Adam Polaski

'Lez Get Real' Successors Clarify Time with 'Paula Brooks'

Filed By Adam Polaski | June 15, 2011 12:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Bill Graber, Bridgette LaVictoire, Gay Girl in Damascus, lesbian bloggers, lesbian hoax, Lesbiatopia, Lez Get Real, Linda Carbonell, Melanie Nathan, Paula Brooks, Tom MacMaster

BridgetteLaVictoire.jpgFor the past two days, the telephones in the Rutland, Vermont home of Bridgette LaVictoire (right) and Linda Carbonell, have been ringing off the hook. Since news broke that Paula Brooks, the lesbian founder and editor of Lez Get Real, the blog for which the women write, is actually a straight, married man named Bill Graber, they have been fielding calls from reporters, fellow contributors, and Graber himself.

It's not an enviable position.

LaVictoire and Carbonell have seen their own identities challenged. They have been questioned about their role in the "Gay Girl in Damascus" hoax. And they have agreed to step in as the managers of Lez Get Real, all while trying to grapple with their own conceptions of what was and was not real.

Despite the lies of Bill Graber, LaVictoire and Carbonell are real. LaVictoire is a 36-year-old, lesbian transgender woman and full-time graduate student at Goddard College. She had the first of her gender change surgeries in August, and soon, she will amend her birth certificate to reflect her true gender. Carbonell is LaVictoire's 62-year-old, heterosexual mother who works part-time providing services for older residents in an apartment building.

In a Skype interview with The Bilerico Project, the mother-daughter duo addressed concerns about the new direction of Lez Get Real, distinguished this controversy from the "Gay Girl in Damascus" debacle, and spoke about their relationships with Bill Graber and Paula Brooks. (Read previous pieces of the story from Bilerico here and here).

Coming Aboard Lez Get Real

Bridgette LaVictoire first encountered Paula Brooks on Lesbiatopia, a blog devoted to lesbian-focused news analysis. LaVictoire, posting under the username "SEI," would comment on articles and append her own thoughts to other writers' posts. Brooks eventually asked LaVictoire to get in touch about becoming a writer on Lesbiatopia, an exchange that occurred on Sept. 5, 2008 (See below).

FirstMeetingPaulaSEI.jpgShe published on Lesbiatopia for the first time the next day, and when Brooks broke away to start Lez Get Real later that month, LaVictoire followed.

The two worked together closely, speaking online often and, when telephone was necessary, via an interpreter, as Brooks was 'deaf.'

In November 2010, Carbonell, who had previously guest-posted under LaVictoire's account about being the mother of a trans woman, began writing for the site to bring in an older perspective.

That same month, Brooks arranged an in-person meeting with Carbonell and LaVictoire in Washington, D.C. Brooks canceled at the last minute, as she had in two previously proposed meetings with Lez Get Real editor Melanie Nathan. It is unclear why Brooks would arrange meetings without any intention of attending.

Around that time, Brooks announced exciting personal news to her staff that would restrict her from continuing with the full-time blog duties.

"The Paula persona was 'engaged to be married,'" Carbonell explained. "The fiancé had a new job offer in Chicago, Paula had two daughters, they had just adopted a son, and she wanted to hand over the site."

LaVictoire explained that in early 2011, the plan was for her and Melanie Nathan to take over. When Nathan expressed discontent with the site and resigned in late May, however, plans changed, and LaVictoire and Carbonell arranged to begin managing Lez Get Real in August.

"The reality is that Bill was trying to exit quietly," Carbonell said. "And if it had happened, we would have just been able to continue what we do. But then Tom MacMaster blew up in our face."

Distinct from Damascus

Carbonell said it's unfair to treat the "Gay Girl in Damascus" hoax and the Lez Get Real gender-bending as equally damaging lies. She labeled Graber's false identity as little more than a fictional author. And while there's far more to Graber's lies than simply his gender or family background - after all, he developed an intricate, complex web of falsehoods for his intimate, professional relationships - his journalistic reporting on Lez Get Real has not been accused of communicating false information about the LGBT community.

"I think that the damage he did was personal to those of us involved with him," Carbonell said. "In the beginning on the LGR site he told a few stories about this character Paula to connect with people, to make them see what life was like for a lesbian, single mother. But he wasn't hurting anyone. And he didn't do anything that fit to a bigger realm of the world."

She does, however, find significant, long-term fault with MacMaster's actions.

"The Amina persona set off incredible damage to the cause of citizen journalism in the Middle East," she said. "And the only access the world has to what is going on in these countries is the person willing to pick their cell phone up in the air and go, 'See? They're killing us.' And Tom MacMaster has damaged the credibility of all of those people, the only ones who can tell us what's going on inside Syria."

"What Tom has done hurts 8 million people," Carbonell said. "What Bill did hurts half a dozen. That's an enormous difference."

