The news that at least two prominent net lesbians were men left me only a little bit surprised. As a gamemaster on a MUSH I was familiar with the practice. Some men liked crossing genders. When they did it, many of them chose to be lesbians. How secretive they managed to be varied. We knew of several “online lesbians” who went on the prowl for women. It was always a tremendous laugh for us when two of these found each other and engaged in rapacious cybersex, fully believing that they had found a female target for their lust.
There there was the gamemaster of another [[MUSH]] broke up with her boyfriend and accepted the offer of a female friend to come to her home to console her. When the friend arrived, she discovered she was a he. This encounter did not go well.
At one point, I ran a character who was a [[cross-dresser]]. There was a thrill in playing the female role while still being a male. I got to experiment with various female behaviors and dresses. There was the thrill of being chased and yet not surrendering. When my secret got out — as I knew and planned that it would — reactions were mixed ranging from outright hostility to hilarity, mostly the latter. Still, the hurt of those who had lusted after my character (“she” was chaste unlike most characters in this particular venue and meant as a commentary on the faux lesbians) was profound and I decided never to do this again.
“Lindsay Eustace” as I named my character was not destined to be [[Andrej Pejic]].
Roleplaying games allow us to be people we are not. The timid and lanky geek becomes the brave and massive warrior. The plain girl becomes the busty supermodel wizard. People cross the lines all of the time, but in the old days they were sitting around a table and everyone could see who was holding the mask. In this brave new world, you can’t see who is behind the mask. That may be almost OK in online gaming (as long as you keep the sex out of play) but what happens when the chameleon abilities of the game are brought to the real world as happened with Gay Girl in Syria and Paula Brooks of Lez Get Real?
You get many like those who didn’t find my gender changer funny with next to no one finding it funny.
My friend Lezzymom spoke of how extreme “Paula Brooks'” lie had become. At one point, “Brooks” asked her to watch the site over the weekend so she could spread the ashes of her dead lover over the Outer Banks. When confronted with the truth, all Lezzymom could say about her hurt was “What a joy to look back and see all the lying.”
So why did 58 year old Bill Graber do it? We can only speculate. Perhaps he had a real commitment to LGBT rights and felt the only way he could participate was to assume this identity. Perhaps he was a former MUSH inhabitant who missed the old days, couldn’t afford [[Second Life]], and created a new character out on the web. Perhaps he got off on being a lesbian. Perhaps he was conducting an experiment in fiction. Or perhaps he craved the attention that most men who blog don’t get.
From Day One of this blog, I have sought to be myself. If there is any revelation to be made, it is that I am really the guy who you read about on the About page. I know many men are frustrated by the relative lack of attention paid to their blogs — some women are, too. This is a serious issue, I think. There is a double standard for confessional blogs: in my experience, women do tend to attract more sympathy when they speak of their problems. This suggests that we need to labor towards more inclusiveness on the whole when it comes to blogging, to stop to leave a comment to let the person know that we have acknowleged their labor and their life. But the lack of this does not justify outright lying about who you are in the real world where there are not supposed to be any masks.
UPDATE 6/18/2011: Lezzymom tells of a conversation she had with Bill Graber, author of “Paula Brooks”. Graber appears to have thought of himself as a kind of blog auteur, inventing his character as he went about four days in advance of publication.
Reflecting on Graber’s dead lover, she writes:
To use this death to essentially gain more readers for the blog. It was all about the blog. It seemed that anyone could be sacrificed or hurt to move the blog forward. I was a fairly new writer for the blog when this happened so I wasn’t as emotionally wrapped up in it as the others. But to hear him talk about using it simply to promote on the survivor blogs really showed me a new reality. There were no boundaries to who could be hurt.
I agree with Lezzymom: what Graber did is an insult to all of us who survived — be it a death, an illness, a mental breakdown, abuse, a suicide attempt. How can we who live what is real hope to compete and get the truth out there for others to see when there exist those who will make anything up just to draw in more readers for their fictions?
Will he sell his story? is my next question.