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 site 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.)
27/12/09Paula: I am pretty focusedI do production researchfor all the MSNBC primetime shows6:02 PM me: nice! I’d love to do researchPaula: and I met some cool peeps in my jobme: I’d say so!Paula: yeah that is what i have done pretty much since I got my degree6:03 PM I worked for the Camron Bros for a bit.Paula: then I taughtwell i got my jobwith NBCbecause I had press credsthru the blog6:04 PM and Keith Olbermann“discovered me”and hired meme: Nice. He seems pretty cool.His special comment on same sex marriage made me all weepy6:05 PM Paula: yeah he is passionatesometimes that makes him hell to work forme: yeah, temper?Paula: I like doing stuff with Maddowme: Oh God, who wouldn’t?Paula: she is a really cool head
Now, 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.
27/12/09Paula: well i have first hand experienceI was in a Catholic School for the Deaffgot molestedme: are you deaf?Paula: yeahdeaf as a stone11:04 AM me: that’s gotta be tough in your business.Paula: nonot reallyI work on Capitol Hilland they have me read lips11:05 AM of the guys that think they are in a private hudleme: sweetPaula: That is why NBC has such good Capitol hill stories
28/12/098:20 PM Paula: now my dad is not a big fan of Dan Choime: He’s a bit outspoken — and he’s looking for attention.Paula: he says he is a gamerme: BUT those people are often the most effective, whatever their motives.Paula: dad is an acadmey grad8:21 PM so theyy have this codehe saysChoi had better ways to work thisand still keep the codewhat ever that is8:22 PM but I was the one who found Choiand put him on Maddowso I really pissed off my dadon that oneme: I’d say.Paula: if you ever notioce me quoting8:23 PM unnamed pentagon souresthat soucrewould be my dadme: lolPaula: he hates that8:24 PM says he has a press shark in is kitchenand is afaid to say anythingaround meif 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.”
23/05/11Paula:I adopted another kidme: yes!you told mebut I was drunk, and in Dublinso I wasn’t able to chatPaula: dont know wtf I was thinkingme: no?10:16 PM Paula: I dont like the 2 I haveme: lolbut you liked this onePaula: yeah he is nicevery sweet boyvery unlike is mean sisters10:17 PM me: he’ll learn to hold his ownPaula: but I got some very nice crayon b day cards this morningme: awPaula: from all of themthose are the bestme: You’re becoming a real mama henPaula: even if they are in twineseme: What’s his name?10:18 PM Paula: Joshuame: Love that name10:26 PM Paula: I love the boy10:27 PM he is a real sweetyhe is deafme: yeah, I remember that from when you met himPaula: but sooo smarthim coming herewas like turning on a light10:28 PM its funny to watch him tooa month ago he was living in the middle of the rain forest with Menonite Missionaries10:29 PM now he is in Washington DCme: that’s a change!Paula: but just getting everything10:33 PM me: how old is he?10:34 PM Paula: 3time to go home see u when I get thereme: cool