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May. 10 2010 - 1:22 pm | 1,989 views | 0 recommendations | 16 comments

Don’t Call George Rekers ‘Gay’

LONG BEACH, CA - MAY 18:  A group that wants i...

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In recent decades, the Academic Left has successfully propagated the notion that people are free to define their own identities. Thus, on the campus of any elite American institution of higher education, a person born anatomically female is perfectly free to “identify as male.” Likewise, people are free to call themselves “gay,” “lesbian,” or the more encompassing (and irritating) term, “queer.” The right to self-fashioning extends to race, as well. When our President identified himself as “black” on this year’s census form – (thus “disowning his white grandmother,” not to mention his white grandfather, and white mother) – the Left could barely muster a collective yawn. After all, the logic goes, who are we to tell anyone how they should identify themselves?

This approach is quite appealing. After all, it represents an attempt to extend the sphere of personal rights: if a man can can disown his penis and identify as female, what can’t he do? Indeed, the concept of self-fashioning and self-identification is rooted in one of the Academic Left’s more admirable traits: its belief in the sanctity of personal rights.

Why, then, is George Rekers not extended the same courtesy?

You’ve probably heard that Rekers, a founder of the conservative Family Research council, is embroiled in a bit of a scandal. As the Huffington Post characterized it, “George Alan Rekers, a prominent anti-gay activist who co-founded the conservative Family Research Council, was caught returning from a 10-day trip to Europe with a male escort he found on Rentboy.com, which is exactly what it sounds like.” The article then goes on to report that the escort “says Rekers is indeed gay.” (Whatever happened to “what happens in Madrid?”)

This news has occasioned undisguised glee among many. Yet again, an anti-gay activist has been caught engaging in homosexual liaisons! The claim centers around the fact that Rekers is clearly a hypocrite, because we now know that he is “gay.” Rachel Maddow has said that “it’s big news that Rekers is gay.” Talking Points Memo celebrated the fact that Rekers is “homosexual.” And True/Slant’s Laurie Essig cheered that, “Family Research Council co-founder [is] a big fag.” We’ve seen this same story play out multiple times previously with the likes of Ted Haggard, Larry Craig, and others.

Granted, it may turn out to be true that Rekers engaged in homosexual sex with the young “rentboy.” But that does not mean that Rekers is in any sense “gay.” When people like Maddow and Essig charge that Rekers is “gay” or a “fag,” they are engaging in a form of identity-imperialism that they typically detest.

It is important to disaggregate the two separate concepts at play here: a predilection for homosexual sex, and the fashioning of a full gay identity. These are two distinct things. The self-identification of “gay” amounts to much more than a lust for homosexual sex: as the gay marriage lobby points out time and again, gay people want to have life-long, romantic, meaningful relationships with one another. They are looking for romantic partnerships with members of their own gender – not just sex. After all, that’s what the whole argument for gay marriage is about, isn’t it? ┬áPeople like Rekers, Craig, and Haggard, on the other hand, seem only interested in homosexual sexual liaisons. They aren’t looking for romantic partnerships with members of their own gender. In other words, they are not “gay.” A predilection for homosexual behavior is not equivalent to a gay identity. Indeed, the whole notion of gayness as an identity instead of a behavior is fairly recent construct. Yet they remain two distinct phenomena.

The inconsistency is particularly rankling here. If Obama is allowed to call himself “black,” and Terri O’Connell is allowed to call herself a “woman,” why isn’t Rekers allowed to identify as straight? Taking a page out of Maddow et al.’s books, I’ll identify them as something that they would not call themselves: “hypocrites.”


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  1. collapse expand

    A spade is a spade. If you propose acting one way and act in another, I believe it’s adequate to call that hypocrisy. If you have sex with members of your same gender, I believe it’s adequate to call that homosexuality. If you propose that gay rights should be nonexistent and are gay yourself, that’s just fucked up.

    Maddow’s right. Come out, come out, wherever you are.

  2. collapse expand

    So… Rekers is “a man who has sex with men”? That’s fine. I don’t care who he has sex with. But when someone seeks to deny civil rights to those who do the exact same thing he is doing, while lying about what he’s doing, then his hypocrisy is exposed and should be broadcast to the public.

    Don’t call him gay, call him a lying hypocrite.

  3. collapse expand

    “Why, then, is George Rekers not extended the same courtesy?”

    The answer to that question is simple. How would any of the groups (e.g NARTH, Family Research Council, American College of Pediatricians) that George Alan Rekers belongs to label what happened?

    -A naked man hires a male prostitute to massage his penis and anus in a hotel room for 10 days while on vacation in Europe.-

    I certainly think the groups that Rekers belongs to might use the term “gay” if it applied to two men they didn’t know from the Castro district of San Francisco. Wouldn’t you? Then why wouldn’t it apply to one of their own?

    This article is one of the lamest, most feeble attempts to defend someone I have ever read…puuuleeeezzzz

  4. collapse expand

    Thanks for the post Epstein. I was begiining to wonder if you had ceased being a pain in the ass.

