College Papers

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In the 1970’s three doctors named
O. Ivar Lovaas, Richard Green, and George Rekers from UCLA became well known
for their government- funded experiments to test gender identification issues
in children. Their main targets of these experiments tended to be young boys
with feminine intentions. A young boy by the name of Kraig happened to be one
of the first to be examined and treated for feminine behaviors that were
considered to be very severe. Because of this, and the panic from his parents
that he might turn out to be homosexual, he spent his whole childhood, up
through his late teen years, being treated to have only masculine intentions.
In result, he spent his early life in constant fear and anxiety of being seen
as feminine, and at one point tried to end his life to stop the confusion
(Ferber 255).

            Karl’s
mother had been watching television one night when Dr. Green had appeared to
explain his treatment plan and how it can help young children who have the
wrong sexuality intentions. Dr. Green introduced a gentleman onto the show who
had advocated for the treatment because his parents had let him play with dolls
as a little boy growing up. As an outcome, he had become homosexual. They
explained that it was very important to treat kids for these behavioral issues
because if not, they were at higher risk for depression, deviant behaviors that
could lead to jail, and becoming homosexual or transsexual. Because little Karl
had been playing with his younger sister’s toys instead of his own and spent
his time wanting to be more like his mother than his father, his parents
decided to take him in for an exam to see why this was happening and to prevent
any intentions of Karl becoming gay (Ferber 256). He was taken to UCLA to at
the age of just under five years to start his examination and treatment. There,
he was given “a genital examination to determine if he had any physical
abnormalities that the doctors felt might otherwise account for his feminine
behaviors…researchers also tested his chromosomes, and performed a sex
chromatin study” (Ferber 256). His results concluded that he was completely
male but only in the anatomical sense. Dr. Green prescribed Karl a plan to fix
his comportment and put him back on the “male” side of the behavioral spectrum.

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He was sent to O.
Ivar Lovaas and George Rekers to start this plan. When evaluating Karl one of
the Doctors wrote, “Before treatment Kraig had been described as one of the
most severe cases he has assed… Kraig continually displayed pronounced
feminine mannerisms, gestures, and gait, as well as exaggerated feminine
inflection and feminine content of speech” (Ferber 256). When Kraig was
seventeen, Dr. Green interviewed him asking why he thought he had feminine
qualities as a little kid growing up. Karl had mentioned that when he was
little, he was scared that he would have to grow up and fight in war. He had
learned that boys go to war and get killed. As a result, he thought that if he
was a girl, he wouldn’t have to worry about that fear. (Ferber 256) Dr. Green
also interviewed his parents asking if they noticed any “female” behavior when
he was younger. His parents vaguely recalled him using his father’s t-shirt
once and expressing that he was wearing a dress. They also remembered him using
a shirt to pretend he had long hair. Because of these instances, the Doctors
decided that he had been cross-dressing since he was only two years old. One
interesting note to point out is that “Green and Rekers never documented if
this child refused to wear boy’s clothing” (Ferber 256). Another instance was
when Karl was asked if he wanted to be a girl or a boy. He said that he wanted
to be a girl and to follow in the footsteps of his mother. He never insisted
that he was in fact a female though and also stated that he wanted to follow in
the footsteps of his father as well (Ferber 256).

When looking at
how Kraig responded, his intentions on wanting to be female weren’t because he
was unhappy with his physical body or because he wanted to grow up to like a
different gender. His intentions on wanting to be female were very much
associated with the gender roles that were associated with being male or
female. In his early childhood he learned that in his society men work and go
to war and that women get to do things like work at home and cook. To him, this
sounded a lot better than being sent to war to be killed. One of the
experiments done on Karl to test his feminine versus masculine intentions had
to do with boys and girls toys. He was put in a room with both girls’ toys like
dolls and girls dress up clothes and boys’ toys like army equipment and a fake
razor. He tended to always want to play with the girls’ items no matter who was
in the room or if he was alone. The only time he played with the boys’ toys was
when his father was in the room. This is most likely because of an incident
that happened when Karl was younger. He was playing with his little sister’s
stuffed animals and upon his father finding out, was spanked for it (Ferber
258).

During treatment
for his wrong behavior, the worst part described was when he and his mother
were put in the same room with again, both girls’ and boys’ toys. His mother
had an ear piece in and was instructed by the doctors watching from another
room how to respond to her son. Every time Karl played with a toy that was
considered feminine, she was told to ignore him. When he played with toys that
were considered masculine, she was told to acknowledge him again.
Unfortunately, all of the masculine toys provided had the same theme of war.
Karl was very terrified of being sent to war and so always resulted in playing
with the feminine toys instead. Whenever he tried to engage his mother in his
play, she would ignore him causing him to become severely distraught and
anxious. It got to the point where he couldn’t control his emotions and ended
up having a breakdown because he couldn’t get any form of response from his
mother. He soon conformed to playing with the army toys to get his mothers
attention back (Ferber 258). A different treatment that he was put through
involved tokens of two colors. Every time he did something the doctors deemed
appropriate, he was given a blue token. Red was for the opposite. They started
by using the tokens for more general things such as cleaning up a mess for a
blue token and creating a mess for a red. After Karl got used to this, they
turned it into more masculine or feminine behaviors. Every time he would, for
example, aggressively play with army figures or go outside to dig holes, he
would receive blue tokens to cash in for candy or extra television time. On the
other hand, when he maybe used more feminine gestures, such as broken writs or
hip movement, or playing with a doll, he was given a red token which was
exchanged for time out or less television time. The best red token punishment
that the doctors found was a spanking from his father. In Karl’s later years he
would become much more distant from his father (Ferber 258).

After
this so-called treatment, Karl seemed to have a complete turnaround. All of his
mannerisms seemed to be masculine and he only cared for boys’ toys. Later at
eighteen when he was interviewed about the whole experience at UCLA he noted,
“I felt really ashamed, and I didn’t want anyone to know, and when the research
guys would come to check up on me, I didn’t want anybody to see me with them”
(Ferber 260). Because of his traumatic childhood he was sent into a spiral of confusion
and anxiety about his sexuality. He was scared he might accidentally do something
that would be deemed feminine or that if someone he thought was gay came up to him,
that he would also be considered gay. This often ended in violence. At eighteen,
Karl attempted suicide after he couldn’t handle the issues associated with his sexuality
and took fifty aspirins (Ferber 260).