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Our friend: Lez Get Real’s Paula Brooks

Dianna AgronCultural appropriation.

Now, I’m  not an educated person, and until recently, I didn’t really know what that meant. I mean, I’d heard it applied to white girls with dreads, but I never really paid much attention. And then, Glee‘s Dianna Agron (who plays Quinn) wore a t-shirt on stage that says “Likes Girls”. In the context of the show, that was definitely meant to say something. And then she wrote a post on her tumblr to explain her feelings about LGBT rights. And people complained because she was appropriating a subculture that is not her own.

But then, we learned a lot more about people who appropriate cultures (or subcultures, or many cultures) in more sinister ways. The Gay Girl in Damascus blogger turned out to be a married, straight guy in Edinburgh. He was “outed” by a friend of mine, Paula Brooks, who ran the Lez Get Real blog that helped the fake Amina get set up in the first place.

And, then, for me, it got so bizarre I am still reeling from it.

You’ll have to excuse me if this gets a little personal. The last couple days have been some of the most bizarre hours of my life.

You see, when I started writing for Gaelick, I was approached to write for an American lesbian news sitePaula Brooks called Lez Get Real. I was contacted by a person called “Paula Brooks” who introduced herself to me as a blogger whose day job was a researcher and producer with MSNBC in Washington D.C.. She told me that her military-pilot wife of 10 years had died of breast cancer. She told me she’d done work with James Cameron. She was (more recently) engaged to a FBI agent, called Stephie, who was 41 years old, Jewish, and really amazing in bed. The good folks over at Bilerico Project have written a very good summary piece about the life of the fictional Paula Brooks.

IM is wonderful, and I interact with dozens of people around the world using it. It also keeps full logs of conversations. (Please ignore the Maddow fangirling on my part.)

Paula: I am pretty focused
I do production research
for all the MSNBC primetime shows
6:02 PM me: nice! I’d love to do research
Paula: and I met some cool peeps in my job
me: I’d say so!
Paula: yeah that is what i have done pretty much since I got my degree
6:03 PM I worked for the Camron Bros for a bit.
Paula: then I taught
well i got my job
with NBC
because I had press creds
thru the blog
6:04 PM and Keith Olbermann
“discovered me”
and hired me
me: Nice. He seems pretty cool.
His special comment on same sex marriage made me all weepy
6:05 PM Paula: yeah he is passionate
sometimes that makes him hell to work for
me: yeah, temper?
Paula: I like doing stuff with Maddow
me: Oh God, who wouldn’t?
Paula: she is a really cool head

Paula BrooksNow, I’m a cynic and have a reasonable bullshit detector (the amount of times I’d tried to find some proof of Paula’s qualifications… I don’t even know). Through the more than a year I’ve corresponded with Paula Brooks, I’d come to accept that she was one of those people who just lied. It bothered me, and it certainly kept me from really feeling engaged with the rest of the site’s writers.

I believe, as well, we were all fed lies about the others, in an effort to keep us from talking together too much. The ongoing tensions between the main contributors, Melanie Nathan (read her story on Bilerico) and Bridgette (and her mother Linda) LaVictoire, was possibly fueled by Brooks as a protective mechanism.

I never suspected — even when it was suggested to me several days ago — that Paula was not a lesbian. You know, the job — at the Smithsonian — probably wasn’t real. And maybe the twins. And maybe the old job at MSNBC was made up too. But I never suspected she was lying about her gender or sexual orientation.

She also told me that she was molested, by priests, as a child at a school for the deaf. According to the interview Bill Graber did with the Washington Post, that might be the only true thing I ever knew.

