Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How to be Heard?

To all my avid followers and readers, what if I told you I’m not a fifty-one-year-old, gay male, who’s been with his same-sex partner for nineteen years?  What if I told you I’m really a thirty-two-year-old, straight woman, who’s single and looking?  Imagine how betrayed you might feel when you’ve bought into what I’ve written here over the past twenty-six months, when you’ve become invested in me, my story, and my message.
That’s what readers around the world are feeling since finding out Amina Arraf, the popular lesbian, Syrian blogger of A Gay Girl in Damascus, is actually Tom MacMaster, a straight, white, American male, currently living in Scotland.  It’s also what readers are feeling after discovering Paula Brooks, the deaf, lesbian, mother-of-two, and editor of Lez Get Real, is actually Bill Graber, a straight man from Ohio.  
As a blogger, I was understandably fascinated with a story titled “Followers upset by fake bloggers’ tall tales,” written by Monica Hesse of the Washington Post, which appeared in today’s Vancouver Sun.  I shook my head as I read this opinion piece, unable to imagine the enormous imagination, moxie, and work that must go into creating full-blown personalities and lives--so different from the writers themselves--convincing enough for readers to invest themselves and their emotions into.        
But that’s hardly my point.  Hesse explains what puts all of this into perspective.  She writes:
The fake existence of Amina Arraf was offensive to bloggers--and to Syrians, and to women,
and to lesbians and gays, and to anyone else who has ever been truly marginalized.  How
irritating that so much attention was given to something ultimately written by a straight
American man.
And how poignant that a member of one of the most privileged classes in the world felt that
the only way he could have a voice was to pretend to be a member of a class that has been
disenfranchised in every possible way [p. B4].
Ironic, too, I might add.  
As Hesse suggests, traditionally, straight, white men, collectively, have been the dominant voice heard over the centuries around the world, telling us what’s right, what’s wrong, what to do, what not to do, how to live our lives, and how not to live our lives.  And, whenever their voices were diminished, their insecurity came out full-force and they made their voices even louder, until we couldn’t ignore them any longer.  Until we had no choice but to pay attention to what they said.    
Yet here we have MacMaster and Graber, two everyday schlubs--neither one I wish to criticize with this post because, after all, they managed to garner a lot of empathy and support for our lesbian sisters, although fraudulently--who, for some reason, opted to impersonate someone of the opposite gender, and the opposite sexual orientation, landing on voices that were finally heard above the din of everyday craziness.

You have to give them a lot of credit.  I do.  For most of us, the struggle to find our voices, and to know what to say once we've found them, is constant and daunting.  Is it any wonder many of us never find them?       
Which begs the question, Is it better to have the balls to use voices that are not ours and be heard, than to use our own voices and never be heard?  I guess that all depends on the message.  Or does it?  Perhaps MacMaster and Graber's perspectives on that would be worth listening to.         
At any rate, in case there's any doubt, I really am a fifty-one-year-old gay male, who’s been with his partner, Chris, for nearly two decades.  And I really am committed to help gay and lesbian people to build their self-esteem, so they can be all they were meant to be.

But do you think what these two white, straight, American men did might work in the reverse?  Do you think my blog, and its message of hope for gay and lesbian people, could get more followers, readers, and attention--for all the right reasons, of course--if I revealed myself to be a straight, married, twenty-something woman from Boise, Idaho?  

Imagine the fiction skills I'd need to make that happen.  What a test of my writing ability. Perhaps I should give it a try.          


  1. Wow. You have to give each of these guys credit for creating a completely believable persona. Doesn't that just give you ideas, Rick?? Sure gets my imagination going.

  2. You have no idea, Wendy, how this gives me ideas. Hence the reason why I found the article so intriguing.
    Don't you think a blog, written by a totally fabricated person, that's completely believable and compelling, is a great compliment to the person writing it?
    Don't you think his or her talent would be better spent writing fiction (such as a novel), unless the intent is to turn the material in the blog into a book? Seems like a waste of creativity, ingenuity, and work to me, otherwise.
    But, yes, my imagination spins at the idea of this. What fun to make up this person and to so totally inhabit his personality and life that you, as the writer, can come up with every detail to make it authentic and real. And to affect readers profoundly, too. Wow!
    Thanks for your interest in my blog, Wendy. And, as always, for your comment.

  3. Rick, I very relieved and gratified to learn that you are in fact a gay man of 51 years, who looks 40-something (but wait, you didn't actually vouch for the authenticity of your photos ; ) The case of a Gay Girl in Damascus is very interesting indeed, and of course many authors of fiction have created very convincing characters completely different from themselves. I suppose that is the whole art of fiction writing. Of course with a blog, we like to think we are reading someone's true thoughts and experiences. However, if something someone has written resonates with you, there must be a kernel of truth in it somewhere. Maybe we should take it as an extreme compliment that a straight man would envision himself as a gay person. Maybe a blog by a straight man is not that interesting in this day and age. Or maybe he cannot fully express himself as a straight man. Society has a very strict code for men to follow. If MacMaster is indeed expressing his inner self, then power to him.

  4. Good one, Doug. If I were lying about my age, do you think I'd say I was actually older than I really am? Certainly not as a gay man, that's for damn sure.

    But, seriously, I love your points. When I read a blog, like yours, for example, I'd like to think someone isn't making it all up. If it's fake, even if it resonates with me, don't you think it carries less weight? Don't you think the credibility of what the blogger's written should be called into question? Isn't it impossible for it to still resonate with me if it's pure fiction?

    I'm really divided on this one. I love the craft of the fiction--and who can say it isn't craft when it's thoroughly made up yet so believable--but I'm not sure the time and the place for that type of fabrication is in a blog. Why aren't these dudes writing short stories or novels? Perhaps because the reaction of folks isn't as immediate. Perhaps because publication on the Internet is.

    Your point about feeling complimented, as gay people, that a straight male would impersonate someone of our sexual orientation is kind of how I feel, too. Is it possible the straight, white male is losing his voice in our culture? Is it possible some straight, white men are as voiceless as many gay people have felt for years, if not decades. Gives us hope, doesn't it?

    An interesting situation any way you look at it.

    Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment, Doug. As always, I appreciate it.