Twice in the past week, it came to light that the somewhat-anonymous person behind a lesbian blog persona was not, in fact, a lesbian, or even a woman.
First, it was uncovered that the woman behind Gay Girl in Damascus, Amina, was actually Tom MacMaster, an American studying in Edinburgh. Then, the executive editor of LezGetReal.com, Paula Brooks, revealed he was really 58-year-old Bill Graber from Ohio.
Though they may have been well-intentioned, both men share a naïve view of the world, MacMaster in particular.
MacMaster reportedly said that he initially didn’t think anyone was harmed by the hoax, then later posted an apology on his blog.
His deception is the more damaging of the two, as Amina’s “disappearance” had sparked gay- and human-rights activists’ efforts to find her — likely putting their own lives in real danger.
Likewise, MacMaster advocated for Syrians to come out of the closet and be open — which has a very different connotation considering the repressive society they live in, and that he was safe thousands of miles away.
Graber claims he started LezGetReal because of the very real inequalities faced by his lesbian friends, saying it was done “with the best intentions.”
No matter their motivation, the results are damaging — to the lesbian community, to women and to the LGBT-rights causes. Not to mention patronizing. (Or even to mention the god-awful blog/site names that lesbians who had bad taste couldn’t have invented.)
MacMaster seems particularly tone-deaf in not having forethought to comprehend the trouble his fiction could perpetrate.
It is one thing to generate a fictional life online — which is quite common whether you are a 15-year-old girl or a 50-year-old man. It’s another to try to pass it off as fact, to weave such a compelling story that would inspire people to endanger themselves on your behalf, to save a fictional character of your creation. It’s akin to yelling “fire” in a crowded theater.
As middle-class, privileged white males posing as minorities — women, lesbians, Muslim, deaf and a person of color — it only serves to undermine the efforts of those groups for visibility and equality.
MacMaster and Graber will never be able to speak with authenticity for the lesbian community, and it’s delusional of them to think they could. It’s also demeaning of them to think they could do it better than those they tried to portray.
In truth, the only ones who can speak for lesbians are lesbians. Certainly, other groups and minorities can advocate for them and work to bring attention to gay-rights issues. But there is no way to truly comprehend and embody another’s experience.