I never read the blog--Gay Girl in Damascus--but it was on the news on the way to work today where the headline was "A gay girl in damascus is a 40-year-old man in Scotland.
What started out as a man with writers block went out of hand and became the major hoax of this year!
Tom McMaster renamed the blog "A Hoax" this morning and offered his confession/apology/excuse. Turned out, he just wanted to be a writer:
"Ever since I was a child, I’ve wanted to write fiction but, when my first attempts met with universal rejection, I took a more serious look at my own work and I realized that I could not write conversation in a natural way nor could I convincingly write characters who weren’t me. I tried to get better and did various exercises (such as simply copying overheard conversations). Eventually, I would set up a number of profiles on dating sites with identities that were not my own as ways of interacting with real people in conversation but with a different personality than my own."So what do you do when you have writers block. As a rule, when you add a character things are bound to happen. In this case, Amina Arraf. A half-American, half-Syrian blogger in Damascus. "Amina came alive," he says. She became a character.
On the one hand, McMaster did what writers would do: write it all out. The only problem was the sharing part. And the of course the lying.
It's nearly like the JT Leroy incident, only JT Leroy always claimed to be a fiction writer, whereas McMaster claimed to be reporting from the ground (both claimed their identities as therapy). Brian Spear's open letter on Jezebel (via The Rumpus) explains everything well: once you claim to be writing nonfiction, you enter into an agreement with the audience to be telling some sort of truth. While truth is always debatable, as a straight white guy, you can't really claim truth in staking identity as a Syrian lesbian (I don't think you could rightfully "queer" that unless, of course you agree that sexuality and gender are really fluid and that really we all came for Africa in the first place, so...we belong to all countires.
Spears also pointed out that such works harm. For example:
Daniel Nassar, the pseudonym of a gay campaigner in Damascus, told theGuardian none of his gay friends had met or heard of Amina, but they feared what the backlash to a fake blog could lead to.It is also full of assumptions about the lesbian Syrian experience: here is a white man writing as one, but can he ever really get it?
"I changed my Twitter name (which was my real name) and picture (which was my real picture) after the news of Amina [emerged]," he said. "I wasn't afraid of what happened to Amina, as I felt she was fake … I was afraid of the aftermath of her silly lie and how would it affect the way police treat LGBT people here."
Despite what McMaster says, this is no gray area. Also, more reason to just stick with fiction, srsly. Also, if you're all for going with the trends, don't use a pseudonym.