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Kirk Murphy, left, was five when his mom enrolled him in experimental therapy at UCLA to stem his feminine behavior.
Editor's note: We invited iReporters to share their stories in response to a special Anderson Cooper 360º series that examines a shocking "experimental therapy" designed to make feminine boys more masculine. CNN's Thom Patterson spoke to iReporter Roberto Addoms about his story. Part three of "The Sissy Boy Experiment" airs tonight at 10 p.m. ET on CNN.
Roberto Addoms isn't sure how to define the scraps of memories from his troubled boyhood growing up in Southern California.
The year is 1971. He's maybe four or five years old -- sitting in an unfamiliar room. There's someone talking to him, someone who may have been a doctor, asking him questions. Was this a memory of an interview for some kind of experimental therapy?
Now a 44-year-old corporate trainer, it's been years since Addoms thought about this strange memory. Just like it's been a long time since he came out as gay -- and even longer since he was bullied every day at school. And then -- the darkest memory of all -- Roberto's suicide attempt at age 12.
But "The Sissy Boy Experiment," a CNN story Addoms heard this week about a boy named Kirk Murphy may have given this memory some context.
"It just kind of clicked in a way that frankly was pretty disturbing."
Murphy's mother told CNN's Anderson Cooper that in the early 70s she enrolled her five-year-old boy in an experimental therapy program at UCLA to stem his feminine behavior.
"The parallels with Kirk are just amazing," said Addoms. "We lived near UCLA and my dad was a student there. It makes sense that he might have had me interviewed for therapy like that."
Murphy, who also was gay, committed suicide in 2003 at age 38. His family believes Murphy's therapy led to an unhappy life and an untimely death.
"The only thing that may have saved me from my parents not following through with the therapy was my dad graduated and we moved away," said Addoms. "There's no way for me to know for sure."
His father has passed away and his mother says she has no memory of any such interview.
When he was just 12 -- as his parents were divorcing and classmates teased him mercilessly every single day -- Addoms felt his life wasn't worth living.
"It was very tough. Very tough. I made an easy target."
He couldn't take it anymore. "I swallowed a bunch of aspirin and I got sick. I told my parents what I did, and they took me to the hospital to have my stomach pumped."
The years of professional child psychology that followed were useless, he said. "They were trying to change me -- not help me."
Finally, in his mid-20s, Addoms told his father he was gay. "He said, 'I love you and don't do anything stupid.'"
It wasn't the complete acceptance from his dad that Addoms longed for, but, "sometimes you have to take what you're offered. I realize right now that this is enough."
If only Addoms could somehow go back in time and offer a message to himself as a boy, he imagined. "'It'll be OK', I'd say, and 'be true to yourself.'"
What would he tell kids today who also find themselves struggling with their sexual orientation? "It's unfair, but sometimes you just have to rely on your inner strength. Just get through this period until you come to a place where you're allowed to be who you are."
"No kid," he said, "should be made to feel that they're somehow less than a person."
Now, after hearing Kirk Murphy's story, Addoms thinks "that could have been me."
I don't know why citizens are not educated on how to deal with bogus claims.
This is tragic. Experts ? What experts ?
This therapist deserves the death penalty.
You know, I don't agree with his views but I have to fault the parents of these kids. It is up to us as parents to determine what our children need. If you are scared your child is so called gay and want to "fix" him you are just as guilty as the doctor. The parents had the choice to de enroll thier kids if they didn't agree with the treatment. Nobody forced them to stay in the program or continue the therapy rewards/punishment system long after the child was out of the program. The child did not ask for the therapy and the therapist did not seek them out. That is why it is called volunteer. These parents of these kids neeed to suck it up and admit they were wrong.
Haaaaaaaaaaa ha ha ha ha!!!
