Last week was a great week for lesbians coming out of the closet — coming out, that is, as middle-aged heterosexual men.
On Sunday, Amina Arraf, the young vivacious Syrian lesbian activist whose inspiring blog “A Gay Girl in Damascus” had captured hearts around the world, was revealed to be, in humdrum reality, one Tom MacMaster, a 40-year-old college student from Georgia. The following day, Paula Brooks, the lesbian activist and founder of the website LezGetReal, was revealed to be one Bill Graber, a 58-year-old construction worker from Ohio. In their capacity as leading lesbians in the Sapphic blogosphere, “Miss Brooks” and “Miss Arraf” were colleagues. “Amina” had posted at LezGetReal before starting “A Gay Girl In Damascus.” As one lesbian to another, they got along swimmingly. The Washington Post reported:
Amina often flirted with Brooks, neither of the men realizing the other was pretending to be a lesbian.
Who knows what romance might have blossomed had not “Amina” been arrested by a squad of Baath Party goons dispatched by Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad. Tom MacMaster then created “Rania,” a fake cousin for his fake lesbian, to try to rouse the world to take up the plight of the nonexistent Amina’s nonexistent detention.
A “Free Amina!” Facebook page sprang up.
“The Obama Administration must speak about this,” declared Peter Beinart, former editor of The New Republic. “This woman is a hero.”
On June 7th the State Department announced that it was looking into the “kidnapping.”
Now consider it from Assad’s point of view. Unlike “Amina,” “Rania,” and the “three armed men in their early 20s” who “hustled Amina into a red Dacia Logan,” you have the disadvantage of actually existing. You’re the dictator of Syria. You’ve killed more demonstrators than those losers Mubarak, Ben Ali, and Gaddafi combined, and the Americans have barely uttered a peep. Suddenly Hillary Clinton, who was hailing you as a “reformer” only 20 minutes ago, wants to give you a hard time over some lesbian blogger. Any moment now Sarkozy or Cameron or some other Europoseur will demand anti-homophobic NATO bombing missions over your presidential palace. On CNN Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper will be interviewing each other back and forth all day long about the Gay Spring sweeping the Arab world. You’ll be the first Middle East strongman brought down by lesbianism. You’ll be a laughing stock at Arab League Where-Are-They-Now? nights.
Who needs it? “Release the lesbian bloggers!” commands Assad.
“Er, what lesbian bloggers?” says his vizier. “This is Damascus, remember?”
“Oh, yeah.” And he spends another sleepless night wondering if this is the most devilish CIA dirty trick of all, or if one of their satellite drones merely misinterpreted the grainy footage from the Colonel Qaddafi Lookalike round of Syrian Idol.
The pretty young lesbian Muslim was exposed as a portly 40-year-old male infidel at the University of Edinburgh with the help of “Paula Brooks,” shortly before “Paula” was exposed as a 58-year-old male construction worker from Ohio. “He would have got away with it if I hadn’t been such a stand-up guy,” the second phony lesbian said of the first phony lesbian. As to why stand-up guys are posing as sit-down lesbians, “Paula” told the Associated Press that “he felt he would not be taken seriously as a straight man.”
“He got that one right,” sneered the Toronto gay magazine Xtra.
Indeed. A century ago, a British Army officer went to the Levant and reinvented himself as Lawrence of Arabia. Now a middle-aged American male college student goes to the Internet and reinvents himself as Florence of Arabia. We have become familiar in recent years with the booming literary genre of the fake memoir, to which Oprah’s late Book Club was distressingly partial. Greg Mortensen’s now discredited Three Cups Of Tea took it to the next level, not just near mandatory in the usual circles (grade schools and sentimental punditry) but also compulsory in the Pentagon for commanders en route to Afghanistan. After centuries of disdain for the preferred beverage of imperialists, American officers in the Hindu Kush now drink more tea than the Brits, and they don’t even like it. But a charlatan told them to do it, so the tea allowance now consumes 23 percent of the Pentagon budget.
Yet Tom MacMaster topped even that. He took an actual, live, mass popular uprising and made an entirely unrepresentative and, indeed, nonexistent person its poster “girl.” From CNN to the Guardian to Bianca Jagger to legions of Tweeters, Western liberalism fell for a ludicrous hoax. Why?
Because they wanted to. It would be nice if “Amina Arraf” existed. As niche constituencies go, we could use more hijab-wearing Muslim lesbian militants and fewer fortysomething male Western deadbeat college students. But the latter is a real and pathetically numerous demographic, and the former is a fiction — a fantasy for Western liberals, who think that in the multicultural society the nice gay couple at 27 Rainbow Avenue can live next door to the big bearded imam with four child brides at Number 29 and gambol and frolic in admiration of each other’s diversity. They will proffer cheery greetings over the picket fence, the one admiring the other’s attractive buttock-hugging leather shorts for that day’s Gay Pride parade as he prepares to take his daughter to the clitoridectomy clinic.
Yes, yes, I stereotype. But stereotypes become stereotypes because they’re grounded in observable reality. “Amina Arraf” is grounded in nothing more than a fetish fantasy as preposterous as those lipstick lesbians in porn movies who can’t wait for some hot straight guy to jump in and make it a threesome.
It would be statistically improbable for there to be no women attracted to other women in Damascus. But “Amina Arraf” is nothing more than the projection of parochial obsessions on to distant lands Western liberals are too lazy to try to figure out. In 2007 in The Atlantic Monthly, Andrew Sullivan, not yet mired up Sarah Palin’s birth canal without a paddle peddling bizarre conspiracy theories about the maternity of her youngest child, announced that, never mind his policies, Barack Obama’s visage alone would be “the most effective potential rebranding of the United States since Reagan.” As he explained:
It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees this man — Barack Hussein Obama — is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. . . . If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close.
For crying out loud. The assumption that “a young Pakistani Muslim” in Lahore or Peshawar shares your peculiar preoccupations is the most feeble kind of projection even by the standards of Western liberal navel-gazing. If doting progressives stopped gazing longingly into “Obama’s face” for just a moment, they might notice that in Benghazi “democracy activists” have been rounding up Libyan blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa. In Bahrain “democracy activists” have attacked hundreds of Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, ripping the tongue out of one muezzin and leaving him brain damaged. What’s so “multicultural” about the pampered middle-aged narcissists of the West’s leisurely “activist” varsity pretending that the entire planet is just like them?
You can learn a lot from the deceptions a society chooses to swallow. “Amina Arraf” was a fiction who fit the liberal worldview. That’s because the liberal worldview is a fiction.