Paula: well i have first hand experience
I was in a Catholic School for the Deaff
got molested
me: are you deaf?
Paula: yeah
deaf as a stone
11:04 AM me: that’s gotta be tough in your business.
Paula: no
not really
I work on Capitol Hill
and they have me read lips
11:05 AM of the guys that think they are in a private hudle
me: sweet
Paula: That is why NBC has such good Capitol hill stories

Thing is, with Paula, that if you just let her go, she’d just go. She claimed to be the person who discovered Dan Choi and got him on The Rachel Maddow Show. She also had a very strange, evolving obsession with Rachel Maddow; it started as saying nice things but ended up making up really nasty stories (drink, women, blackmail). Oh, and she also bragged about having a sexual affair with (straight, married) journalist Ana Marie Cox.
8:20 PM Paula: now my dad is not a big fan of Dan Choi
me: He’s a bit outspoken — and he’s looking for attention.
Paula: he says he is a gamer
me: BUT those people are often the most effective, whatever their motives.
Paula: dad is an acadmey grad
8:21 PM so theyy have this code
he says
Choi had better ways to work this
and still keep the code
what ever that is
8:22 PM but I was the one who found Choi
and put him on Maddow
so I really pissed off my dad
on that one
me: I’d say.
Paula: if you ever notioce me quoting
8:23 PM unnamed pentagon soures
that soucre
would be my dad
me: lol
Paula: he hates that
8:24 PM says he has a press shark in is kitchen
and is afaid to say anything
around me
if it does not end up on NBC

I made the mistake of recommending my friend, our revered webmaster, to help with some technical things that she needed done on the site. It went from a small update to a month’s worth of consultancy work, for which she was never paid. Paula told her that she couldn’t afford to pay because her twin daughters would go hungry. Paula told me that Melanie Nathan had run away with the money. God knows what she told anyone else.

It was quite a while back that I started backing off and making excuses. The stories I was being asked to write were crazier and crazier and I was being asked to accept her word on things, and I just couldn’t. But we stayed in touch. Our last chat was about her newly adopted son.

As much as it is offensive that a random guy who calls himself an ally would make up a lesbian identity so he could be “taken seriously” — what? it’s not enough to be taken seriously in every other sphere of life? You have to get the gays to pay attention too? — what gets me more is the personal betrayal he perpetrated against the people he calls, in the Washington Post interview, “my online family.”

Paula BrooksI’ll leave you with our final conversation, for an extra sense of surreal.
I adopted another kid
me: yes!
you told me
but I was drunk, and in Dublin
so I wasn’t able to chat
Paula: dont know wtf I was thinking
me: no?
10:16 PM Paula: I dont like the 2 I have
me: lol
but you liked this one
Paula: yeah he is nice
very sweet boy
very unlike is mean sisters
10:17 PM me: he’ll learn to hold his own
Paula: but I got some very nice crayon b day cards this morning
me: aw
Paula: from all of them
those are the best
me: You’re becoming a real mama hen
Paula: even if they are in twinese
me: What’s his name?
10:18 PM Paula: Joshua
me: Love that name
10:26 PM Paula: I love the boy
10:27 PM he is a real sweety
he is deaf
me: yeah, I remember that from when you met him
Paula: but sooo smart
him coming here
was like turning on a light
10:28 PM its funny to watch him too
a month ago he was living in the middle of the rain forest with Menonite Missionaries
10:29 PM now he is in Washington DC
me: that’s a change!
Paula: but just getting everything
10:33 PM me: how old is he?
10:34 PM Paula: 3
time to go home see u when I get there
me: cool
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  • What the everlong fuck?!

    I seriously think the internet is just like a safehaven for compulsive liars.

    Ugh. I feel sorry for you for being strung along. Stuff like this is really sickening. The horrible ripple effect the lies have is astounding and I don’t think either ‘Amina’ or ‘Paula’ feel any real remorse for what they have done or even understand the consequences. They make me sick.

    Bo said:
  • PS I am a bisexual man, not a lesbian. Nor would I ever claim to be online for shits n giggles. Fuck sake.

    Bo said:
  • It’s just crazy. Because, as I said, it’s not like I didn’t know something was up. I mean, a lot of what she said seemed so wrong. But I had no way to verify one way or another.

    But I do feel stupid, betrayed, and ridiculously angry. God help him if he decides to make contact again.

