Amid the audible gasps of disbelief concerning George Alan Rekers—Baptist minister, co-founder of the conservative Family Research Council, and vociferous advocate of ex-gay therapy—getting caught with a male escort after a holiday together in Europe, one thing has become clear: Dr. Rekers has almost single-handedly destroyed the basis and presumed effectiveness of reparative therapy for homosexuality.
With Rekers acknowledging that he found his bellhop from the male escort website Rentboy.com, and the escort now acknowledging that he was hired to give erotic massages, it's worth considering not only the astonishing disconnect between Rekers' private and professional lives, but also the incalculable damage his words about homosexuality have had on teens and young adults across the nation and beyond.
Until he was recently scrubbed from the organization's Website, Rekers sat on the board of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), an organization dedicated to changing the sexuality of gay people. "Mr. Rekers," the BBC reminds us, also "has testified as an expert in favor of a gay adoption ban in Florida," for which he was paid $87,000 and during which he called gay men mentally unstable and a "deviant segment of society." His published works include Growing up Straight: What Families Should Know about Homosexuality.
While Rekers hardly seems like a good example of NARTH's so-called reparative theory, it is deeply troubling to consider figures such as him "weighing in on almost every piece of anti-gay legislation around the country," as CNN puts it, making the lives of especially young gays and lesbians more difficult, while he hires a male escort for a jaunt around Europe.
When a prominent anti-gay activist is caught with a male escort, certain theoretical tenets about homosexuality either fly out the window or come out of the closet. But Rekers is also, sadly, a textbook case of a long, sordid history of closeted gay men attacking their own while enjoying the sex behind the scenes: Ted Haggard. Larry Craig. Roy Ashburn. Ed Schrock. To Roy Cohn and beyond. In this case, Rekers helped to write the very textbooks that have been invoked so often as justifying homophobia.
The shame belongs elsewhere. Rekers owes gay men and women across America a very big apology. If he won't come out of the closet, he might at the least denounce his publications as mired in dishonesty and hypocrisy.