When Your Soul Is A Masochistic Hedonist, Rejoice!


From my late teens I have been a political animal, appearing in the media and on political platforms, espousing the virtues of disabled people and queer people to each other and society in an attempt to curb discrimination, increase tolerance, promote recognition and reveal the value in our uniqueness and diversity. Blah, blah, blah. I have been labeled “Minority Man”, “Mr. Diversity”—you know the kind of radical hyperbole I’m talking about.

Ironically, I really don’t feel I belong to the groups with which I am aligned, whether by my own doing or others’ assumption. In reality I often feel as divorced from the fringe as I do from the mainstream. As a gay disabled man, I sit between a rock and a hard place—subtle homophobia and blatant heterosexism in the disability sector; subtle ableism and blatant dysfunctionphobia in the queer sector.

Oh, which to choose? The disapproving looks of the middle-aged female disability support staff when I disclose my preference in my workshops or the distinct lack of any other queer people in my disabled circle? Or perhaps the distinct lack of any other disabled people in my queer circle, whom I don’t know because they hang out in gay clubs? The same clubs that, even when occasionally accessible, thump music so loud that I am forced to strain in volume which, in turn, leaves my speech thicker than usual as it struggles to escape my contorted lips.

No, I’ll go with the look he gives me, which says, I find you strangely alluring, but I can’t imagine kissing those spastic lips, nor having sex with someone like you. I’m also slightly offended that you obviously want me to. I’ve experienced the character-building sting of oppression, but even so, I’ve led a sheltered, narrow life and I’m really scared of taking risks —especially another with sex. But hey, nice to meet you. You’re real cute for a crippled—oh, I mean—disabled person.

Gay, disabled men reading this: Do you recognise yourselves? Am I resonating with you? Am I in your groove, so to speak?

Others: keep reading. You’ll catch my drift, I’m sure.

I find the gay obsession with partying, perfect bodies, talking bullshit and shagging adolescent— I long for philosophy, spirituality and measured debate over the queer condition. Instead, everyone is standing outside nightclubs— pissed, posing, gossiping or trying to score. Yet on the other side of the minority fence, over in the disability sphere of the diversity spectrum – if you’ll excuse my metaphorical merger – it can all be alarmingly sober, unkempt, intense and celibate.

Now, I’ve already been accused of being prissy and precious about the gay stuff by a blogger who read my other column on GayNZ.com recently; and I’m probably being overly critical and uncharitable towards disabled people as well. But when I find myself dipping into each world every so often, I become completely overwhelmed by the sublimely ridiculous extremes. Every now and then I venture out for a night on the town with my ever-diminishing depot of dyke mates or my token gay friend. I’m bombarded by the desperate display of desperate guys trying desperately to be gorgeous in order to get a desperate one-night stand. The next day I’m working at a rehabilitation center with 50-odd badly dressed disabled people with bad hairstyles and bad social skills who badly need lives. Just like the desperate people of the night before.

It really is a bipolar experience. I rush home to sit in a corner and rock gently. Does this make me autistic as well?

Do you other queer disabled guys find this huge divide unsustainable, or do you just get on with it?

Or do you join me in my existential angst, wondering for what highly spiritual purpose we have incarnated into individuals who identify politically with two of the species’ most lowly-regarded, dysfunctional groups – disabled people and gay men – who, for entirely different reasons, are feared, despised, avoided, ridiculed and underestimated. What’s that about? It’s not quite the brand that makes you want to call up after the infomercial, is it? – “But wait, there’s more—you could be disabled and queer for just three payments of $49.95!”

So do you ever wonder why have you chosen this existence? Why you have ended up part of this disparate group who live on the fringe’s fringe?

I have only one explanation—our souls are masochistic hedonists. Destined for the pursuit of pleasure and self-indulgence, we have chosen to put struggle, challenge, pain and rejection in the path of temptation. We thrive on loneliness, torment, frustration and celibacy.

Feeling depressed? So you should. Our souls find depression irresistible. In fact, spiritually, we queer disabled people exist solely for the experience of depression. We know that through adversity comes personality, self-development, enlightenment and – you guessed it, lads – unconditional love and happiness. These are our spiritual goals, as masochistic hedonists.

So how do we ensure we achieve this hypercritical existential excellence, while enduring our humble enigmatic existence? This is my formula: an uncertain amount of resigned surrender combined with a healthy dose of divine dichotomy. In my ever-deepening search to answer the ubiquitous question – “Who the hell am I and why?” – I have been forced to give up completely and accept reluctantly the ironic insight that, as well as being disabled and queer, I am neither queer nor disabled. This profound realisation inevitably leads to deep and utter confusion, in which I have found my redemption.

While wallowing in the depth of this philosophical perplexity I forget, for just a moment, my theoretical torment. As I am grappling with the complexities of this higher hyperbole I find myself observing myself and it is at that moment that I am no longer the masochistic hedonist’s physical incarnation. Rather, I am his audience. Instantaneously released I rejoice, freed from my tortuous personal and political platform.

And, for a single, infinite moment, I riotously partake in the unmitigated, self-indulgent ecstasy for which I was always destined.

©2006 Philip Patston


Please feel free to visit me at www.diversityworks.co.nz and email me at philip@diversityworks.co.nz



BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/July 2006