|Tom MacMaster, the real gay girl|
|This stolen FB image was passed off as Amina Arraf,,the gay girl in Damascus|
One of this week’s captivating stories was that of The Gay Girl in Damascus. She was a middle-aged married male American, Tom MacMaster. In the unravelling of the hoax, it transpired that another prominent lesbian blogger, Paula Brooks, was in fact a 57 year old straight American male construction worker from Ohio!!
So the moral—blogs and tweets and blog comments from people you haven’t met, who are anonymous, whose authenticity, veracity and very existence you cannot check out are best taken with a grain of salt. At first, Facebook was supposed to keep you honest because there were so many people from your real life or lives on your facebook page. Now however, I have had friend requests from avatars of bloggers, who use a cartoon as their profile picture. So apparently, one can have a large number of “friends” and followers while being “unreal.”
So never entirely trust an anonymous blog. It may well be duplicitious; authenticity online can be easily faked. Let the reader beware!!
* * *
Tom MacMaster, according to various accounts, had unsuccessfully tried his hand at a literary career. When he failed, as many do, he created a full-bodied resonant creation, Amina Arraf, with a backstory which closely matched MacMaster’s own. And pretty much everyone believed in her.
As the Washington Post pointed out, “the irony of “A Gay Girl in Damascus” is that it was really a lovely blog.
If he had not been so emotionally resonant, so detailed, so seemingly “real,” nobody would have cared so much when Amina disappeared, and nobody would have worked so hard to figure out what might have happened to her, and nobody would have learned that she was a pale man from Georgia.
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.”
* * *
I took a class in Faulkner in graduate school, and remember the professor saying that the winners get the spoils, the losers get the stories.
In other words, the meek inherit the earth. They get the best stories.
My daughters hate reading anything sad. But without sadness, there is no story. Without conflict and heartbreak and disappointment, there is no story.
Not even a fairy tale.
* * *
This story abounds in ironies. For Macmaster’s life was not lacking in interest. He had led a colourful life as an activist in America. His American childhood on the banks of the Shenandoah, observing the Mennonites–a backstory he gave Amina–sounds charming. He was married to an atypical American woman, and lived in Edinburgh.
Would his own life, closely observed, have lacked all interest? Surely not.
Amina, he says, took him over. He saw the news, restaurant menus, his own life, through her eyes. “Would she have liked it?,” he’d wonder. She became real to him. Flaubert knew something of this process when he said, “Madame Bovary, c’est moi.”
What a compelling novel MacMaster could have written about Amina! But would a novel by a middle-aged guy from Georgia about a gay girl from Damascus be published? Enter the blog.
Now, of course, Tom MacMaster is meeting with literary agents. How much time and heartbreak could have been saved if they had done so in the first place.