in what the researchers believe to be a feminine manner, and given attaboys when showing even the smallest stereotypical masculine mannerism or verbalization.

One must wonder at the motivations of such researchers. Why do they engage in behavior so many others are certain will psychologically damage these boys? Why do their value systems allow them in apparent good conscience to attempt to change the very nature of these boys?

In Reker’s case, the answer became crystal clear in July, 2006, when he was discovered returning from a trip to Europe with a young male escort he had found at

“It’s a situation where he’s going against homosexuality when he is a homosexual,” the young man told the New Times, adding that Rekers—who repeatedly asked for a move he dubbed “The Long Stroke”—ought to divorce himself from his many anti-gay associations.

Rekers, who was a darling of right-wing Christianity, of course denied his homosexuality, claiming he left for Europe not realizing his companion was a prostitute.

I happened to catch an ambush of Rekers in a supermarket parking lot; his speech and mannerisms absolutely set off my gaydar.

Shades of Marcus Bachman!

Bachman, the wife of Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachman, is, like Rekers, a therapist who specializes in reparative therapy. And like Rekers, he absolutely looks and sounds like a gay man.

By the early 1990s the Central Intelligence Agency had realized being gay or transsexual was not in and of itself a security risk. However, being in denial or keeping a secret, whether about homosexuality, crossdressing, transsexualism, or having an affair, places pressures on an individual that can compromise him or her. It’s secrecy, and not gender identity or sexual orientation, that creates security risks, and the CIA is smart enough to know it.

It’s not difficult to imagine George Rekers’ lifelong struggles against his homosexual impulses— and it seems logical to surmise his inner demons led him both to his virulent anti-homosexuality and to a career browbeating of young cross-gender children.

It stands to reason those same internal pressures would have colored Rekers’ findings, casting doubt on the veracity of his supposed reparative cures.

In other words, Rekers is a fake”and I suspect his “science” is too.



Bak, Robert C., & Stewart, W.A. (1974). Fetishism, transvestism, and voyeurism: A psychoanalytic approach. In S. Arieti & E. Brady (Eds.), American Handbook of Psychiatry, (2nd ed.), Vol. 2, pp. 352-363. New York: Basic Books.

Benjamin, Harry. (1966). The transsexual phenomenon: A scientific report on transsexualism and sex conversion in the human male and female. New York: Julian Press.

Brody, Jane E. (1986, 12 December). Boyhood effeminancy and later homosexuality. The New York Times.

Denny, Dallas. (1994). Behavioral treatment in gender dysphoria: A review of the literature and a call for reform. Paper presented at the 20th Anniversary Conference of the Association for Behavior Analysis, Atlanta, GA, 26-27 May, 1994.

Denny, Dallas. Behavioral treatment in gender dysphoria: A review of the literature and a call for reform. (1994, Fall). TV-TS Tapestry, 1(69), 54-56.

George Rekers, anti-gay activist, caught with male escort “rentboy.” (2006, 5 July) Huffington Post.

Green, Richard. (1987). The “sissy boy” syndrome and the development of homosexuality. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Hamburger, C., Stürup, G.K., & Dahl-Iversen, E. (1953). Transvestism: Hormonal, psychiatric, and surgical treatment. Journal of the American Medical Association, 12(6), 391-396.

Heuer, R.J., Jr. (1993). Sexual behaviour and security risk: Background information for security personnel. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, Analysis Division, Office of Security, AD-663.

Meyerowitz, Joanne. (2002). How sex changed: A history of transsexuality in the United States. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Ostow, Mortimer. (1953). Transvestism. Letter to the editor. Journal of the American Medical Association, 152(16), 1553.

Wiedeman, George H. (1953). Letter to the editor. Journal of the American Medical Association, 152(12), 1167.