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Hiding in Plain Sight

Hiding in Plain Sight


George Alan Rekers is not a household name, but chances are his name is in your household if you own an antigay book. Buried deep in the endnotes and footnotes of homophobic literature, Rekers has passed himself off as one of the premier right-wing scholars on homosexuality for more than three decades.

He is the author of numerous books, including Shaping Your Child's Sexual Identity and Growing Up Straight: What Families Should Know About Homosexuality. Rekers is a founder of the Family Research Council and a board member for the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, and he testified as an expert witness in favor of gay adoption bans in both Arkansas and Florida. His research was recently cited in "expert" testimony in the Proposition 8 federal trial by Institute for American Values president David Blankenhorn, who offered up a muddled, incoherent defense of the bigoted ballot measure.

Even though he has written voluminous publications on homosexuality, the former University of South Carolina professor had kept a remarkably low profile. This cloak of invisibility served Rekers well, by allowing him to play the role of detached "expert" who provides pseudoscientific bullet points used by right-wing activists and pundits.

Earlier this week, we learned that there might have been a more sinister reason why Rekers avoided the spotlight and lived a shadowy existence. He had a secret that ran counter to everything he purportedly stood for and betrayed the elaborate facade he had carefully nurtured.

Penn Bullock and Brandon K. Thorp, reporters for the Miami New Times, revealed that Rekers had gone on a vacation to Europe with a young male escort he had met on When confronted with the evidence, Rekers said he learned that his companion was an escort only midway through their vacation.

The story might have stalled, except that Rekers provide a comical explanation, saying that he needed the escort to carry his bags because of his aching back.

"I had surgery," Rekers told the New Times, "and I can't lift luggage. That's why I hired him."

He then elaborated by comparing 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."

Well, he certainly has baggage and needs help, that's for sure. If anyone were to believe him, they would be gullible enough to trust former U.S. senator Larry Craig of Idaho when he said he had a "wide stance" or South Carolina governor Mark Sanford when he claimed he was walking the Appalachian Trail instead of shagging his South American mistress.

Rekers doesn't seem to understand that the only thing the media loves more than an outright tragedy is a tragic comedy. We all know that the disgraced doctor could have just as easily given someone a big tip to carry his bags at the airport, like everyone else does. And that if he truly wanted to preach to gay escorts, it would have been much easier and cheaper (cover charge and a few drinks) to do so at South Florida's gay strip joints.

Of course, this is a sad story we have seen before. After I photographed "ex-gay" poster boy John Paulk in a Washington, D.C., gay bar in 2000, he claimed that he was only in there to use the bathroom. Then he claimed that he thought it was a straight bar because there were both men and women inside. It was drag night.

In 1986, 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. Isn't it time that the mental health establishment invests ample resources to better understand the devastating affects of internalized homophobia and its societal consequences? I'm no expert, but I have observed enough antigay activists in person to believe that a sizable portion are gay. I also believe that suppressing their sexual orientation has possibly led, in some cases, to mental illness.

How else do you explain spectacular hypocrites like Rekers or Paulk? Such people supposedly hate homosexuality but ironically spend infinitely more time obsessing about gay issues than those who are out of the closet. It becomes their entire life, and they are consumed by it.

If the homophobic swamp were drained of self-hating gay people, it would take much of the steam out of the antigay movement. I'm not saying antigay attitudes would disappear. However, few people would have the motivation and resolve to write voluminous antigay screeds or launch comprehensive political campaigns of persecution.

It is difficult to accept, but the majority of antigay bigotry may be a product of those who do not accept themselves. The sordid tale of George Rekers is a shining example.

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