    CanuckJacq (author) said:
  • Great post!

    These could be the transcripts of my chats with “Paula.” Some of it I knew was a lie. But I didn’t this it was harmful, just like wishful thinking of a woman who wanted to be more important than she was.

    At least you got out of it after a year, I stuck around for two! :-p

    Natasia Rose said:
  • I just read Bilerico’s piece about Bridgette. What an awful, awful man. He knew she was in love with Paula. It’s just so very wrong. All of it.

    CanuckJacq (author) said:
  • Dear GOD ALMIGHTY. The stories keep getting WORSE AND WORSE. My account of Paula, her lies and her cyber bullying can be found here: http://thewishfulwriter.blogspot.com/2011/06/real-paula-brooks.html

    And I’ve also linked to other stories.

    It’s infurating to read he did all this to promote the LGBT cause. Fucking liar. He did it to promote himself and he got a kick out of it. The lies he told were unecessary and clearly the result of a very instable man.

    We’re even questioning if he’s really who he says he is now.

    Heather said:
  • Ok, wow. He was telling you off for not being lesbian enough, or something. I guess this is where we see the real problems with trying adopt a subculture you are not a part of!

    I’m half tempted to start a Facebook group for people who’ve worked with Paula Brooks. lol

    CanuckJacq (author) said:
  • Actually a really good idea! This person manipulated folks into hating each other so no one talked. Now that we’re all sharing our stories, it would be a great idea to have one location where people were posting links to their stories. If you do don’t do this, let me know and I’ll do it. If you DO do it, let me know and we’ll spread the word.

    Heather said:
  • Didn’t anyone wonder when she had no credits at MSNBC?

    Belinda Gomez said:
  • That guy manipulated and lied to everybody, and aparently he was good at that (not easy remembering all the past lies). Imho it has to be asked: Is Bill Graber a sociopath?

    Gray said:
  • @Belinda I don’t think producers are credited on the MSNBC shows. I could be wrong.

    @Gray I know on another forum people were talking about histrionic personality disorder or something like that. I don’t know enough about either to comment!

    CanuckJacq (author) said:
  • A wee update to this – Elizabeth Flock of the Washington Post has been in touch via twitter (@lizflock - see also: http://www.gaelick.com/tag/amina-araf/) to say that she and her colleagues will have more on the Maddow/Olbermann angle today.

    click here said:
  • Oh! That will be interesting. Because the stuff “Paula” said. My goodness.

    CanuckJacq (author) said:
  • [...] with lots of lesbians not actually being lesbians at all. There was the despicable hoax of Amina, the shocking Paula Brooks fiasco, and last but not least people, the AWFUL display by Dianna Agron flaunting a T-shirt that read [...]

    Dianna Agron | gaelick said:
  • I am not really surprised at this as in the early days of d’interweb I spent a lot of time on IRC and nearly all of the “women” I communed with online tuned out to be wanking blokes. (Pardon my frankness, but this is basically what it boiled down to). I had heard of the same kind of thing happening on MUD games and I have to admit that eventually I entirely abandoned IRC except for talking to people in Irish groups (generally mixed) as at least they had meetings where people could actually be confirmed to be who they claimed to be.

    Now I think chat forums went out of fashion in the late 90s and were replaced by larger, more gay-focused megasites with multiple services like planetout.com and gay.com. These really changed things because there was a small barrier to entry – as gay sites that chat services and forums were just part of another service to, they kinda dissuaded the male porno fantasist from engaging. MUDs were basically ALL about people creating online personas that could potentially be a wet dream fantasy, and IRC was just too easy and tempting to try out, but bigger sites kind of sidelined the phenomenon of creating fake online profiles since they had to sign up properly to a site that really was geared at gay men. And ultimately, the guy who has been brainwashed over many years to jack off to the idea of 2 girls together, generally isn’t too keen on the notion of signing up for a site mainly geared at guys looking for guys to jack off to.

