The revelation that the "Gay Girl In Damascus" was actually an American man in Edinburgh proved it's easy to post under a fake identity online. In fact, it's so easy that Tom MacMaster wasn't the only one.
While reporting on the fake kidnapped Syrian blogger, the Washington Post discovered that Paula Brooks, editor of the popular news site Lez Get Real, is actually Bill Graber, a 58-year-old retired military man and construction worker who lives in Ohio.
When "Gay Girl" blogger Amina Arraf's identity was questioned, people became suspicious of Brooks because Amina had started writing about the Syrian uprising on Lez Get Real before founding her own blog. Reporters from the Post tried to interview Brooks, but were told that they'd have to speak to her father in a phone interview because she's deaf. After several phone conversations, Graber admitted, "I am Paula Brooks."
Graber had shown reporters a photo of Paula Brooks' drivers license, and it turns out she's his wife. She had no idea that since 2008, he's been using her name online. From the Post:
Graber said he started the site to write about gay issues after seeing the mistreatment of close friends who were a lesbian couple. He said the site was "done with the best of intentions." As a former Air Force pilot, he also said he used the site to argue in favor of the Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal. "I didn't start this with my name because... I thought people wouldn't take it seriously, me being a straight man," he said.
And here's the best part of the entire story:
In the guise of Paula Brooks, Graber corresponded online with Tom MacMaster, thinking he was writing to Amina Arraf. Amina often flirted with Brooks, neither of the men realizing the other was pretending to be a lesbian.
As we discussed earlier, taking on the voice of a minority an presenting it as non-fiction is really never justifiable. If you write good analysis of interesting issues, your work will catch on even if you're just another white dude. It sounds like Graber really didn't mean any harm, but lying was terribly misguided and has hurt many people.
Lez Get Real is being turned over to a woman who contributes to the site under her maiden name, Linda Carbonell. The Post has revealed that her married name is LaVictoire. She explains in a post to readers of the blog that she started going by her maiden name years ago because she was worried writing about politics would threaten her husband's job at the Federal Judiciary. She's never misrepresented the facts about her life, and writes:
I came on to this site because I saw a lack of information in the country, too many people who didn't understand why Roe v. Wade happened, or why labor unions happened. I was furious that the state of Kentucky could elect a Senator who thought Harlan County was where the Dukes of Hazzard originated. I saw too much noise and not enough facts. I believed, and I still believe that even the smallest of voices deserves to be heard, as long as that voice is speaking reason and fact.
I hope that over the years, we have educated our readers and that the "who" of ownership doesn't diminish the stories we have tried to tell. I am sure many of you feel just as betrayed as we do. I am so very sorry.
Lez Get Real may highlight worthwhile issues, but it is not, as the tagline says, "A Gay Girl's View Of The World." Rather, it's the view of a man who felt he could simply imagine how a lesbian would see things. It was hard enough to believe that one popular lesbian writer was actually a man, let alone two. Now this story may unfairly cast doubt on all bloggers' true identities. All I can promise you is that I really am a 27-year-old woman. If you need proof, my mom would be happy to give you a phone interview.
'Paula Brooks,' Editor Of 'Lez Get Real,' Also A Man [Washington Post]
To Our Readers [Lez Get Real]