An Intimate Relationship

To say that Bill Brooks' lies were not as damaging as Tom MacMasters' is not to say that Brooks did nothing wrong. His twisted, intricate backstory was littered with confusing lies that seem extraneous to a successful cover-up. Some of those include Paula's supposed work with The Rachel Maddow Show and Countdown with Keith Olbermann, attendance at the presidential inaugural ball, and the drawn-out, authentic-seeming passing of her 'wife' in 2008. "It's hard to choose the most egregious lies when there are so many of them," LaVictoire said.

Learning of the lies is a hard blow for LaVictoire, who has spent nearly three years confiding in Paula Brooks. They built a relationship, working side-by-side on the Lez Get Real blog, and LaVictoire felt that their bond, however virtual it was, was strong. Brooks supported LaVictoire throughout her gender transition and acted as a reliable friend.

Over time, LaVictoire fell in love with Paula Brooks.

"I did," she said. "And I wish I hadn't."

"I don't meet a lot of people, so anyone who gives me affection or returns affection to me - it can be a weakness for me," LaVictoire said. "I feel very abused."

LaVictoire said that this was not the first time that she has met a woman online, developed feelings for her, and then discovered she was only an avatar for a man

LezGetRealLogo.jpg"I've been very hurt," she said specifically about the revelation of Paula Brooks. "I've talked to Bill very little. Through most of yesterday, I couldn't get five minutes into a conversation with this person without me crying my eyes out. It was very, very difficult."

"He hurt my daughter," said Carbonell, who has done most of the communication with Graber since Monday. "Bridgette is a very vulnerable soul, and Paula became her best friend. And that hurt. It hurt her a lot to discover that Paula didn't exist. This is a mother's anger more than anything else. I'm very protective of my child."

Picking Up the Pieces

LaVictoire said that she intends to work at rebuilding some of the friendships she has crafted during her work with lesbian blogs, including Lesbiatopia editor Renee Gannon, Lez Get Real co-founder Julie Phineas, and Melanie Nathan. "I have to try and repair those friendships, and it's very difficult for me to do that."

As for her relationship with Bill Graber, LaVictoire is less certain. "It may take a very, very long time before I can have civil words with him," she said. "At the moment all I want to do is get as far away from this as possible. Get this behind us."

She said that coming under the microscope of the media and readers of Lez Get Real has been challenging. "I am a very private person," she said. "I have severe anxiety issues around people, and to a certain extent, I'm agoraphobic. Honestly, all of this scares me."

That doesn't mean that LaVictoire has plans to dismantle Lez Get Real. Carbonell has already issued an apology and fuller story about the Paula Brooks debacle online, asserting that the new direction of the blog has yet to be determined.

LaVictoire simply wants to continue working. "I plan on continuing the journalism work with more of my own voice," she said. The blog has given me a way to help my brothers and sisters out there, and to help me. It doesn't make sense to live in a world where people are treated differently because of how they were born or what social class they were born to or their disabilities or any of it. That's what sold me on Lez Get Real - that I would have the chance to help others. I don't want to stop helping others."

Read the entire "Lez Get Real" story at The Bilerico Project:

img courtesy of Bridgette LaVictoire and screenshots


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Bridgette | June 15, 2011 1:08 PM

Adam,

Thank you.

For a straight woman to be the editor/owner of a lesbian blog is just wrong... and I don't care who else the other contributors are. She's using LGR as a platform for her own views and doesn't belong there. And honestly, that blog without Melanie Nathan's contribution isn't worth much anyway. Moreover, while I'm sorry about her agoraphobia, Bridgette hasn't been honest about her very limited direct exposure to the trans and women's communities (which frequently shows in her writing) and I know a lot of trans people who have big problems around her past writings concerning trans issues.

The Paula affair was just the tip of the iceberg about what was wrong with LGR.

Bridgette | June 15, 2011 5:00 PM

Gina,

Actually, I've been forthcoming about my limited exposure. Usually, what I get hit with is people demanding that I take a specific position- one that they have- and don't let me discuss it so that I can learn. I have mentioned several times in the past that I have had a horrible time with the transgender and transsexual communities including bullying that has resurfaced on LGR.

I am sorry that you do not like that Melanie left. She and I were sort of friends. Right now, I don't need someone like you making how I feel worse, ok? Please, just, if you don't like us or what has happened, just let it go.

Lisa, thank you.

A think a far more honest statement would be that you (and "Paula") have banned people who took any sort of position contrary to your own (and I think it has more to do with your own defensiveness and lack of experience and Paula's faux persona than 'not allowing me to explain'... that's absurd, it's your site, you have control over it). And I'm talking about people disagreeing over a single post... not someone who's been continually trolling.

"Sort of friends" is not putting it very realistically. You (especially your mom) treated Melanie like crap so honestly, I'm not too worried about your feelings at the moment.

