Sunday, June 12, 2011

Breaking: The Author Of "A Gay Girl In Damascus" Is Revealed

      There has been alot of reporting, from individual blogs to the Washington Post, about whether the author of the blog, "A Gay Girl In Damascus" was actually a girl named Amina Arraf, or whether it was a hoax. Today, Tom MacMaster of Turkey has revealed that he is the author of the popular blog. He states,

I never expected this level of attention. While the narrative voıce may have been fictional, the facts on thıs blog are true and not mısleading as to the situation on the ground. I do not believe that I have harmed anyone -- I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about.

I only hope that people pay as much attention to the people of the Middle East and their struggles in thıs year of revolutions. The events there are beıng shaped by the people living them on a daily basis. I have only tried to illuminate them for a western audience.

This experience has sadly only confirmed my feelings regarding the often superficial coverage of the Middle East and the pervasiveness of new forms of liberal Orientalism.

However, I have been deeply touched by the reactions of readers.

Tom MacMaster,
Istanbul, Turkey
July 12, 2011

The sole author of all posts on this blog
     I am thankful that the truth has now come out about the blog, but it raises troubling thoughts. Did Tom help the situation of LGBT individuals in the Middle East by writing this blog? Can someone who is not in the actual situation illuminate the problems encountered by those who are?  If yes to both of these questions, is misrepresentation and deceit acceptable for the greater good? What do you all think?


  1. The author has made a follow-up post, which raises further troubling issues for me. The first apology left me with the impression that Amina started out as a fictional character specifically designed to raise awareness of the plight of QUILTBAG individuals in the Middle East, which I would classify as "good intentions executed in a (horribly) wrong manner."

    The more recent post reveals that Amina started out as a fictional character for the sake of practicing to learn to write fictional characters, and things got out of hand from there. Considering how far it got out of hand, that has me especially troubled.

    As a writer, I understand how helpful it can be to "play out" your character in order to get inside their heads. In the and fantasy, it's not unheard of for authors to roleplay their characters as a way to explore. I'd point out how Kit Whitfield occasionally writes "Mikalogues," which she has explained she started as a way to creatively play with a different kind of narrative voice. I wouldn't be surprised if such things are pretty common.

    The thing is, everyone still knows that the character a fantasy writer is playing is still fiction. Everyone realizes that ultimately, it's still Kit writing Mikalogues. There's no deception involved.

    When you bring a character out into the real world (even the electronic real world of the blogosphere) and do not establish the fictional nature of the character you're playing, you're engaging in deception. That's bound to hurt people. That's bound to cause other problems.

    When you then turn around and insert that fictional person into a real issue -- such as the plight of QUILTBAG people in the Middle East -- I think that gets pretty ugly pretty fast. Because eventually, the deception will be discovered, and everything will go downhill.

    Which is a shame, because I could see how such a fictional blog could be a great tool if there were no deception involved. If MacMaster had created Amina for the purpose of raising awareness of what it's like to be non-hetero/non-cis in the Middle East and made it clear that she was a fictional character, a sort of alter-ego of himself, I can see where it could have been a powerful tool, no different from writing an actual novel to explore those issues. I could also see where having a companion blog where he offers comments about Amina and her story would be powerful, where he could point out how Amina's experiences are based on real life events that other, actual flesh-and-blood people go through. Because right now, I'm sure there are plenty of people wondering how "accurate" Amina's experiences really are.

    As for your question, I do think people "outside the situation" (whatever the situation may be) can raise awareness. They simply need to know and listen to people "on the inside" sufficiently to represent them and their problems.

    As a final note, I'll notice that MacMaster mentioned in today's post that he's tried to "stop" Amina before. If her "abduction" was his latest attempt to hopefully "stop" her, I will admit that I consider that particularly scummy of him.

  2. Thank you Jarred for this updated look at the situation. I agree, Amina's story could have been a powerful tool if its fictional nature had been known from the beginning.

    Thought I was not impacted per say by this blog - as I had never read it - I feel for those in the Middle East who took refuge in this blog, thinking that there was someone out there like them who was going through a similar situation.

    Fiction is one thing, but playing with others lives through your fiction is another.


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