    So naturally, in these days of cheap personal websites, free blog software and easy to establish online presences, it was only a matter of time before this kind of creepy male found his way back into the limelight. For a straight guy, putting on high heels and lipstick and creating a likelike persona in the form of drag is very radical and socially risky. Sure lots of guys do it but they challenge their audiences, themselves and those around them equally. Most of all they challenge the concept of masculinity as a construct.

    But this isn’t the case when you attempt the same thing online. If you have a credit card, there is nothing to stop you having a secondary card issued in a female name, even if that person doesn’t exist. And from there you can buy websites, web services, etc under the newly adopted female name. If the service is entirely online, there is no reason to challenge you if you never plan to meet up (unlike dating services which quickly force the male into an inevitable corner). The thing is, there is nothing really to stop you from going global. Its like a personal game really. Nothing can stop you.

    Trouble is, I think these guys are so wrapped up in their game they don’t really realise that this is serious for the other “players.” Lots of women are still fairly isolated (or like me, have little spare time) and take online communications fairly seriously for whatever reason. So its inevitable that their identities are quickly challenged.

    Why do these guys appropriate female and lesbian personas anyway? I think the female thing is attention-seeking, as women online often get more notice if they are seen to be posting anything challenging or intellectual. The lesbian persona I think falls into two reasons and I think all guys who use female personas do it for both reasons. The first reason is that men often assume that lesbians think like men. They mistake the distinction between gender and sexuality and assume that they can assimilate this identity without it being noticed. This isn’t something unique to blokes btw the way, the very good “lesbian knows best” series produced by the very likeable Vicky Wagner in LA sells herself on the notion that “I think like a man.” I don’t want to crique Vicky here because I think a lot of the work she’s done is really good, but its simplistic and delusional to think that you can appropriate the identity of a gay woman because she thinks like you.

    The second reason is the good old wank material argument. Men have been conditioned over 3 decades of massive porn to see women together as sexually arousing. Being “part” of this is the big thrill. This isn’t fully fulfilled by such porn and using lesbian identities online completes part of the missing part of that circle. This is kind of where it starts to fall over though. McMasters took it one step further by taking his blog into a war zone: his heroine is not only a woman and lesbian but living in a war torn zone as a threatened individual. Kinky in the extreme!

    One thing I will say to anybody who has experienced the hurt of being manipulated by guys like this is that the ultimate punishment for them is to ignore them. Humiliating them yes, it works a little. Questioning their sexuality and state of mental health, yes. But ultimately, since most are looking for attention, ignoring them is the most powerful response.

    Laura said:
  • I resigned before I found out paula was bill graber; after I gave 2 years of my life to promo of the site and paid out of my own pocket each month. I had so many red flags. I always thought Paula was an egotistical bragger who was a power hungry narcissist. Of course I never told her that. I too checked up on things she never knew I checked up on. I trapped her on many a lie and never told her. BUT one thing I never knew until recently was that she was a sock puppet – unto her own mindbent psychopathy. I resigned 2 weeks before the truth came out, not knowing Paula was a complete lie. She spun such a huge story; and it was a consistent one. She wished she was who she said she was – therein lies the psychopathy. Now she is still BILL and still running LGR behind the scenes with Bridgette, She preyed on B’s own Psyche and continues to do so. Paual a straight man fell in love with Amina a straight man… and I have the chats…. all of them to prove it. Some sickos eh? And he she – believes he was effective when it was US doing the work and him being just what he is a sick Fuck! He is still threatening me because I am so on his continued lies… did you see …http://oblogdeeoblogda.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/scandal-continues-as-shamed-lesbian-blog-continues-the-straight-man-lie/

    Melanie Nathan said:
  • [...] a year ago, I found out that my friend Paula Brooks didn’t [...]

    Who are your friends? | gaelick said:
  • [...] should really be about whether he’s comfortable). Ana Marie Cox, who has been subjected to false allegations of having had an affair with a woman but didn’t comment as to her own sexuality in denying them, retorted, “I don’t [...]

    Two strikes, MSNBC | northup news said:
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