Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The tragic results of bad science

I've been following the blog Box Turtle Bulletin for a few years now. I appreciate the thoroughness they use to debunk the bad science meant to keep gays in the closet. Jim Burroway, lead author on BTB, has just completed a doozy. About six months ago a woman commented about how her brother had been treated for excessive femininity and that she was devastated he committed suicide over 30 years later. She -- and Jim Burroway -- are sure the two are related.

Back in 1970 homosexuality was still considered a mental illness -- it wouldn't be officially declared otherwise until 3 years later. So it was within the mainstream thought that if it was possible to keep a boy from becoming gay a good mother would do what it took. Kirk liked to play with girl toys, so before the age of five he was taken for treatment. Many months later he was proclaimed "cured" but the treatment left big psychological scars. Kirk tried to commit suicide at age 17 and, amazingly, in a follow-up session that little tidbit was of no interest to the researchers.

The lead researcher was George Rekers who would use the results of this research to bolster his credentials as an ex-gay therapist and launch himself as a lead expert for anti-gay causes. Rekers was discredited a year ago when he was caught returning from a ten day vacation in the company of a rentboy.

Burroway found bad science every step of the way in Kirk's case. He also well documents (through Kirk's mother, brother, and sister) the harm that bad science had on Kirk and the family as a whole. At this point it is better to let Burroway tell the story. The whole thing is a long and interesting read. After all that Kirk was still gay.

Some of Rekers' colleagues realized their original assumptions were bad and distanced themselves from the claim that gays could be cured. But Rekers had a personal agenda that got in the way of his science.

Once the story broke interest in it became so high it crashed the BTB server.

Because my friend and debate partner asked, here is a link to how the Box Turtle Bulletin got its name.

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