6/27/11

Diffuse 5 Talks to Lesbiatopia Editor about Paula Brooks Scandal

In case you haven't heard of Diffuse 5, they are an awesome site connecting the queer community by giving you information about the events, people and businesses that support it.  Diffuse 5 is based in Boston, the place I quite happily call home.  I was quite honored when Diffuse 5 CEO Ashley Lucas contacted me for an interview in regards to my personal reactions about the "Paula Brooks"/Bill Graber scandal. 

In case you weren't aware, I was quite intimately involved with "Paula Brooks" for the first couple of years that "she" began blogging.  If you haven't read it already, you can catch up on my personal account of my interactions with "Paula Brooks" here.   After you've caught up on the drama, check my interview, below, with CEO Ashley Lucas...

 Picture this.  You are the founder of a lesbian focused website and you begin to open up your business and your life to a number of content contributors who want to be involved with what you’re building.  You develop relationships, friendships and business partnerships with these people, letting them in to your life and sharing your experiences and life stories with them.
Now imagine that one of those people, whom you trusted and relied on to be an ally, turned out to be lying about their identity throughout the entirety of your relationship.
Renee Gannon, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Lesbiatopia, doesn’t have to leave much to the imagination…
Over the past few weeks, the names Bill Graber and Paula Brooks have been all over the news. Brooks was the editor of lesbian news site Lez Get Real, with the tag­line “A Gay Girl’s View on the World.”  She worked with a number of other sites, sharing content and building relationships that would quickly sour.  Sour because “Paula Brooks” turned out to be Bill Graber, a 58 year old retired Ohio military man and construction worker that had adopted his wife’s identity online.
For years Graber took on an alter ego, convincing people that he was a lesbian dedicated to educating the world and advancing gay-rights, until the Washington Post did some digging and discovered that Brooks was not who she said she was.
Renee Gannon, one of the victims of Graber’s alter ego, was kind enough to talk to us about her business relationship with the 58-year-old and the impact his deception has had on her life and the lesbian blogosphere.

The Interview

Diffuse 5: This fiasco has been pushed out all over the news. When was the exact moment you found out about it and what was your reaction?
Renee Gannon: I was contacted by one of Lesbiatopia’s former writers who shared with me the article on the Washington Post that broke the story that “Paula Brooks” was actually Bill Graber. My initial reaction was of shock, and then of course, I had a million questions running through my head. I began Googling the story which lead me to the discovery that Paula/Bill was directly related to the Gay Girl in Damascus hoax, which I had briefly read about in the news just days before.
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D5: Graber said that he faked his identity in order to be taken seriously within the world of lesbian media. Clearly that didn’t work in the end. What do you think he should have done if he wanted to be a true ally?
RG: I have always loved the saying, “The truth will set you free” and I truly believe it. If Graber had just been himself from the beginning, all of this could’ve been avoided. Unfortunately, through his deceit, he hurt a lot of people in the process. If he really wanted to showcase lesbian rights, he could’ve started a blog as a straight man in support of these rights. Would he have been taken seriously? I think, with the right approach and the right amount of credibility, the lesbian community would’ve listened with open ears if his intentions were truly in the right place.
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D5: How do you think the lesbian community should react to this? Is the current reaction what you expected?
RG: Well, the women who had, over the years, worked with “Paula” in some capacity or another were obviously upset and greatly disappointed. I think the lesbian community should react with a sense of vigilence, first and foremost, especially those of us who engage in online networking on the regular. For me, personally, the reaction was a mixture of anger and sadness. I was angry at being lied to and deceived for years, but also sad for Graber because he clearly needs help.
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Read the rest of the interview from Diffuse 5

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