I am disturbed. Very disturbed. First, my day lilies did not give me the explosion of color they had promised. They’re now nothing but dried sticks. Harumph, as they say. Second, I’m reading Jeff Sharlet’s “The Family.” Actually, I’ve been reading it for a while now, and it’s so disturbing that I can only read a few pages at a time before closing the book and worrying about our future for the next 6-10 hours.
If you’d really like to know how we got into the mess we’re in, read that book. And when you think that conservatives want us to return so some idealized vision of the 1950s, know this: It’s not a fairy tale. They do want to return the 1950s, when The Family was completely in charge of American foreign policy in its drive to spread Christian dictatorships around the world. Want to know why the United States props up certain dictators and not others? Read The Family. Then you’ll be as disturbed as I am and I won’t be alone.
But that’s not the worst of my disturbance. I’m really disturbed about Tom MacMaster and Bill Graber, two straight white guys who, we now know, spent considerable time and energy pretending to be lesbians.
Maybe I’m so disturbed about this because once upon a time I engaged in some online pretending-to-be-someone-I’m-not myself, much to my chagrin. I’m not proud of it. I hurt several people I cared deeply about. And that was between me and them. Bill and Tom’s excellent adventures were between them and the rest of the known world
Well, there’s Nunzia Rider. That’s me, yes, but it’s not my real name. I started blogging as Newswriter several years ago and changed to Nunzia when I wanted a real name, like a real person. The nom de bloggue was necessary because I worked for a giant media outlet that frowned on people thinking for themselves and sharing it with the world. Think for ourselves, yes, just keep it quiet. That’s no longer necessary. I’ll even tell you my real name — KC Wildmoon — but I’m going to keep Nunzia Rider here just so I don’t confuse myself any more than I already am.
But I am an honest-to-god white lesbian. Unlike Bill and Tom, who both pretended to be “gay girls,” in Tom’s case, “A Gay Girl in Damascus,” and in Bill’s, the publisher of “Lez Get Real, a gay girl’s view on the world.” Interesting that they both called themselves “gay girls” rather than lesbians, but that doesn’t disturb me half as much as the rest.
I’ve known a couple of men who pretended to be lesbians online to get their rocks off. That’s one thing, related to this thing but not the same. Tom, who must have an incredible need for attention, went so far as to concoct “her” kidnapping by Syrian thugs. He was just trying to get the word out about how awful it is there, and some of my friends have even sort of defended him on that ground. But jeez Louise, you don’t have to pretend to be someone diametrically opposed to who you really are to get the word out about what a wicked dictator is doing to his own people.
OK, so we don’t hear very often about what life is like for LGBT folks in Syria, but good god, do we really have to? What life is like for everyday people, including LGBT folk, is bad enough — anybody and everybody who even slightly opposes the Assad regime is at risk. Sexual orientation is the least of their worries, I’d say. Assad is killing everybody, just to hang onto power. He’s a first class asshole, ranking up there with Adolf Hitler, except Hitler’s regime at least tried to hide their wickedness. Not Assad. His goons are out there in the open killing people randomly. Unarmed people. People who really want to be free, not like these moronic Tea Partiers here who imagine themselves oppressed by democracy.
Want to know what it’s like in Syria? Get on Twitter and follow @Razaniyat or @Monajed or @SeekerSK or @RevolutionSyria or @SyrianWoman. Yemen? Try @NoonArabia or @RajaAlthaibani or @alguneid or @Nefermaat or @iomathanYemen or @ichamza or @womanfromyemen. Egypt? @3arabwy or @norashalaby or @monaeltahawy. Libya? @septimus_sever or @Tripolotanian or @dovenews. And these are just a few. There’s also the journalists reporting from inside these countries. It’s not rocket science.
But Tom MacMaster couldn’t do that. He couldn’t even get his sorry ass into Syria to report on what he actually saw. He took other people’s experiences and observations and put them on a blog as his own. It doesn’t matter that what he wrote was accurate. There are hundreds of people writing accurately about that region of the world, and they are there. They are not some white guy pretending to be a Syrian lesbian to attract attention to himself. Two words, Tom. James Frey. What he wrote was accurate too. Just none of it happened to him.
And Bill Graber. There must be a special level of hell for people like Bill Graber. He was exposed after some reporters thought he might actually be the gay girl in Damascus. Or rather, that “Paula Brooks” might be. That’s who Bill said he was. And to keep the lie going, he told reporters that “Paula” was deaf and could only speak to them on the phone through her “father,” who was, in fact, Bill himself.
I never read “Lez Get Real.” But hundreds, if not thousands did, and dozens of other lesbians (hopefully all actual lesbians) contributed and commented. Bill Graber isn’t a lesbian. He’s a straight, white, married, former construction worker. He may even fall into the category of straight guys pretending to be lesbians to get their rocks off for all I know. But he cannot, ever, write from an authentic lesbian experience. Maybe he should try fiction, since that’s what Lez Get Real is, at least his part of it.
This is disturbing, and, again, maybe more so because of my own shameful history. But it is disturbing nonetheless. Straight white guys have no business pretending to be lesbians, or anything else other than what they are. Privileged is what they are. They can have or do anything they want, for the most part.
Instead, they engaged in intellectual slumming. Insidious, but not the least bit surprising. When you live a privileged life, sometimes it leaks into your little pea brain that other people are actually living while you are plainly not.