He purported to cure homosexual urges. But if that were possible, you'd think he'd have started with himself.
Meaning psychologist Dr. George Rekers, 61, a leader of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. NARTH believes gays can be made straight. It is a belief the organization now struggles to reconcile with Rekers' rather contradictory behavior.
As initially reported in Miami New Times, Rekers recently went on a two-week vacation to Europe. He took with him a male traveling companion, one Jo-vanni Roman -- alias "Geo," alias "Lucien," age 20. Rekers found said traveling companion advertised on rentboy.com , a website featuring images of admirably fit young men whose gym fees and personal trainer costs evidently leave them little budget for clothing.
Rekers paid Roman's expenses and gave him $75 a day. He certainly had the wherewithal to do so, having recently pocketed over $120,000 from the state of Florida to testify in favor of the state's ban on gay adoptions. So in effect, Florida taxpayers helped Rekers rent his rentboy. Florida, for what it's worth, is projecting a $6 billion budget deficit for next year.
Both men say Rekers did not purchase sex. Roman says he did, however, give Rekers nude "sexual massages" that stopped short of sexual release.
Rekers' explanation? He needed someone to carry his luggage. No, seriously, that's his explanation.
If all this sounds like a rerun, that's only because it is. Indeed, in recent years, the crusader against gay rights who is revealed to be secretly gay himself has become a "type," ubiquitous to the point of cliche. The list includes disgraced evangelist Ted Haggard, the late former Spokane mayor James West, California state Sen. Roy Ashburn, Mel White, ghost writer for the likes of Jerry Falwell, who became a gay activist, and my personal favorite, Michael Bussee, a founder of Exodus International, another group that purported to cure homosexuality. He gave it up when he fell in love with a guy named Gary Cooper.
As much free material as fellows like this provide for the likes of Jon Stewart and David Letterman, as perversely entertaining as it is to watch someone work out his private psychodrama in the public space, as fascinating as naked self-loathing can be, it is important to remember that this is not harmless.
To the contrary, there is a moral crime here. We are, after all, talking about men in positions of authority and reach, men who could make laws and influence public perception and who used that power against their own.
Put yourself in the shoes of the teenager, bewildered and frightened by these feelings he or she is not "supposed" to have, feelings of sexual attraction to people of the same gender. You try to deny them, try to ignore them, try to suppress them, but they will not go away. You are all alone, isolated behind a secret that presses down on you like weights, a fear of rejection that haunts you like ghosts.
And here comes Dr. Rekers telling you you are abnormal, telling you you are bad, telling you he can cure you, as if you had a disease like measles or the flu.
Then, in his off hours, after he's done curing you, he's trolling rentboy.com looking for young men to handle his, ahem . . . baggage.
That's more than hypocrisy, more even than self-loathing. It is a betrayal of one's own, a sellout of the most vulnerable.
And what's sad is not just that a George Rekers would do this, but that ours is a culture that would encourage and reward such duplicity in the first place.
He purported to heal homosexuals? One is reminded of an injunction from the book of Luke: "Physician, heal thyself." Rekers would be wise to heed that advice.
Homosexual urges are the least of his afflictions.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla. 33132. Readers may write to him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. He chats with readers every Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDT at Ask Leonard.