Pop Quiz

Pop Quiz: Fake Lesbians

Last week it came out that the author of the blog A Gay Girl in Damascus, Amina Arraf, is actually a heterosexual American man living in Scotland, Tom MacMaster. A few days later it came out that the editor of Lez Get Real, a lesbian news site that allegedly helped “Amina” set up her blog, is also a married man from Ohio called Bill Graber. 

It’s reported on Slate that sexual disguise is, in fact, a very old trick. The New Yorker has pointed out that, in the case of MacMaster, this is a case study in narcissism. But, I think my biggest problem with the situation is that white men – with all of the attendant white male privilege – has co-opted the identities of oppressed minorities to get their voices heard. This guy on Jezebel articulates this point of view very well.

Clearly, MacMaster and Graber are in different situations. MacMaster could have had an effect on the ability of people in the Middle East to be taken seriously when speaking on human rights issues in their part of the world. But both situations are interesting, nonetheless.

What do you think? Are the actions of Tom MacMaster and Bill Graber justified, or beyond the pale? Should we, as skeptics, have been more suspicious or sensitive to a potential hoax?

Featured image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Mindy is an attorney and Managing Editor of Teen Skepchick. She hates the law and loves stars. You can follow her on Twitter and on Google+.


  1. June 16, 2011 at 3:01 am —

    In case of Tom MacMaster, his action was beyond the pale. He destroyed the credibility of actual Syrian bloggers who are trying to get their voices heard in a horribly repressive regime. Now its government can use this as an example to discredit them. Also, the action of this guy put the Syrian bloggers in danger by attracting government attention to them.

    • June 16, 2011 at 2:22 pm —

      I tend to agree with that assessment. But i’m having a hard time getting too worked up about the Lez Get Real editor. Maybe it’s because what MacMaster did was so bad, or maybe it’s because I used to write for a gay rights blog even though I’m straight. But I never lead on that I was gay, so maybe that’s a different situation.

      • June 23, 2011 at 6:48 pm —

        Yeah, I do think it’s a different story if you write as a straight person, versus lying about your sexuality. The other difference is the gender one. There’s a history of straight men with “lesbian” fantasies using deception on the Internet to take advantage of lesbian and bisexual women. Even if he wasn’t doing this for titillation reasons (and I don’t think that can be ruled out – “Paula” and “Amina” flirted with each other), I don’t think you can divorce this from that context. He violated the trust by lying about who he was.

        I think the point of this is that if you want to be an ally, BE AN ALLY. Straight allies can do a lot for the LGB cause that us queer people cannot, because many straight people won’t listen when we advocate for our own rights. Straight people are also access to a lot of the more blatant homophobia that those homophobes keep under wraps around people they know to be queer. But don’t try to co-opt the queer experience for yourself.

        Here’s a longer explanation of why Graber’s actions are exploitative and wrong: http://www.autostraddle.com/lez-get-real-editor-paula-brooks-is-actually-a-man-93533/ I don’t think what he did was as bad as what McMaster did – for one, he didn’t carry on with another girl thinking she was “her” girlfriend or waste U.S. government resources on an investigation – but I don’t think he’s free of blame.

  2. June 18, 2011 at 12:07 pm —

    I dont think he had a bad intention, but on the other hand, i think he could have almost the same impact if he actually said that it was all a work of fiction, based on real facts.
    One of my favorite bloggers is a straight white 40 year old male, in his blog, he writes as if he was a 30 year old fat woman from argentina, and does so to show how sexism affects woman, but he never hide his true identity, and he had a lot of succes, now his blog turn into a book and a movie.

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