Our country need to get away from the victim mentality. Each person needs to forge their own path and take responsibility for their own actions and outcomes. Too often we train our children to seek out reasons why others are to blame for our outcomes. Grow a pair.
bradfunk said: "Our country need to get away from the victim mentality. Each person needs to forge their own path and take responsibility for their own actions and outcomes. Too often we train our children to seek out reasons why others are to blame for our outcomes. Grow a pair."
sanjosemike responds: While I do strongly agree with you, children are in a different category. They have absolutely NO power over anything, except how they will react to a situation. In the 1940s-1980s, being gay was reviled to a degree that has never been equaled. This is a "bit much" to ask a small child to accept, don't you think?
The reason why this poor kid killed himself was not because of the therapy, but because his dad was an abuser. Regardless if this kid was acting feminine or not, he was going to get hit as described by his older brother who apparently got knocked down a few times himself. I think the therapy sessions was an outlet, an excuse for his old man to take out his aggression on him and his dumb mom believed it was acceptable.
If you need one more reason to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of homosexual conversion therepy, watch the South Park episode, Cartman Sucks (Season 11, Episode 2).
If there is any doubt about homosexuality being part of who a person is, as opposed to being a choice, listen to Nicky sing "If You Were Gay" to Rod on Avenue Q. "It's okay, you were just born that way, and, like they say, it's in your DNA!"
On a less related note, Sesame Street dwelved into the issue of children's preference of toys in a Monsterpiece Theater segment titled, "Guys and Dolls" in season 21 episode 2636 on December 11, 1989. Harry Monster, who is shown playing baseball at first, had a favorite doll (in this case, a stuffed troll), Ruby played with a truck, and even Alistair Cookie had a doll at the end (no, he did not eat it). Sesame Street recently put it up on its YouTube page for all to watch.
I blame the parent's for his death. His father for all the brutal beatings and mother for allowing this to happen. Perhaps, she even participated in the beatings, who knows.
Were people really that ignorant back in the 70's? I could just imagine what that boy went through!
This story mad me sick to my stomach.. How could a mother sit by and watch her son be abused this way ? That woman needs punished for what she did.. Karma is a bi&ch !
I agree with the therapist that he needed help, and it's very sad that they couldn't get to him to get him straightened out. Very sad.
Joel Cruz Reacts and Comments on the CNN Story on the Suicide of Kirk Murphy “The Sissy Boy Experiment”
I am Joel Cruz of Aficionado Germany Perfume Company from Manila, Philippines. I saw on CNN the story of Kirk Murphy’s suicide in ‘Sissy Boy Experiment’ and I felt compelled to comment on the issue. As an openly gay person myself, I can totally relate to his story.
Having a B.S. Psychology degree, I understand why Kirk Murphy has taken his own life. I believe that he has felt that his life was worthless after what he has gone through his lifetime of trying to be a straight male imposed upon him by his father when in fact he is a conflicted gay man. He could have been a happy and successful person had his parent cared for him differently.
I was horrified learning about how his father abused him growing up with an identity crisis. I also disagree with the ‘Sissy Boy Experiment’ under the supervision of Mr. George Rekers as it is a failed therapy.
Parents are definitely held responsible in moulding the personality and character of a child to adulthood. However, parents should not dictate what a person should become and instead be supportive, guiding and nurturing in a democratic way-giving the choice to their child. Parents do not own the life of a child and does not in any way have the right to abuse their child and deprive them of a better life despite of being a gay person.
It is disgusting that George Rekers, a lobbyist against gay rights issues, is himself alleged to be a gay person. I am saddened about this tragedy and am sending this message to the gay community in the world that a gay person can be well respected and successful in his noble and productive chosen field and career.
I am out and proud and modesty aside, I grew up to be a successful entrepreneur and content of who I am as a person. I am grateful to my family and friends that they have accepted me of what I am. They respected and supported my choice to live the truth of being gay.
I advocate the freedom of choice to live a gay life that will lead to a person to be happy and with high self esteem and self worth.
To quote Harvey Feinstein:
"Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one's definition of your life; define yourself."
Interesting stuff. Are there no stories on the other side or is it all damaging and horrific? I expected more from Cooper and CNN. If you want to explore this story, find actual stories of people who have found actual change and talk with them as well. If you did that, this would be a great story.