Bridgette | June 15, 2011 6:51 PM

Gina,

I have already apologized to Melanie, but what even Melanie understood was that I am a very delicate person and those who I respond to or ban on my blog may not seem correct to you or right or even make sense.

Ms McDonald knows just how antagonistic I can be if approached in the wrong manner, and how, if you have the patience to discuss things with me properly, I will listen and learn. Sometimes it is not about what I have said, but how I have phrased things.

You don't have to agree with me, but I prefer to be treated with respect. Throughout this whole thing, I have banned very few people, and kept to as polite a manner as possible.

And that includes saying this to you. Nothing I say will ever make you like me, and nothing I say will ever make you understand how much this has hurt me, but lacking empathy is something that is a problem in this world, and it would behoove you to try and have some empathy for me.

Bridgette | June 15, 2011 7:23 PM

And, Gina, if I ever banned you on LGR, I am sorry. That goes for anyone you know who I did that too as well.

Just before this story appeared I exchanged a few emails with Bridgette. She was polite and I thought a pretty descent person. One of the things that Gina might and others might not have liked about her writing is that she doesn't identify as Transgender. In my dealings with Paula ( Bill Graber) like you he thought it was okay to label all Transsexuals as being transgender. Its a common mistake with those associated with the LGBT and I'm now going to have to wonder if every one that does it is just another white guy pretending to be LGBT or trans anything. I don't have a problem with Bridgette's mom working on the blog or expressing her support for her daughter Bridgette and her experience. I wish them success and I hope that they can turn this terrible event into something positive.

The way I see it, the reputation of Lez Get Real is irrecoverably tainted and the sooner the site is shut down, the sooner we can all put it behind us.

Bridgette | June 16, 2011 1:04 AM

Bonjour Madam Arceneaux. No, we are not going to shut down. Not after making the Daily Show tonight.

We keep soldiering on.

Because being featured on the Daily Show - where they regularly make fun of hoaxs and charlatans - is a mark of good standing, of course.

Yes, you're getting attention. But as I used to have to explain to my five year old, there's a difference between "good attention" and "bad attention."

Shut it down. At this point you're just damaging yourselves further. He killed your blogging careers. Instead of yelling at more blog commenters, go complain to him. He did it - not the readers.

I'll also throw out there that when Bill called me about the whole sordid mess, he told me that you knew he wasn't really Paula. While that part has stayed out of it because he's made so many conflicting statements, it only makes me doubt the veracity of anything you say. Do I believe the admitted liar? Or the person who acts like it's no big deal and wants to carry on and makes excuses for him?

How about neither?

You must be kidding me!! Who is buying this bull? There is still something HIGHLY fishy about this. The site needs to be taken down immediately. If these two gave a crap about the community they would want the same. But they are too busy defending "Bill Graber" and clinging to a steaming pile of shit that is a disgrace to the lesbian community. These two are not for real, just can't be. Something is wrong.

A big example of wrong is this last comment that they will not take it down, not after making the Daily Show. Oh really? Clear portrait of priorities, you made the Daily Show as a JOKE. The website is a joke and disgrace now. A mere footnote to the Amina Arraf hoax that is nothing but an embarrassment to the whole lesbian community.

Why in the world do you give these two press Bilerico? They are ate up and clearly neither lesbians nor allies b/c they just DONT GET IT.

This whole witch-hunt mentality has to stop. It's as poison as what happened. And yes, in a while, everyone is going to have to take a big step back and think about our sources and our colleagues and everyone around us, but right now, we're not even able.

The thing is, we were all being manipulated. I was being told scandalous things about the other writers on the site and I'm sure the same is true for them. We have to go back and reassess everything we were told by this person, because some of that stuff is still informing our actions, and shouldn't. It's just hard to erase all of it quickly.

Since I no longer write for LezGetReal, I have no part in this process, but I had still maintained a "friendship" with Paula and it's still kind of blowing my mind what happened.

The majority of lesbian bloggers out there are, in fact, lesbians. I know that Bridgette is real and I know Melanie Nathan is too, as is Natasha Langfelder. None of them ever gave me reason to doubt them, but Paula did. And -- unfortunately -- I pushed my doubts aside.

I, too, have reservations about allies running gay blogs (I wouldn't run a trans blog, no matter how invested I am in that cause) -- especially when they dismiss out of hand the actual focus of the blog is a lesbian one. But it's still better than total fictional characters I guess.

If people want to keep the blog going, they are able to try, and that's their business. I still believe some of the stuff I wrote there did some good, and regardless of how things turned out, that is what I wanted.

Wow!

I read this, read it again, and read it a third time to make sure I understood what was written.

"I think that the damage he did was personal to those of us involved with him," Carbonell said. "In the beginning on the LGR site he told a few stories about this character Paula to connect with people, to make them see what life was like for a lesbian, single mother. But he wasn't hurting anyone. And he didn't do anything that fit to a bigger realm of the world."

I could NOT disagree more!!

