It's not everyday you introduce yourself to a new audience. In fact it's something that is, in some respects, reserved for the elite, the privileged. Musicians, actors, politicians, writers, business people, sports people, designers, the media, drag queens and drama queens. All have audiences. And me.


So, let me introduce myself. Hello. My name is Philip Patston and I am an English-born gay, disabled, white man who has lived in Aotearoa for thirty-three years. Aotearoa is the indigenous, Maori name for New Zealand. Much more distinctive than NZ, if you ask me. I am a performer, a comedian—a celebrity of sorts
I would have been as renowned as Australia's Steady Eddie had everyone in NZ not thought I actually was him. It's hard being the second crip (with CP, no less) to begin a comedy career in the Asia-Pacific region in the same six months. We look kind of similar, but he stands up, he's straight andas I tell Kiwis, to their absolute mirthI'm intelligent. But people think I'm him all the time.

~"Hey, you're Steady Eddie!"
~"Uh, no, I'm Philip Patston."
~"Nah go on, man, I know you're him. I've seen you on TV. You're real funny."
~ "Well, I am a comedian and I have been on TV. But Steady Eddie is from Australia and I'm from here."

My confused fan hasn't quite understood so changes tangent.

~"So, bro, you've been on that comedy programme, that one with that Mike King fella, eh?"
~"Yes, I've been on 'Pulp Comedy'…"
~"Yeah, 'Pulp Fiction'…"
~"No, 'Pulp Comedy'—it's a New Zealand comedy show for New Zealand comedians."
~"Yeah, that's a cool show. You're really funny, man. See ya, Steady!"
~
I sigh. "Bye."

Every now and then, though, I hear a hushed voice in a crowd, saying, "Hey, that's Steady Eddie!" Sometimes, before I have the time to sigh and roll my eyes, someone gets it right: "Nah, man, that's Philip Patston."

I do a little, excited, internal dance, all the while professionally retaining my external composure. Recognition is one thing, but being recognized for who one truly is takes the cake.

Which brings me back to my introduction. Let me tell you a little more about who I really am. Though I have lived in Aotearoa for thirty-four of my near thirty-eight years, I don't think I'd really call myself a Kiwi, except for the recognition factor (correct or otherwise) in my marketing material. I'm a fish-eating vegetarian with vitiligo, which is an auto-immunity to skin pigment, the same condition that Michael Jackson has (though our similarities stop there—I don't live in a theme park, nor do I sleep with twelve-year-old boys). You can imagine my delight when I realized, at the age of fifteen, that I was not only disabled and gay, but I had depigmented skin. I knew then that my soul was a masochist. I have also been addicted to valium (but I'm over that) and, to end the V theme, I am rather partial to the occasional vino (anything, as long as it's red and wet).

Some other roles I play in life are son, brother, uncle, friend, boss, lover, mentor, role model (though I prefer to think of myself as a bad influence) and Zen Buddhist— well, kind of. Professionally I am also (or have been) a recovering social worker, counsellor, human rights campaigner, consultant, business owner, columnist, agitator, actor, leader, amateur designer entrepreneur and, in 1999, I was named Queer of the Year. (Sadly it earned me neither money nor sex, but it was a great honor.) That year I was also the recipient of a Billy T. James Comedy Award, for strong contribution to, and future potential in, the NZ comedy industry.

As far as being disabled is concerned, I think of myself as the driver of a faulty APU, or Automated Personnel Unit, those amazing "human-piloted, offensive/defensive mobile platforms" featured in The Matrix Revolutions during the huge battle with the Sentinels in Zion. I see dancers and athletes, models and Hollywood actors with their souped-up APUs getting accolades, while I battle on thanklessly with my dilapidated, short-circuiting model amongst patronising smiles and substandard mechanical support. "Where's the justice in that?" I ask. But that cynical little metaphor is just for my bad days. Actually I have come to believe that I create my reality with all that I think, say, and do. Everything is perfect and has the meaning I choose to give it. I see perfection as a healthy mix of positivity, negativity and constructivity. Fear and love are the two basic emotions from which all other emotions are derived and the extent to which I feel love or fear reflects my level of creativity. I believe that happiness is a decision that creates the best outcomes. Finally, although I don't always agree with the above, acting as if I do can be useful. In other words, everything in moderation—including moderation.

Over the years I have discovered what I think makes existence meaningful and, funnily enough, they all begin with P. On the physical level, meaning is derived from realising our potential and exercising persistence in order to achieve productivity. Intellectually, I think we gain meaning through how we perceive reality combined with philosophy and a healthy dose of pragmatism. Emotional meaning to life can be found by expecting a third of experiences to be positive, engaging one's passion, and never forgetting to play. If we wish to find spiritual meaning, we must seek to understand our purpose and embrace the perfection of what is. Only then will we come to know peace.

Finally, to give you a true insight into the real me, let me share with you the results of a recent Myers-Briggs-based Personality Test I did at PersonalityBook.com—well worth the US$20 in my estimation. According to PersonalityBook.com, these are the guiding parts of my personality:

Thorough: I am more organized and focused than most men and women. This is understandable—living with impairment has meant I have always had to be organized. Things take me longer, I have to organize support, etc.

Open: I am more adventurous than most men and women; unafraid of change and novelty. Well, I have experienced a lot of change, especially people coming and going in my lifesupport people, social workers, etc.
Intuitive:
I am interested in inference and speculation, I use a different brain path than most men; I am able to follow complex conversations and work well with the average woman. The disability sector is overrun by women, as is social work. And I'm a poof. Need I say more…
Perceptive:
I am more perceptive than most men and women and enjoy the excitement of open-ended possibilities. Living openly as a gay man, and independently as a disabled person has meant I have always had to take risks.

Finally, and not meaning to boast, apparently I am 78% self-actualized…

It's not everyday you introduce yourself to your new audience. But I hope I've given you an insight into how I live my life every day. I hope that, in this column, which came about as a result of my meeting BENT's editor, Bob Guter when I was in San Francisco in June, I can share with you a little more of my queer perspective on the world and life. But I don't want to do this solo. I welcome your insights, comments, opinions and suggestions on what I could write about. Believe me, I've been writing a queer column for a New Zealand paper for nearly three years and, sometimes, I struggle for inspiration.

I look forward to queering the crip with you. Please feel free to visit me at www.diversityworks.co.nz and email me at philip@diversityworks.co.nz

©2005 Philip Patston

 

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BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/November 2005