The treatment, which was government funded, was led by Dr. George Alan Rekers, a leading figure in the ex-gay movement who last year was caught returning home after taking a rent boy on holiday.
In the AC360 special, titled The Sissy Boy Experiment and hosted by journalist Anderson Cooper, Rekers is accused of destroying lives with his misguided treatment.
In particular, the documentary looks at the experience of Kirk Murphy who committed suicide at the age of 38 after being damaged for life by Rekers’ therapy.
According to the programme, in 1970, the five-year-old Murphy was subjected to treatment by Rekers and his associate Dr Ivor Lovaas at the University of California to change his supposed effeminate behaviour.
Punished for feminine behaviour…
His mother, Kaytee Murphy, said that she was concerned because her son played with girl’s toys. “I was seeing effeminate mannerisms and it bothered me because I wanted Kirk to have a normal life,” she told CNN.
The therapy included being denied attention and affection while being ‘treated’ at university and even being spanked at home if he played with the wrong toys. He was rewarded for masculine behaviour and punished for feminine behaviour.
Lovaas and Rekers later published an academic paper about Murphy, claiming success in transforming the boy from, as CNN put it, “a gender-confused homosexual-in-waiting to a healthy, heterosexual young man”.
Rekers continued to use Murphy’s story as proof that homosexuality can be successfully prevented, despite Murphy actually being gay and committing suicide in 2003 by hanging himself in his apartment.
Rekers told CNN that it was “inaccurate to assume” that his experimental treatment led to the suicide.
Rekers is a co-founder of the anti-gay Family Research Council, testified as an expert witness in favour of gay adoption bans in both Arkansas and Florida and has published several anti-gay books.
Watch the first part of The Sissy Boy Experiment below.