First of all, I have been out as a lesbian since I was 16 years old and have been an activist most of my adult life. I have a problem with this attitude that "this only hurt a handful of people."

Really?

What about the LGBTQ community members living in rural areas that don't feel safe coming out, who relied on Lez Get Real for some kind of connection to other LGBTQ people?

What about the teenager struggling with their sexuality, who came to the site and thought it was a safe place to get information, who are now wondering if "all" adult "LGBT" people are straight white men posing as LGBTQ?

NO ONE but Bill Graber knows the full extent of what he has done, who he has talked to, who he has flirted with, who he has communicated with over the past years as Paula! You said in the article you got close to "Paula" and fell in love.

What makes you think you are the only one?

Did Mr. Graber have contact with any LGBTQ youth? How do you know 100% for certain? How can anyone trust a single word coming out of his mouth under any circumstances? If Bill Graber said, "It is raining outside." I wouldn't believe him until my head was hit by water.

Everything he has done, everything he has said is now subject to scrutiny. ANYONE defending him will be under the same microscope and I can promise there are a few of us that are digging and will continue to dig for the ABSOLUTE truth about him and anyone else associated with the site.

By keeping the site up and putting yourself in front of the microphones and cameras you are giving the public permission to verify, double check and verify again EVERYTHING YOU SAY or WRITE!

Why would you want to save a site that is basically hated by the LGBTQ community at this point? I still haven't seen a good reason for keeping it up and running. It will be the laughing stock, along with anyone associated with it, which by default makes the entire LGBTQ community a laughing stock.

There are LGBTQ activists working in an honest, truthful way trying to gain the rights to marry and end discrimination. By keeping the site up, and continuing the lies, you are setting the work back and giving a bullhorn to the far right so they can justify their accusations.

Shut the site down if you have any self respect or even a small amount of respect for the people we know Mr. Graber bullied and hurt and for those who will never feel comfortable coming forward.

If you care about anyone other than yourselves, you will do the right thing.

http://fiestycharliewrites.blogspot.com/

Bridgette | June 16, 2011 1:01 PM

Charlie,

Because this is my site, and I really do not want to start over from scratch, and I really would like everyone to stop yelling at me because they're hurt. I'm badly hurt. You want to verify me, fine, but know that what you are doing at this point after Adam was nice enough to do this interview is also rather vindictive.

cherchezlafemme | June 16, 2011 1:08 PM

I am amazed at the lack of accountability Bridgette and Linda are showing for their participation in "Paula's" systematic bullying and abuse of Melanie Nathan and the other LGR writers, as well as their readership. I looked through LGR for a story that evidences the kind of editorial power-trip abuses described by ginasf above, and found one within moments: http://lezgetreal.com/2011/06/paul-ryan-persued-by-protester-with-giant-bible/

"Paula" and Bridgette call commenters making reasonable, respectful points Nazis and sociopaths (via their association with Ayn Rand, but yes - they actually went there and made it personal), and are otherwise inconsolably irrational and combative. And Linda's original apology to the readers regarding Amina was hateful and quick blame Melanie Nathan for all LGR's troubles, which we now know to be "Paula Brooks'" last-ditch red herring to try to avoid detection as a straight white guy with a pathological need to make lesbians miserable. I am so glad all of the people involved are exposed for the damage they've done to the lesbian community online, which contrary to Linda's assertion goes far beyond the direct reach of "Paula." If you want a real example of a narcissistic sociopath, you need look no further than Mr. Graber and his incredibly insulting charade.

In any case, it seems no coincidence that the two people inheriting the legacy of LGR, the only two left standing, are as drunk with editorial power and entitlement as their former boss. And Bridgette's alternately blaming disability and playing the "delicate" card, then being a bullying, banning editorial despot certainly smacks of hypocrisy.

Because of all this destructive infighting and poor judgment, I will never again patronize LezGetReal, and I hope no other lesbians will either. It deserves to fade into obscurity after all the hoopla dies down, because nothing with roots in so much deception could possibly yield anything worthwhile.

cherchezlafemme | June 16, 2011 1:27 PM

And just in case Bridgette decides to go the revisionism route, here's the cache of that exchange with all its 26 comments: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=cache%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Flezgetreal.com%2F2011%2F06%2Fpaul-ryan-persued-by-protester-with-giant-bible%2F

and, for all posterity, the final comment left by Ms. LaVictoire:

"Posted on June 7, 2011 at 12:46 am

Michael,

Look at the top of the story and then look at my name. Do that again. And one more time.

Now, do you understand the fact that I have a nice button that says “I win”?

Just so you know and understand. I won because we are in a political arena and I got out the sound bites. You lost because you three kept posting lovely long posts trying to refute me. As I said, check the arena first.

BTW- You lose. Bye now."

Honestly, how childish and unproductive can you get? This is not someone that should be representing the lesbian community in any way, let alone with authority.

