“Paula Brooks,” editor of Lez Get Real since its founding in 2008, is actually Bill Graber, 58, who said he is a retired Ohio military man and construction worker that had adopted his wife’s identity online. Graber said she was unaware he had been using her name on his site.
Brooks’s identity came under suspicion after news broke that a woman called Amina Arraf on the blog “A Gay Girl in Damascus” might not really be a Syrian lesbian.
Over the weekend, as journalists, bloggers and fans of Amina hunted for clues to the identity behind the blog, Brooks came under review as a possible suspect. Liz Henry, a Web producer at BlogHer.com, questioned Brooks’s involvement with Amina, as Amina had started to write about the Syrian uprising on Lez Get Real before starting her own blog.
MacMaster came forward Sunday to admit that he was behind the persona of Amina, but questions still remained about Brooks.
Brooks had told reporters at The Washington Post that she could only speak on the phone through her father because she was deaf. She provided a photograph of her license as proof of her identity, which showed a woman named Paula Brooks.
On Monday, we continued to question her identity. We spoke to the man who identified himself as her father, who finally admitted after numerous telephone conversations: “I am Paula Brooks.” That man turned out to be Bill Graber.
Graber said he started the site to write about gay issues after seeing the mistreatment of close friends who were a lesbian couple. He said the site was “done with the best of intentions.” As a former Air Force pilot, he also said he used the site to argue in favor of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal.
“I didn’t start this with my name because... I thought people wouldn’t take it seriously, me being a straight man,” he said.
He felt secure that no one would discover his true identity until the story of Amina started to unravel. He said his connection to Amina was purely coincidental and started when Amina commented on a post on the Lez Get Real site in February. It “was a major sock-puppet hoax crash into a major sock-puppet hoax.”
In the guise of Paula Brooks, Graber corresponded online with Tom MacMaster, thinking he was writing to Amina Arraf. Amina often flirted with Brooks, neither of the men realizing the other was pretending to be a lesbian.
Already reeling from the news of MacMaster’s hoax, one of Graber’s contributors at Lez Get Real Linda LaVictoire, said, “I was completely taken in; I have been completely taken in for three years.” The 62 year old lives in Vermont and writes on the site under her maiden name of Linda Carbonell.
Graber hoped the truth of his identity would not hurt the site he had built or set back the causes of the gay and lesbian community. He said he plans to give the site to LaVictoire to run.