You may or may not have heard that there are fake lesbian bloggers on the loose, one of which is “Paula Brooks” the founder of the lesbian news site LezGetReal.com.
“Paula Brooks” has turned out to be a 58 year old straight man named Bill Graber. I am the co-founder of LezGetReal.com, and I spent months working side by side with Graber online to develop LezGetReal thinking he was “Paula”. I am an author and entrepreneur so in 2007 I started a blog called Lesbian Mommy because I was in the process of writing a book about how to work from home online. Paula first approached me when she left a comment on my blog and asked me to write for another lesbian website called Lesbiatopia.
After I began writing for the site “Paula” and the site owner had what I call ‘lesbian drama’ so Paula created a new site called LezGetReal.com. Because Paula was hearing impaired and had a wife who was dying with breast cancer and young twins I offered her my help. I saw the site as an opportunity to test the system I created for my book while also making a difference for lesbian rights. Paula gave me creative control of the site to grow and named me Executive Editor, so I did a lot of work recruiting other lesbian bloggers to the site and more.
Working for LezGetReal was never about the money, and from the $50 or $60 the site would make in ad clicks would be sent out as donations to hot causes at the time, or was used to grow the site.
Paula and I both shared the expenses over time, she paid for setup, and I paid for costs when the site migrated. We worked together and created columns for the writers such as Lez Travel, plus a social network and online group for our writers to communicate. We had writers come on board like lesbian authors Jove Belle, Andi Marquette and Jill Malone, plus lesbians like Amy Balliet, Lori Hahn, Niki Hutton from Dyke Drama and the owner of Spaz Talk Radio. I was waiting for approval from the Bravo Network for Top Chef Lisa Fernandes to blog with us, plus we had writers like Kathy Young from the HRC, and we’ve had contributions from lesbian activist Robin Tyler plus lesbian cartoon character Lizzy the Lezzy.
I put a lot of work into developing the site and promoting it online because we were making a difference.
The writers helped talk others out of suicide, inspired people to create organizations like Join the Impact and Equality Army, and we got the word out about stories that the mainstream media would normally leave uncovered all because of my involvement with LezGetReal. After a while Paula’s personality and mine began to clash over issues we had with the site, and when she and I began to have differences I feared she would delete the site. This would have wasted all of the work we had done to that point so in the middle of 2009 I just walked away. She continued to run the site with Bridgette LaVictoire and a few others. I began working on a network of sites I had begun while working with LezGetReal, called GayGirlsNetwork, plus I self published my book on Amazon and basically moved on.
When the story broke I was contacted by Bilerico.com who told me about the scandal and the truth about “Paula Brooks”.
As you can imagine I was taken off guard, and stunned at the news. After a few hours of shock, I decided to call and confront Bill Graber, and when I talked to him, Graber claimed that he was able to use the identity of “Paula” to gain confidence in the media that he wouldn’t have been able to get as a straight man. Graber went to great lengths to fabricate the life of Paula Brooks in order to advance his agenda of making a great news site, and real lesbians who worked with LezGetReal are hurt and outraged at Graber’s tactics, such as Graber faking the death of “Paula’s wife Debbie”.
Graber was found out because of another fake lesbian online who turned out to be a straight male named Tom McMaster.
This fact is bringing to light the issues of online identity, gay versus straight perspective and more. One of the more popular arguments is that these hoaxes are a result of straight male privilege, but what I believe is that this is an issue of lesbian visibility. Lesbians weren’t visible in history until the feminist movement allowed women to actually define their own sexuality. Thinking back about how Bill Graber passed himself off as a lesbian to other real lesbians online, the truth of the matter is that we haven’t always known what each other looks like. My own personal gaydar is so off base that I didn’t even know that I was a lesbian so I was married to a man for almost five years. Identity in the lesbian world is a sensitive issue, and there are many lesbian women who stay in the closet for safety, family, or employment reasons.
We’re also thrown off by female celebrities in the media who don’t claim the fact that they are gay; plus the lesbian community is also one that will go to great lengths to protect each other and will usually allow another lesbian to ‘come out of the closet’ on their own time. There are two female celebrities that come to mind who have been a part of the lesbian community for years, but no lesbian who knows this has ever outed them. It was part of this phenomenon that contributed to the success of Graber’s hoax, which went on for years. There has been a call for transparency in blogging, but in working with LezGetReal and now Gay Girls Network I know how important it is for some lesbians to stay in the closet and fake being straight.
Looking back I know that there were a lot of positive changes made because of the site we created.
There have been rumors online that I knew that Paula was really Bill which is false, plus I’ve been called a few choice names which I’m choosing to ignore. Ultimately there are the people who thank me for helping them and an overall consensus of gratitude for my help. If there is any moral to the story right now it’s not that you can’t trust anyone online, and it’s not that every lesbian blogger is really a straight man. The message here is that more real lesbians need to come forward and put a face on what real lesbians look like so that fake lesbians can no longer infiltrate our world.
For more information on how Paula Brooks was discovered to be Bill Graber you can visit www.blogher.com and read the column by Liz Henry, another real lesbian online.
About the Author: Julie Phineas is a work at home mom of 2 who lives in Southern California. You can find out more about her by visiting her website at www.juliephineas.com.