Social media networks have been abuzz this week with the story of the ‘gay girl from Damascus’, detailing a hoax that has swept the web. Tom MacMaster, an Amerian man studying at Edinburgh University, has posed as 25 year old Amina Abdallah Arraf al-Omari on a popular blog since February this year.
MacMaster detailed day to day life in politically volatile Syria, even entering into corresponadence with international media as the half-American, half-Syrian fictional woman. MacMaster took his deception to incredible lengths last week when he posted as a cousin of Amina, claiming that she had been abducted by armed men.
As global concern increased and the story gained airtime the 40 year old activist issued an apology which is still public on the blog, explaining who he is and why he wrote the blog. Attempting to explain that he tried to bring issues facing gays in the Middle East to a western audience, MacMaster told his readers “I have hurt people with whom I share a side and a struggle. That matters. I have hurt causes I believe in sincerely. That is wrong”. The apology did not appease many angry people across the globe however, who condemned the actions as detrimental to the struggle.
Whilst the media and social networking sites are still humming with this story it has also come to light that the ‘woman’ behind popular blog Lez Get Real is actually a 58 year old construction worker from Ohio, who used his wife’s name for his writing.
Bill Graber was exposed as the true author of the site thanks to his connection with Tom MacMaster – the two had corresponded although Graber claims not to have known that he was corresponding with a man and vice versa. News agencies contacted ‘Paula Brooks’, Graber’s alias, as the story broke that Amina was in fact a fictional character. When reporters tried to interview ‘Paula Brooks’ via telephone regarding the MacMaster story ‘she’ claimed via email that she was deaf and could only communicate through her father.
Like MacMaster, Graber claimed honourable motives for the hoax saying it was done with “the best of intentions” to fight homophobia experienced by a lesbian couple with whom he is friends and speaking out against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Long-term contributor Linda LaVictoire, who was completely unaware of the true identity of her editor, is believed to be taking up the reins at the popular blog.
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