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Second “Lesbian” Blogger Exposed as a Straight Man

Second “Lesbian” Blogger Exposed as a Straight Man

Last week, a Syrian lesbian blogger who posted under the name “Gay Girl in Damascus” was reportedly kidnapped.  But slowly, doubts about whether Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari – supposedly a 35-year-old lesbian and feminist – actually existed began to emerge.  And finally, a heterosexual man named Tom MacMaster, a PhD student living in Scotland, admitted to being the “sole author” of all of the posts on the blog.

The hoax, understandably, was greeted with a substantial amount of outrageMacMaster apologized, but the criticism kept rolling forward.  But now, while reporting on the MacMaster story, the Washington Post revealed that a second “lesbian” blogger was actually a white, straight man – this time, “Paula Brooks,” the editor of the lesbian news site Lez Get Real, came forward and admitted that he was actually Bill Graber, a 58-year-old retiree.

The fact that these two online identities existed (and that, ironically, Graber and MacMaster actually corresponded with each other under their online personas) shows just how dangerous the internet can be.  The Washington Post explained how they discovered Graber’s identity:

“Brooks had told reporters at The Washington Post that she could only speak on the phone through her father because she was deaf. She provided a photograph of her license as proof of her identity, which showed a woman named Paula Brooks.  On Monday, we continued to question her identity. We spoke to the man who identified himself as her father, who finally admitted after numerous telephone conversations: ‘I am Paula Brooks.’ That man turned out to be Bill Graber.”

Like MacMaster, Graber said that he masqueraded as a lesbian woman in an attempt to speak out on behalf of oppressed people – in Graber’s case, his lesbian friends.  “I didn’t start this with my name because…I thought people wouldn’t take it seriously, me being a straight man,” Graber explained.

As noble as this may seem, the two men don’t quite get why what they did was horribly wrong.  As Brian Spears wrote in a wonderful essay which I encourage all of you to read, it may seem tough for white men to get noticed (I’m tempted to add a sarcastic boo-hoo to this, but Spears does it better – i.e. more subtly). 

Spears also points out, in no uncertain terms, that white men need to be told: “Don’t co-opt the voice of a minority in hopes that people will take your writing more seriously, especially when you belong to the most privileged demographic group on the planet.”

Graber and MacMaster may have thought they were doing the world a service, and that their voices were just that important that it was acceptable for them to bypass journalistic ethics and speak as a minority about whose experiences they knew very little.  But this, as Spears notes, just shows how much privilege they have.  They can apologize all they want, but I hope this sends a message to anyone who wants to impersonate another identity group online – just don’t do it.  You may mean well, but in the case of Graber and MacMaster, your dishonesty will do far more harm than good.

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41 comments

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4:22PM PDT on Jun 16, 2011

It goes to show that Internet anonymity is never absolute! The truth always comes out, sometimes very awkwardly.

8:42AM PDT on Jun 16, 2011

There's a real lesson here about needing to be sceptical about internet sources unless you can double check them. People can make all sorts of claims and inventions from the safety of a false persona, and presumably often do so to support what they think of as good causes. Those of us cyber-'listening' need to think and maybe investigate further before we spread what they say.

2:33AM PDT on Jun 16, 2011

Send MacMaster to Syria, in order that he may experience what he so casually blogged, at first hand, and force him to stay for at least three months. He would be, of course, be allowed to blog, but this time it would have real effect, with true meaning.

10:39PM PDT on Jun 15, 2011

Here's a stat for you:

Last i checked, before i finally left them, AOL had 40% male membership but 60% female profiles. Do the math!

Susan B's right, it's like total arrogance or something. Or Pussy Envy? Lil of each? But it's something that females largely just don't do.

10:34PM PDT on Jun 15, 2011

SEE?!?! i TOLD y'all before this was rampant.

And i don't really believe the altruist angle, as i've seen it SO much in the online sexual/dating realm, any lesbian just wanting to chat and maybe get to know someone they might like to meet must wade waist-high in fake female personas. It's so disrespectful and just so "ick".. but mostly contemptuous.

They just want access, man.. they just want IN, into any aspect of "us".. i'll lay dollars to donuts those two had "cyber" sex with each other in the course of their discussions of wimmin's tribulations, heh..

7:02PM PDT on Jun 15, 2011

What the hell? It's bad enough that one man was jerk enough to do this, but now another one has been revealed to be posing as a lesbian online? The sheer arrogance of these two idiots is absolutely galling. I'm not buying at all their excuses that they were trying help oppressed people. They were just getting their kicks from fooling people and thinking how oh-so-clever they were.

Total asses!!!!

6:30PM PDT on Jun 15, 2011

As a straight woman, I would no more think of writing a blog from the point of view of a Lesbian, than presume to speak for any minority I'm not a part of..

While I fully support LGBT causes, I don't think that gives me the right to pass my views off as first person input. Why do men assume they have the right to preach from pulpits that aren't their own? The world does NOT need to be "blessed" with your ignorant posturing on any and all subjects!

5:36PM PDT on Jun 15, 2011

Why did these men even bother to assume false identities to show their support of lesbians and feminists? All they ended up doing was making fools of themselves.

3:23PM PDT on Jun 15, 2011

It's one thing to have a bit of fun with identities on the internet.
I could have understood a straight man (well, *men*) impersonating lesbians, but... MacMaster did *not* have to pretend that Amina had been abducted. That plonker's stupidity started petitions (harmless) *and* people where Amina was supposed to live endangered themselves.
If I believed in psycho-analysis, I'd say that this "crying wolf" act is a call for attention ("Oh, Look! I'm clever!").
Honestly, I wish the two twats some *very* interesting karma. They're way beyond harmless internet role-playing.
If they were in front of me right now, I'd smack them silly.

Thanks for the post (I'd been waiting for something here since I caught the articles in The Washington Post).

2:56PM PDT on Jun 15, 2011

I don't need a white straight or gay male speaking out for this lesbian. I have been doing just fine on my on for 68 years.

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