What a bunch of creepos! A straight man, a transsexual and straight woman all pretending to be lesbians. This phenomena isn't anything new there are plenty of frauds polluting lesbian forums, blogs and websites but I'm glad these weirdos are being exposed!

cherchezlafemme | June 16, 2011 4:25 PM

Lumping Bridgette LaVictoire in with the other two and calling her a "transsexual" who is "pretending to be a lesbian" is irresponsible and transphobic. Of course a transgender woman can be a lesbian as much as a woman assigned female at birth can be a lesbian, and I fully respect Bridgette's gender identity.

How she runs her site and engages in bullying flame wars with readers, I'm not so cool with. Also her Mom and her minimizing comments about how Paula only hurt a few little lesbians, it's not like she did any real damage... not cool either. But neither is transphobia.

Shit, I got my comment the wrong place. (slaps forehead)

Um, cherchez, pls, let's not start another trans-realted flame war, ok? I do have a question for Isabel though, which I will repeat below 'cause I got it the wrong place the first time. However, I am not not not looking for a fight, just trying to more fully understand how cis lesbians feel about trans women and what the relations between the two groups are:

Bil, sorry for the derail, but I just have to ask Isabel (with no flaming to follow, just my own curiousity):

Do I understand you to be saying that a transsexual woman is cannot be considered a lesbian? Don't worry, I am not setting you up for an attack, just gathering info relative to a theory I have. I will not respond other than to ask follow-up questions.

Thanks! :)

cherchezlafemme | June 16, 2011 5:03 PM

Um, another trans-related flame war?

I fail to see how calling for respectful reference to Bridgette's gender (stated plainly above, in the story) is starting anything. However, using this forum to voice cis prejudice and generalize the relations between cis and trans lesbians based on some careless comment seems pretty inappropriate and distracting to the issue at hand.

I think you must be new here! :)

There is currently a whole uproar about commenting, and trans-related topics and trans ppl seem to be the bulk of the issue.

For me, at this point, I'd rather just know ppl's opinions than to change anyone's mind, and it's hard to get ppl to be honest if they feel they will be attacked for what they might say. And I am very curious abuot attitudes of cis-lesbians towards trans women who identify as lesbians (kind of a half-assed sociological study). :)

cherchezlafemme | June 16, 2011 6:00 PM

I am new, and while I appreciate your intentions are sociological or otherwise unbiased, I think it's pretty clear what Isabel's comment is intimating. And I think belaboring the point in this forum is extremely insensitive to Ms. LaVictoire.

"I think belaboring the point in this forum is extremely insensitive to Ms. LaVictoire."

You have a good point there, sorry.

Though on the other hand, from what I have seen in this thread, it seems Ms. LaVictoire is pretty good at taking up for herself, in spite of being such a delicate flower. :)

Um, cherchez, pls, let's not start another trans-realted flame war, ok?

You should direct that at Isabel who said that a transsexual woman was pretending to be a lesbian, rather than directing it at anyone who objects to such a characterization.

It is true - I have no faith in Bilerico as a space where trans people are respected. I recall when the woman in Baltimore was beaten in McDonald's that while racist comments were deleted for violating the TOS, a large number of transphobic comments were left in place. Is it any wonder arguments happen here? Apparently transphobia and trans hatred is considered to be nothing more than a "difference of opinion" or "having a conversation" and objections to it are considered to be inciting flame wars.

Does that really seem right to you?

You know, it doesn't matter what I think. This site will be run the way this site will be run. I feel you have to live with it the way it is, or go somewhere else. I really am not getting into what is fair or isn't fair. Honestly, I really don't much care. I have my own interests and agenda, which relative to this, is to get a better understanding of what is, not to argue what should be.

At this point, I am interested in getting a broader understanding of the attitudes of cis lesbians toward trans women who identify as lesbians. This has long been of interest to me, and I want to pursue it. I really don't care what their attitudes are, I just want know what they are.

Feel free to pursue any sense of justice you have, but I feel it is pretty clear what the reception and impact of that will be on this site. And if ppl jump in and attack ppl who display negative views, then I won't get to see how widespread they are.

In particular, Isabel made a comment that was leading but not conclusive, at least to me. I wanted to see if I could find out if she really meant what she seemed to say. She seems like the sort who is just coming to express umbrage at something she has a strong feeling about, namely the ppl who ran and are running Lez Get Real, and isn't likely to be following the thread after she got her say in. But just in case, I'd like to know what she thinks about the validity of trans women who identify as lesbians.

