So, another American man masquerading as an online lesbian has
been uncovered. Just days after the author of the widely-read blog,
Gay Girl In Damascus, was revealed as 40-year-old white male PhD
student Tom MacMaster, the editor of the American lesbian website
LezGetReal.com "Paula Brooks" was outed as 58-year-old Bill
Any savvy web-user knows that on the internet not everything is
as it may seem. We have all heard the warnings about paedophiles
using social media to groom and abuse children. We may also be
aware of the many instances of fraud perpetrated against people who
believe they are in a real relationship with someone they met
online - and may only know as an online entity. We may have come
across the tales of individuals who claim to be sick with terminal
diseases, milking online communities for sympathy and sometimes
We've probably rolled our eyes over some of them, but all too
often the victims of these frauds, hoaxes and abuses are the
internet's most vulnerable users: the young, the lonely, the
socially or geographically isolated.
What MacMaster and Graber have done is not new. It's not even
surprising or unusual. The users and moderators of lesbian internet
forums are well-used to identifying and deleting the log-ins of men
who get their kicks (malicious or sexual) from masquerading as gay
But they've certainly taken it to a whole new level - one
courting the attention of the world's media by blogging as a Syrian
lesbian, the other running a lesbian website in the US!
What is with these guys? The gals at New York lesbian blog
Autostraddle have an
answer to that. (Loving the 20 pt fuschia, sisters!)
Meanwhile, back in Blighty, DIVA's own Iman Qureshi suggests
that "the rise of identity politics - a concerted effort to give
marginalised people a voice - has made the traditionally powerful
(white heterosexual men) a little paranoid/insecure... so they
invent an oppression, they see themselves as a victim".
Although both men appear to have appropriated lesbian voices in
order to express their own opinions, she continues, MacMaster chose
an identity he saw as privileged by Western liberals - the lesbian
woman of colour - in order to get his political views heard.
In Graber's case, says Qureshi, the motivation "seems more a
case of male erotic imagination, and the fact that lesbian
sexuality is something they're excluded from".
Ultimately, she concludes, both men have fallen back on the
excuse that their subterfuge was in fact a sincere attempt to
represent people who lack mainstream visibility. But this is simply
a "very self-indulgent form of 'oh look at me, and see how I'm
standing up for oppressed people' - a hero complex that's really a
very smug delusion".
Here at DIVA (where we are guaranteed, 100% genuine real queer
women) we're loving blogger Brian Spears'
advice to white males at The Rumpus.
Thanks, Brian, you get it. And thanks to all the actual lesbians
and bi women who have helped expand our horizons by giving us
visibility and a sense of our real, global community on the
internet. It's good to know you're out there. And in spite of
recent revelations, we know you are.