  5. collapse expand

    for the record, the difference between “gay” & “homosexual” is the difference between shit & shinola. a homosexual is, specifically, someone who has a sexual attraction to his/her own gender. i think it’s safe to say that rekers is homosexual or bisexual given the revelations that have come out recently.

    that said, whatever “courtesy” you feel should be afforded professor rekers is completely beside the point. gay people everywhere are completely within their rights to be cheering this story. given the amount of harm this man has caused the gay community over the years, i can only say that all bets are off. you reap what you sow and george alan rekers made his own bed.

  6. collapse expand

    I don’t like calling him “gay”, either, since he not the kind of person I want to be associated with in public (and certainly not in private), plus he has pathetic taste in hustlers. As I understand it the objection here is based on the premise that “gay” is one of the identities that are reserved for people to adopt, or not, for themselves. Fair enough. Instead, I characterise Rekers as a loathsome little birk. (“Birk” is a Scots word for someone who kills by strangling.)

  7. collapse expand

    I believe the NARTH-supported sleight-of-tongue is “same-sex attraction” or more specifically “unwanted same-sex attraction” (at least when not surfing a rentboy website).

    We can call Rekers whatever he likes, even “straight” as long as there’s a Rosetta stone so that it is clear when Rekers says “straight,” it means getting nude massages from other men that he reportedly finds sexually arousing.

    I’m much more concerned with the word “expert”, and “expert testimony.” It appears when NARTH uses it, it means somebody who thinks the bible trumps a longitudinal study in which real people’s lives are actually observed. If the attorneys general of Florida and Arkansas had had a similar Rosetta stone for “expert” they would never have put this quack on the stand in the first place, and our beleaguered state budgets would have been saved hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  8. collapse expand

    What nonsense! People can have multiple identities and these can change. It isn’t a political matter. Reckers can also be identified as a hypocrite, a self hater, a fool, a charlatan and a discredited expert witness.
    Why not write about the damage to innocent people that Rekers has done? Just talk to (for instance) gay Floridian foster carers unable to offer their foster children the stability offered by adoption.

  9. collapse expand

    For comprehensive coverage of the Rev. Rekers/Rent Boy scandal, check out:


  10. collapse expand

    there would be no hetersexual coming out and claim their identy, simply because they don’t need to.

    this is a world where heterosexual are so happy with calling someone “gay” with certain attitude, and homosexuals need a closet at some point. If you think being gay is only a matter of “self-identification”, and can be seperater with the concept of homosexuality, you are just too cute to be here on our planet.

  11. collapse expand

    Some people use the term “gay” as a synonym for “homosexual.” However, as you correctly note, not all people who engage in homosexual behavior identify as “gay.”

    In recognition of this distinction, epidemiologists who track the spread of HIV and health care personnel who are treating the affected coined the term “men who have sex with men” or MSM which describes sexual “behavior” rather than sexual “identity.” This is no politically correct distinction since public health measures targeted at “gay men” may not resonate with those MSM who do not think of themselves as gay (and who may be married, with kids, etc.)

    However it is not a right wing/left wing issue as stated in this column since leaders (and followers) on the right also treat behavior and identity as one and often do so deliberately for anti-gay political purposes.

    I doubt that “the right” will still embrace Dr. Rekers because he thinks of himself as straight (whatever that term is supposed to mean)just as when Larry Craig said he wasn’t gay, the Republican leadership treated him rather shabbily. And while Ted Haggard may also have “converted” and “restored,” he has not been restored to any position of power and authority he previously held on the religious right.

  12. collapse expand

    Amusing, Ethan. Sounds like you’ve been dipping into Reker’s NARTH site, with its smoke-and-mirror distinctions between being “gay” and “having same-sex issues.” Rekers seems to have had a lifelong obsession with homosexuality, authoring two books and dozens of long-winded papers on the subject over the course of nearly four decades, but of course who would have thought that hinted a deeper internal struggle in the man?

    I note that you have written for “The Weekly Standard,” which, two decades ago, posted a glowing profile of a “reformed ex-homosexual”who was running a ministry “counseling men who want to leave the homosexual lifestyle.” That profile came out the same year him and me were actually dating, with said dating involving, you know, sex. But he wasn’t “gay,” he just had “same-sex issues.”

  13. collapse expand

    Very funny story.
    In fact from my personal experience I know that the most of anti gay activists are gays, trying to hide that with this activity.


  14. collapse expand

    The article never really points out why the author disagrees with self-defined identity, other than referring to this seemingly obvious notion with derision. He offers no alternative idea. Pretty thin soup, there.

    Epstein’s smudge tool?

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    About Me

    I'm a writer based in Portland, Oregon. My work has appeared in the Weekly Standard, the American Spectator, the New York Press, The Big Money, sp!Ked online, the Epoch Times, the Daily NK, and others. From 2005 to 2007, I wrote a column on culture and politics for the (alas, now defunct) Seattle-based Internationalist Magazine. In so doing, I filed dispatches from Berlin, Seoul, Paris, New York, and, yes, Reno - among other places. In 2009, I reported on business from Shanghai. I attended Reed College, in Portland, Oregon.

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