Though I know it would never be possible, I'd like to do a survey of cis lesbians on this topic. I guess I could ask to make a post here of a survey, but I doubt Bil would allow it, and really, there don't seem to be that many cis lesbians who frequent the site, it seems to mostly be gay men and trans women.

cherchezlafemme | June 16, 2011 11:22 PM

Wow. Honestly, I held off on responding to Isabel's comment because I was sure it would be removed, it's so blatantly transphobic. But it wasn't, and I hated to see it sitting there implicitly condoned by inaction, especially as Carol seemed to think that made it fair game for abstract discussion. Maybe it was missed

But Carol, it is really unclear to you what kind of bigotry is being displayed in Isabel's comment? Do you really think we should poll people on their ignorance and intolerance and bigotry toward trans women or trans lesbians? Do you think it is okay for the privileged cis lesbian majority to make judgments about the validity of the identity of the trans lesbian minority? Don't you think the mere act of polling suggests you think the dominant group is more "valid" and more worthy of making such a judgment?

Can you imagine, would you ever hold the poll in the reverse direction? No? Would you ever hold the poll with regard to other majorities and minorities, say... asking heterosexuals whether they feel that gay identities are valid? If 75% of the US straight population said that gay identities are invalid, would that make them any less so?

Of course not. We will continue being gay whether straights like it or not, and trans women will continue being lesbians whether cis women like it or not. It is not our place to judge, nor to opine. Not being able to draw those connections is transphobic, plain and simple.

geez...

No, I of course don't feel that it is valid for a majority group to determine whether or not a minority group is valid or not. However, majority groups do implicitly have that power, and they do use it, consciously or not. I'd just like to know what the attitudes are.

But really, forget I even brought it up. This is why we can't have actual discussions about race or anything else controversial in this country.

I am sorry that I upset you, and I apologize.

cherchezlafemme | June 17, 2011 12:14 AM

A venue where this exact drama is playing out, and has been for oh so many years, is MichFest. Just google it and you'll have plenty of material to sate your curiosity about institutionalized discrimination against trans women by cis women. Hopefully that's changing soon thanks to great activism by some cis women in the festival, but the battle rages on.

cherchezlafemme | June 17, 2011 8:14 AM

Oy, I misspoke. The trans exclusion policy at MichFest will hopefully be changing thanks to years of tireless, saintly patient, peaceful activism and protest by trans women and their allies... supplemented now more recently by organized efforts from cis women within the festival.

cherchez,

Yes, I am well aware of Mich Fest, and the whole history there. That is why I am interested in this topic. My feeling is that the vast majority of lesbians don't accept trans women who are romantically and sexually attracted to women as women, and esp as lesbians.

The thing is, Mich Fest seems to be the extreme end of things, and not the best example for lesbians as a group (and yes, I know there is huge variability within the lesbians 'community' as a whole).

I always come back to racism as a model for things, b/c I see so many parallels (no, not saying that trans ppl are a third sex/gender or any of that). The women at Mich Fest are analogous to outright angry racists. What I am more interested in is what would be undercover racism and soft racism, and that is a lot harder to get at.

Oh, and a disclaimer, I am not a professional sociologist, lol. And to everyone, sorry for the massive derail. :(((

Do you not realize that bio female lesbians do not have a space of their own? Our lesbian bars are filled with trans of both persuasions. Why are we not allowed female ID'd/female born spaces anywhere? You'd rather push your inclusion than respect those women's wishes.

Those women of Michfest are not transphobic. You all are bio-lezphobic by denying them the right to one- ONE!- space of their own. You have inclusion to our bars, clubs, social groups, women's centers, and even Pride events. There is no pride in the lesbian identity if it can be co-opted to anyone who chooses to use the title.

Apparently we can't even have a blog free of men, trans, or hetero women that's not parading around a lesbian guide.

Part of the problem is defining "biological." It's not so black and white and pure binary at all. Trans women are not men, biologically or otherwise.

"You'd rather push your inclusion than respect those women's wishes."

Kind of like how gays push their inclusion in society rather than respect the wishes of people that want them to go away.

Erika, I personally have no desire to go to Mich Fest or to any women-born-women spaces period. In the first place, what I have seen of those spaces, and of the type of women who frequent them, it's not my kind of scene anyhow. In the second place, I have no desire to go where I am not wanted and not welcome.

How we consider others arises from our own perspective, though. To the men who resent women invading their traditionally male-only spaces, the women want to take over the world, and there is no place these poor guys can just go and be men's men. And to white ppl who resent POC in their workplaces and places they shop and go for entertainment, those ppl are taking over the world, and they wish for the good old days where they knew their place. There are the ppl who feel the very basis of society is threatened by ppl of the same sex marrying each. And then we have rad fems and separatist lesbians, who feel violated by the presence of anyone no assigned female at birth, and feel they can't escape their presence. All these groups, just want to live without having to deal with the ppl who challenge their values and beliefs.

Of course, though, to feminists, the men who want men-only spaces are sexist. And to a lot of us, the ppl who don't want to be impacted by POC are racist. The ones who feel personally threatened by same-sex marriage? Mmmmm, a lot of ppl consider them homophobes. And women who despise trans women? Well, a lot of us consider them transphobic.

