George A. Rekers is not a household name, but if you own an anti-gay book the chances are his name is in your household, buried deep in the book’s endnotes. While Rekers keeps a low public profile, his fingerprints are on almost every anti-gay effort to demean and dehumanize LGBT people.
He is the author of numerous books including, “Shaping Your Child’s Sexual Identity” and “Growing Up Straight: What Every Family Should Know About Homosexuality.” A major anti-gay figure that used to work at University of South Carolina, Rekers is a founder of the Family Research Council, a board member of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, (NARTH) and testified as an expert witness in favor of gay adoption bans in both Arkansas and Florida.
Recker’s façade came crashing down this week after Miami New Times reporters Penn Bullock and Brandon K. Thorp discovered that he had vacationed with a hooker in Europe. When the anti-gay doctor and his “pay pal” arrived at Miami International Airport, reporters photographed them with a little pink camera.
When confronted with the evidence, Rekers said he learned that his companion was a prostitute only midway through their vacation. However, he had met the escort on RentBoy.com, so saying he was unaware of the man’s profession is a little like walking into a Dunkin Donuts and claiming that you had no idea they sold donuts – until after you ate a half dozen.
In trying to slither out of the mess, Reker’s only dug a deeper hole.
“I had surgery,” Rekers told the New Times, “and I can’t lift luggage. That’s why I hired him.”
Yeah, right. And Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) had a “wide stance” and Gov. Mark Sanford (R-Calif.) was walking the Appalachian Trail instead of shacking up with his mistress in South America. The New Times points out that Rekers medical problems didn’t stop him from pushing the large baggage cart through Miami International Airport.
Reker’s defense became surreal after he compared himself to Jesus Christ and John the Baptist, claiming he hired an escort because he likes to help sinners.
“I have spent much time as a mental health professional and as a Christian minister helping and lovingly caring for people identifying themselves as gay,” said Rekers. “My hero is Jesus Christ who loves even the culturally despised people, including sexual sinners and prostitutes. Like Jesus Christ, I deliberately spend time with sinners with the loving goal to try to help them.”
Of course, we’ve all seen this story before, where a virulent homophobe who has dedicated his life to gay bashing is a closet case. In 1986, Dr. Henry Adams conducted a study at University of Georgia that found the men who were most outspokenly homophobic were the ones most turned on by gay porn.
It is time that the mental health establishment and major universities invest ample resources to better understand the devastating affects of internalized homophobia and its societal consequences. I’m no expert, but I have observed enough anti-gay activists in person to believe that a sizable portion is gay. I also believe that suppressing their sexual orientation has possibly led, in some cases, to mental illness.
How else do you explain men like Rekers who are obsessed with homosexuality and have written thousands of pages denouncing homosexuality – and then turn around and hire young male prostitutes? It seems they can’t stamp out their own desires, so they lash out at the entire LGBT community. The only reason such behavior likely isn’t labeled a mental illness in need of treatment is because the mental health community probably fears a ferocious right wing backlash.
If the homophobic swamp were drained of self-hating gay people, it would take much of the steam out of the anti-gay movement. I’m not saying anti-gay attitudes would disappear. However, few people would have the motivation and resolve to write voluminous anti-gay screeds or launch comprehensive political campaigns of persecution.
It is difficult to accept, but the majority of anti-gay bigotry may be a product of those who do not accept themselves.
Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”