The man had talked to The Washington Post for almost a week in dozens of phone calls, identifying himself as the father of Paula Brooks, a deaf, lesbian, mother of two who ran a lesbian news Web site, Lez Get Real, from Washington.
Paula Brooks and Lez Get Real drew media coverage last week after the identity of a popular Syrian lesbian blogger, “A Gay Girl in Damascus,” had come into question. That blogger, known as Amina Arraf, had also written for Lez Get Real.
On Sunday, “A Gay Girl” admitted to being a married, American man named Tom MacMaster.
On Monday, Paula Brooks acknowledged that he, too, was also a man. Bill Graber, 58, said he is a retired Ohio military man and construction worker and that he he had adopted his wife’s identity online since 2008 to run Lez Get Real. Graber said his wife was unaware he had been using her name on his site.
In two long interviews Monday, Graber explained his connections with “A Gay Girl in Damascus,” his reasons for starting Lez Get Real and what will happen to the Web site now that he’s come clean.
On “A Gay Girl in Damascus”:
What you saw was a major sock puppet hoax crash into a major sock puppet hoax. My motivations are completely different than his. [Tom MacMaster] tried to climb right into your head. There was something malevolent about what he was doing. He was calling for other people to come out in Syria, come out of the closet. That’s not right. I had to get this guy to come out [and give his real identity]. [Graber helped uncover the hoax by identifying the IP address used by MacMaster.]
On why he started Lez Get Real:
The purpose of the Web site is to try to be a champion to do something good. I have a lot of gay friends. There is a lesbian couple that are my very dear friends and a lot of what you heard on Lez Get Real is their story. I’ve seen them abused and misused that you cannot believe. I wanted to try to give some people who didn’t have anything, everything. It was done with the best of intentions...but I’m an [expletive] for having done this.
On the lesbian couple he says inspired the site:
This couple is the perfect, cute, gay couple. These people have exactly figured it out. Anyone would wish to have what they have, not to be gay, but just to have the relationship they have. Have you ever seen the perfect couple? That’s them. I had no point of reference other than them.
I watched them go through a near death experience, and more so because this is Ohio. It’s a bad state for gays. They wouldn’t acknowledge a partner in hospitals, even though the couple has been together for 20 years. That happened about the time that I started the Web site.
On the abuse he himself has faced:
I have no love for the Catholic church because I am an abuse survivor. Until they make it right by me, they have no right to talk to that couple. My thought is people need to take their religion and keep it in their church.
On his sexual orientation:
I don’t identify myself as a gay man. I’m not gay, but I want gay people to be equal. I don’t hang out with gay people, or go to gay bars. But I met people who were really decent good people, and they were gay.
On Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:
I think my Web site had a lot to do with getting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repealed. I spent my life in the military, so I told [my writers] where to go. I thought Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was about the stupidest story I ever saw. My opinion is it doesn’t really matter who [gay people] sleep with. Gays are not demonic monsters like the bishop tells you they are. As soon as people serve as gays and come back out in society, attitudes will be changed. The country I served for 20 years... people should not have to go through that.
On the people he has hurt by lying about his identity:
My wife will scream if she finds out. She’ll say you were up to something no good. She’ll say you’re wasting time online and look what she accomplished.
I’m afraid that the more people that know about me [being a man running the blog], the less people that will read it. My online family, I’m concerned about them. Linda Levatoir [a blogger on Lez Get Real] will have to scramble if she’s going to have to save the blog
On giving Lez Get Real to someone else:
I’ve been trying to give this Web site away to people for a year. They seem to need a leader, but I could never find anyone to run it. It’s quite a lot of work. I’m managing eight reporters out there. I would like not to take this blog down, and I promise I will be out of it in the month. Linda will run it. After I turn over the reigns of the blog, I’ll try to get a job. But my end goal is to save this.