All labels of course, and perhaps labels are bad. I can see it both ways. At this point in my life, I just accept that there are misogynists, sexists, racists, homophobes, transphobes, all kinds of ppl out there who feel threatened by ppl not exactly like themselves. So I don't mean to be attacking when I call ppl like you transphobes, it's just another description, like that you are lesbians, or women, or whatever. And really, for all those groups who want to segregate, I say more power to them. It's like the ppl I know who belong to 'exclusive' (all white) country clubs--it's good that their views are out in public, so you know where they stand.

Oh, and I personally love 'biowomen', personally. :)

Men have their "gentlemen's clubs" where the women are nothing more than entertainment. I have no problem with men having their own spaces. I honestly don't care if it doesn't concern me. There are far more groups that support primarily gay men than lesbians, most of which a lesbian be an outcast if she were to try to join.

I don't see many transmen going to straight bars even if they desire a woman. They actually continue frequenting lesbian bars because that is their comfort zone. Most would think that a man trying to pick up women in a lesbian bar would be a pig, but not so if he used to be a she. Then apparently it's okay, and you're automatically a transphobe if you have a problem with it.

I don't despise trans women. I despise people who try to be an authority on issues they have no experience in. A transwoman should specify that she's writing from a trans view instead of just from a lesbian view. She doesn't have the experience of a girl's childhood, and her experience is something completely different from that of a young lesbian who is seeking advice. To say that it's not that big of a deal to misrepresent something like that speaks volumes about the value of that young lesbian to the trans. The trans would rather puff up her own ego than to be completely honest about her perspective.

In regards to Michfest, it is my understanding that it is actually an event that is held on the private property of a lesbian couple. They have the right to be selective, and if they choose to be completely a female born/ female ID'd event, they should be respected. Apparently if the trans community hears one occurrence of bio women trying to take their own space, it's a reason to rally and protest.

If the Prop 8 supporters, Evangelical extremists, and other homophobes got together and decided to have a festival among them, free of gays, I don't think many gays would rally and protest that. Why would we? The only reason I can think of to protest would be to get attention, be spiteful, and to impose.

Well, sounds like we pretty much agree.

And I certainly never try to speak for what lesbians are like or how they feel about things (other than the thing I have had direct experience with, their non-acceptance of trans women), b/c I know that pretty much anyone who knows or knew that I was trans would immediately discount what I said, b/c I am not a real woman. I don't even consider myself a lesbian anymore, or part of the lesbian community. but I am still interested in their culture.

Oh, and sorry I mispelt your name. My son's fiance spells her name with a K, and I am just used to spelling it that way. No other motives other than that I am a space-cadet. :)

I thought it would be removed, too.

Carol, I'm curious why you've repeatedly said "trans women who identify as lesbians" in contrast to "cis lesbians" -- instead of just saying "trans lesbians" as well.

It's like if I said "male plumbers", and "women who claim to be plumbers."

Yes, I understand what you are saying. I was trying to keep things neutral with phrasing it that way. Cis lesbians are the reference here; by definition, cis women who are romantically/sexually interested in other women are lesbians (to me, the term lesbian is as much a social descriptor as a descriptor of sexual orientation). The question is, really, do cis lesbians accept trans women as women, and therefore as lesbians. Certainly the Mich Fest/separatist lesbians and the rad fems don't; unless you were female assigned at birth, you are never a woman.

If I say 'Do you accept trans lesbians as lesbians', I dunno, maybe it gets to the same place. Ppl could just respond to that with something like, "Trans 'women' are not real women, and are definitely not lesbians!", I suppose. So I dunno. I guess I was naive in bringing this whole thing up. I have been involved in plenty of these wars myself, so I know where these things can lead.

And yes, if I was asking about plumbers, I would have put it pretty much the way you framed it. I know plenty of working class men who would say no, there is no such thing as a woman plumber. They may play at it, but they will never be a good plumber (mentally and physiically not suited).

Con-artist trapped in the body of man—are we still being conned?

Bill Graber provided his own photo to WaPo. This speaks volumes. How can we be sure about the identity of the person in the photo? What about his wife? Did he invent her? What about the twin daughters? Who are the children in the photos he was posting on Facebook as the children of Paula Brooks? What about the photo of the woman he posted as his wife on Facebook? Who is that woman? What if Bill is actually the heterosexual mother/daughter trying to keep LGR going.

The site should be shutdown, it has zero credibility at this point and frankly I'm not sure it ever had any to begin with. I believe Bill Graber/Paula is trying to make money off this scam.

Bridgette,

I am not hurt, I am angry the LGBTQ community was hijacked by Bill Graber, there is a HUGE difference.

I am not yelling at you. I asked questions. I made statements from my perspective as a 20 plus years Lesbian activist.

I don't see any answers to anything I posted. What I do see is you defending Bill Graber.

"I think that the damage he did was personal to those of us involved with him," Carbonell said. "In the beginning on the LGR site he told a few stories about this character Paula to connect with people, to make them see what life was like for a lesbian, single mother. But he wasn't hurting anyone. And he didn't do anything that fit to a bigger realm of the world."

