Tom Macmaster, 40 year old American from Georgia, She captured the attention of thousands and became the symbol of an uprising: Amina Aballah Arraf, a 35-year old Syrian-American lesbian, detained in Damascus because of her open criticism of the regime.

The problem, however, is that Arraf wasn’t quite who she said she was. In reality, the person behind the “A Gay Girl in Damascus” blog was really a 40-year-old American man from Georgia.

Tom MacMaster, the actual author of the blog, posted apologies on Sunday and Monday admitting to the hoax. “I sort of by accident … created something that had a lot more interest than I had ever possibly expected and then when I tried to shut it down it just kept getting bigger,” he told the New York Times.

MacMaster had been posting to the blog for months, but the global attention reached a tipping point last week after MacMaster, pretending to be one of Arraf’s cousins, wrote on the blog that Arraf had been detained by government forces. The post drew widespread attention, even prompting the U.S. State Department to open an investigation.

"I regret that a lot of people feel that I led them on,” MacMaster told the Guardian on Monday. “I regret that ... a number of people are seeing my hoax as distracting from real news, real stories about Syria and real concerns of real, actual, on-the-ground bloggers, where people will doubt their veracity."

His apology did little to quell the anger of many gay and political advocates who felt betrayed.

Reuters reports that Sami Hamwi, the pseudonym for the Damascus editor of, wrote on its website: "I say shame on you!!! There are bloggers in Syria who are trying as hard as they can to report news and stories from the country. ... We have to deal with more difficulties than you can imagine. What you have done has harmed many, put us all in danger, and made us fearful about (pursuing) our...activism."

MacMaster says he initially created the Arraf character with the aim to present “a perspective that doesn’t often get heard on the Middle East,” but also admits that the blog served as something of a writing exercise.

“Ever since I was a child,” MacMaster wrote in one of his apology posts, “I’ve wanted to write fiction but, when my first attempts met with universal rejection, I took a more serious look at my own work and I realized that I could not write conversation in a natural way nor could I convincingly write characters who weren’t me.”

While he may have given an informative, if fictional, alternative view of Syria’s uprisings, MacMaster’s Amina also lived a personal life online. In her name, MacMaster had a Facebook relationship with Sandra Bagaria, a Canadian woman, among others.

“I feel really guilty about that,” he told the Guardian. “I got caught up in the moment and it seemed ... fun. And I feel a little like [expletive] about that."