A Gay Girl in Damascus a hoax

Tom MacMaster
The real person behind the Amina lie: Tom MacMaster.

Last week a post on the blog A Gay Girl in Damascus, supposedly from the blogger’s cousin, reported the blog’s author Amina Arraf had been kidnapped by security forces. Other bloggers, including myself, posted to raise awareness and encourage folks to take action. Others who had been following the story and noticed information on the blog that seemed fishy began digging. Now the truth has come out.

Amina is actually Tom MacMaster, a married straight white man from the US. The widely circulated photos of Amina were pictures of Jelena Lecic that MacMaster stole.

MacMaster’s statement on the blog after he was outed is dripping with self-righteousness:

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.

Except that MacMaster misled people for as long as five years, building friendships based on a lie. He misled one woman who thought she was Amina’s girlfriend for six months. LGBT folks in Syria have expressed concern the blog brought unwanted attention to their already endangered community. And the controversy around the blog has distracted from, not brought attention to, the plight of actual prisoners in Syria. I could also see it giving those in power in Syria fodder to say the opposition is fomented by outside forces.

MacMaster went on to write that this experience has shown him “the pervasiveness of new forms of liberal Orientalism.” You mean straight white dudes from the US thinking they need to speak for queer women of color in the Middle East? Seems pretty old school to me.

Before the truth came out MacMaster told the Washington Post:

Look, if I was the genius who had pulled this off, I would say, ‘Yeah,’ and write a book.

In case you were wondering if this whole thing was an opportunistic grab at attention and maybe some cash.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

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