There is a major difference between "telling a few stories about this character Paula to connect to people" and what Bill Graber REALLY did. If you think his actions don't fit into the bigger realm of the world, you live in a small world.

If you want to keep "your site" up, you are free to do so, but be prepared for those of us in the community, who care more about truth, accountability and justice to actively work against your efforts to "get your 15 minutes" and a book deal!

As for confirming your identity "after Adam was nice enough to do so" being labeled by you as "vindictive?" All I can say is it is yet another example of how you and "Paula" operate on the same level.

Even more reason to dig for the truth!

cherchezlafemme | June 16, 2011 1:54 PM

I so agree that Bill Graber and his highly vocal and completely illegitimate presence was an incredibly destructive force both to lesbians personally and as a community, with many far-reaching implications.

Linda's statement minimizing the damage done is rife with straight privilege and ignorance, and is proof positive that she doesn't understand or respect the LGBT community enough to be running a blog that supposedly represents the interests of that community.

Cherchezlafemme,

Thanks for speaking up as well and you put it just right!

p.Johanna | June 16, 2011 2:34 PM

I went by the name of p.Johanna on Lez Get Real around the time the fictional character died of cancer (Debbie). During that time my falling out with LGR had to do with the Bill character writing a racist piece under my name. I have the emails to prove it, Bridgette was cc'd on everything and I have your response Bridgette. I think you should explain the situation to the character of your mom so that she retracts that statement that he, the Bill character, has not done anything wrong in his "reporting".

In regards to the Bridgette character and her way of handling things, I agree with one of the commentators above, Bridgette finally has some power and control that she has lacked in life and it has taken over and made her a mean spirit, this isn't now, this is how she handled my situation too.

To everyone else, it is obvious that the Bill character is a tyrant. Why would we all believe that he is just as easily going to give up the reigns to these two, characters? When it comes to money and this is what it comes down to, these three are not going to give up that easily; a shame because it doesn't go to any cause but the pockets of THREE fictional, shady characters.

Bil, sorry for the derail, but I just have to ask Isabel (with no flaming to follow, just my own curiousity):

Do I understand you to be saying that a transsexual woman is cannot be considered a lesbian? Don't worry, I am not setting you up for an attack, just gathering info relative to a theory I have. I will not respond other than to ask follow-up questions.

Thanks! :)

Tall Stacey | June 16, 2011 3:30 PM

It is with a heavy heart that I make this statement. Though born, raised, educated and experienced in cosmopolitan environs, I retreated to an idyllic life very near Goddard College in North Eastern Vermont. I raised my children there in one room schools, operated a general store and a little farm, and thoroughly enjoyed the rural, primitive lifestyle, the naivety and the conservatism of the people to the point of being liberal. In many ways it was a throwback to 19th century life. The people were so “mind your own business” that they are by and large totally tolerant of each other. I fondly remember the large gay and lesbian commune communities, along with the various Buddhist and other religious communities completely accepted by their “mind my own business” neighbors. I loved Vermont. It was simple. It was hard for me to leave.
The pleasant life that my children were raised in, however safe, however simple, however idyllic, has been a disservice to them. As they have matured and gone on their own, they have suffered the lack of real world experience that is required in the rest of the world. It was one thing for me to return to it, my children are totally unprepared to deal with it. They have been forced to return there, they don’t know how to survive here in the real world.
As a mature lesbian transsexual woman, I happened upon “Lez Get Real” some time ago. After a very short visit I knew that with few exceptions, the bloggers had little connection to my real world experience. The condescending tones, the insults, the control, the “moderation” of conflicting opinion, the illogical suggestions and implausible stories conflicted with my own experience and activism. I am real, I didn’t think they were. I didn’t go back. Such is the Web.
I can only imagine the damage done by these people. I shudder to think about those initiates who relied upon them for direction, for indoctrination. I pray for their safety and sanity. To consider that a “straight” grandma and a back woods perpetual student T novice would continue to offer guidance to the community, to assume to represent me and my life is repugnant.
So get real! Shut it down before you do more damage to us all. Your final comments should be nothing but apologies to us all.

So proud to see that no one is any longer being fooled. In fact, as I have always contended anyone with their heart and head in the right place will not continue to be fooled and will continue to fight for this website to disappear. And that is the majority here. We get it.

I posted a couple of questions for Adam in the comments section for his last article. He has given more detail about his interview with Bridgette and Linda, which I appreciate. He has satisfied me as to his ability to verify their names and faces they are real people, and not Bill Graber posing as them.

However, my original stance is the same. The damage Bill Graber and Tom MacMaster have done to the credibility of the LGBTQ blogger community will take years to undo. I strongly feel that by taking the site down, it shows a good will effort on their part to help start that process.

Stay tuned!
CJ Ward