The history of medical experimentation in America is not a pretty one. From the Tuskegee syphilis experiments to J. Marion Sims' experiments upon slaves to the U.S. Government's experiments with drugs and radiation and bioweapons, America has seen many grotesque abuses of the oblivious and the helpless.
Still, experiments occasionally have the capacity to shock us — particularly when they are related to, and conducted in support of, medical practices that still exist today.
Case in point — the experiments of Dr. George Rekers. You might remember that Rekers, formerly a prominent member of the "being gay is evil, and we can cure you" movement — was caught, as dramatic and narrative convention now requires, hiring a rent-boy to go on a European vacation with him.
If you're wondering whether to view Rekers as sad and tortured, or overtly malign, consider the experiments he conducted in pursuit of his belief that being gay can be "cured":
In 1974, Rekers, a leading thinker in the so-called ex-gay movement, was presented with a 4-year-old "effeminate boy" named Kraig, whose parents had enrolled him in the program. Rekers put Kraig in a "play-observation room" with his mother, who was equipped with a listening device. When the boy played with girly toys, the doctors instructed her to avert her eyes from the child.
According to a 2001 account in Brain, Child Magazine, "On one such occasion, his distress was such that he began to scream, but his mother just looked away. His anxiety increased, and he did whatever he could to get her to respond to him… Kraig became so hysterical, and his mother so uncomfortable, that one of the clinicians had to enter and take Kraig, screaming, from the room."
Rekers's research team continued the experiment in the family's home. Kraig received red chips for feminine behavior and blue chips for masculine behavior. The blue chips could be cashed in for candy or television time. The red chips earned him a "swat" or spanking from his father. Researchers periodically entered the family's home to ensure proper implementation of the reward-punishment system.
After two years, the boy supposedly manned up. Over the decades, Rekers, who ran countless similar experiments, held Kraig up as "the poster boy for behavioral treatment of boyhood effeminacy."
At age 18, shamed by his childhood diagnosis and treatment, Rekers's poster boy attempted suicide, according to Gender Shock, a book by journalist Phyllis Burke.
The very people who condemn homosexuality and claim that it can, and should, be "cured" are philosophically disposed to assert that moral relativism is wrong, that some things are wrong and some things are right regardless of circumstances, and that there are both good and evil in the world. In the spirit of that philosophy, let me say this: this conduct is evil.
[Hat tip to Chris.