As my pal Wessel says, on the Internet nobody knows you’re a dude.
You may have heard of these two recent stories:
The life of Amina Arraf was a good story. On a website called “Gay Girl in Damascus,” this purportedly Syrian-American lesbian blogger wrestled with issues surrounding her national identity, her sexuality, her faith, and the future of her country at a time of open revolt. At a time when most of the information coming out of Syria comes in the form of choppy, graphic YouTube videos or breathless tweets about the Assad regime’s crackdowns, here was a young woman writing from Damascus in flawless English about her country’s social and political turmoil.
And then it all fell apart.
It fell apart because the blog’s author, who turned out to be a straight American man named Tom McMasters, decided to add in a kidnapping plot: He had “Amina Arraf” disappear, had her “cousin” write a post notifying readers of “Amina”‘s disappearance. Readers sprung into action, mobilizing to search for their missing Gay Girl in Damascus. At which point it became increasingly clear that there was no gay girl in Damascus.
Only days after we learned that the author behind A Gay Girl in Damascus was a straight man from Georgia, The Washington Post is reporting that the purported DC-based lesbian mother who edited the lesbian news site Lez Get Real (“A Gay Girl’s View on the World”), which re-published Gay Girl in Damascus posts and helped the blog get started, is actually a 58-year-old former Air Force pilot and construction worker from Ohio named Bill Graber (pictured at right)….
Garber and MacMaster have offered similar explanations for their actions. Garber, like MacMaster, explained that he started out with the best of intentions–to demand the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and advocate for other gay issues–and assumed the identity of a lesbian woman because he didn’t think people would take him seriously as a straight man. And, just like MacMaster, he rationalized his actions, pointing out to the AP that he helped reveal the Gay Girl in Damascus hoax by tracking the blog’s posts to computer servers in Edinburgh. MacMaster “would have got away with it if I hadn’t been such a stand-up guy,” Graber said.
Based on the general tenor of responses across the web, I surmise that I am supposed to do the following:
1. Register my disappointment and anger.
2. Reassure my readers that I am, indeed, the precise person I purport to be.
I guess I’m a little annoyed, but I don’t feel the level of anger that, for example, these writers (Shakesville. Michellebird) do. For one thing, I wasn’t invested in the story like they were–I only heard about the Gay Girl in Damascus blog when it was mentioned in the comments section of a recent post (to argue that there are more serious issues for LGBTQ folks worldwide than those that American queers experience! Ha!).
I’m also firmly in the identity-is-slippery camp. A few years back, when I was first coming out as a queer, I identified as cisgendered. (The term means that my gender identity aligns fairly well with the features that are built into my body: that I am a biological female who identifies as a female.) [Note: I’d link you to that post, but I can’t find it!] But later, I came out as genderqueer. I wasn’t “lying” early on; I simply didn’t understand myself in the same way then as I do now.
Of course, the identity-is-slippery camp does not assume that the LezGetReal and Gay Girl in Damascus bloggers are simply struggling with their own gender and sexual identities. They’re straight white guys who posed as dykes. Which is annoying.
Here’s an interesting take from CurrentMom:
People are messy. The technology we invent is messy, too. Deal with it.
Here’s an even more interesting take, from Something the Dog Said on the Daily Kos:
What we have here are two white guys running up against that fact that their gender and sexuality are going to make it harder for them to have an impact in a certain area. So instead of busting their asses to build their credibility to speak in this area, they take on the role of a someone who automatically has some credibility. The expectation that it is okay to do this just screams that they feel entitled to jump to the head of the queue with their opinions.
What do you think?