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DISABLED AND GAY www.diversityworks.co.nz

– THE IDEAL MAN?

KEYNOTE TO THE 6th National Men’s Health Conference incorporating the 4th
National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Male Health Convention

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – 10 October 2005

by Philip Patston

presents

Disabled and gay


Ð
THE IDEAL
MAN?
KEYNOTE TO THE

6th National Men


Õ
s Health Conference incorporating the 4th National
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Male Health Convention
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
Ð 10 OCTOBER 2005

by Philip Patston

It's not everyday you introduce yourself to an 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, 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 New Zealand for 33 years. Aotearoa is the indigenous, Maori
name for NZ. 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 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 and – as I would
never say to an Australian audience – I’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.
2

Who am I?

¥ Gay
¥ Vegetarian
¥ Disabled ¥ Vitiligo
¥ Valium
¥ White ¥ Vino

¥ Man

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 34 of
my near 38 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 12-year-old boys). You can imagine my delight when I realized, at
the age of 15, 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).
3

Who am I?

¥ Recovering social worker


¥ Son ¥ Counsellor
¥ Brother ¥ Human rights campaigner

¥ Uncle ¥ Entertainer
¥ Consultant
¥ Friend
¥ Business owner
¥ Boss
¥ Columnist
¥ Lover ¥ Actor
¥ Mentor ¥ Leader
¥ Amateur designer
¥ Role model
bad influence ¥ Entrepreneur
¥ Queer of the Year 1999
¥ Zenbuddhist- kind of
¥ Billy T James Comedy Award recipient

Some other roles I play in life are son, brother, uncle, friend, boss,
¥Son

lover, mentor, role model (though I prefer to think of myself as a bad ¥Brother
¥Uncle
¥Friend

influence) and Zen Buddhist – well, kind of. Professionally I am also (or ¥Boss
¥Lover
¥Mentor

have been) a recovering social worker, counsellor, human rights ¥Role model
bad influence
¥Zenbuddhist- kind of

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.
4

How I see myself

APU - Automated Personnel Unit

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.
5

What I believe

¥ I create my reality
¥ Everything is perfect
¥ Positivity
, negativity and
constructivity
¥ Fear and love
¥ É reflect my level of creativity.
¥ I decided to be happy
¥ Acting as if I do can be useful

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.
6

What I believe

¥ Everything in moderation
Ð 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 realizing 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.

What makes existence 7

meaningful

Potential¥ ¥ Positivity
Persistence¥ ¥ Passion
Productivity
¥ ¥ Play
PHYSICALLY EMOTIONALLY
SEXUALLY
INTELLECTUALLY SPIRITUALLY
Perception¥ ¥ Purpose
Philosophy¥ ¥ Perfection
Pragmatism¥ ¥ Peace

Lastly, because we are creative beings – physically, intellectually,


emotionally and spiritually – and because, biologically, we re-create
ourselves sexually, I believe that truly meaningful sex can only
happen when we have found meaning on those other levels.
Furthermore, sex simultaneously creates meaning on all those levels.
That’s why sex can be so wonderful and we can experience such joy
through it. But sex can, in the case of abuse, also be so damaging –
because it can wound us on all levels.
8

Romance

¥ Sexual love
¥ Idealised
¥ Exciting and intense

Ð Microsoft Encarta Dictionary

One type of sexual love is romance, characterized by the other


person (or the relationship) being idealized and perceived as exciting
and intense. It was about romance, impairment and disability that I
recently made a radio documentary. Let’s get clear what we’re talking
about. Impairment is “the deviation or loss of physiological,
anatomical, or cognitive structure or function from a person’s usual
biomedical state. Impairments may result in functional limitations that
restrict activity and participation.” (NZ Health Research Council)
9

Impairment

¥ Deviation or loss
¥ Structure or function
¥ Functional limitations
¥ Restricts activity and participation

Ð NZ Health Research Council

Disability, on the other hand, is “the disadvantages people with


impairment experience due to social, economic, political and
environmental factors, which restrict or exclude them from full
participation in their communities.” (New Zealand Disability Strategy)
10

Disability

¥ Disadvantages
¥ Social, economic, political and environmental
factors
¥ Restrict or exclude

Ð New Zealand Disability Strategy (2001)

In “Pragmatic Love” I interviewed disabled people about their


experience with romance.

Pragmatic love 11

Produced by Philip Patston and Matthew


Leonard for Radio New Zealand

Philip Patston's wry


humourand understanding of
society's inappropriate response to his
impairment is shared by his many friend's
amongst New Zealand's disabled community.
He talks with some of them, as well as with
professionals who work with disabled [people], to
create this unique perspective on romance.
Ð Radio Netherlands

The experience of the disabled men (all straight) – and their views
on the contrast between the roles of being disabled and being male –
got me thinking.
12

Interviewees

¥ Claire ¥ Tony
¥ Susan
¥ Gillian ¥ Timote¥
¥ Ronelle
¥ Redmond ¥ Rob and Karen
¥ Jules

Tony – happily into a new relationship after his marriage just


couldn't take the strain...
Timote – married with kids, had a car accident back in 1992...
Rob – living with Karen for 4 years after meeting at university, car
accident at 16…
These guys got me thinking about two things: the notion of
functional diversity and how being gay and disabled could make me
the ideal man – or maybe I’m just being idealistic.
1 14

Control Dependence

¥ ÒEleanor is going to do the swimming for me and


our children
ÉÓ ¥ ÒI can't just be a pudding in a shower chair...I
have to be her man ÉÓ
¥ ÒÉshe's the one pushing me around the
bedÉ and a little less threatening...a lot of women ¥ ÒWould love to dance toe to toe and cheek to
have bad experiences Ó cheekÉÓ
¥ ÒÉI don't think she's been in a relationship where ¥ Maybe I don't do a lot physically...Eleanor said
she was able to take a dominant role. The role of that's enough to be the
father of our family.
Ó
the man...to me a big part is sexual
ÉÓ

15 16

Public perception Responsibility

¥ ÒI get frustrated in the man's role


É I am talking about jobs
¥ ÒShe thinks I am the man of the family....she around the house, backing up an able bodied parent.
Ó
always knows and says she can't do things ¥ ÒÉback in the island
É most of the family life is the man doing the
without meÉÓ swimming to get the family to the other side of the Ó river.
¥ ÒÉdoesn't effect my role as a father...when I take my kids to
¥ ÒGosh, she broke her little toe once when we fell school in the morning...
off the bed...she had great fun regaling
to ¥ ÒKaren is pretty good, and let's me pretend I am a useful male
everyone for the next few months how she broke about the place
ÉÓ
her toeÉÓ ¥ ÒÉitÕ
s more of a financial burden than anything
É I'll ring the
plumber and deal with that side of things
ÉÓ

Four themes became apparent for the disabled men: control,


dependence, public perception and responsibility.

Male role themes for 17

disabled men

¥ Control
¥ Dependence
¥ Public perception
¥ Responsibility

These four themes corresponded, interestingly, to a set of


Traditional Male Role Attitude Items that I stumbled across on the
Internet (Pleck, Sonenstein, and Ku, 1993, in “Masculinity Ideology: Its
Impact on Adolescent Males Heterosexual Relationships”, Journal of
Social Issues, 49 (3), 11-29). Here are the laments of the real man:

Traditional Male Role 18

Attitude Items

¥ It is essential for a guy to get respect from others


¥ A man always deserves the respect of his wife and children
¥ I admire a guy who is totally sure of himself
¥ A guy will lose respect if he talks about his problems
¥ A young man should be physically tough, even
Õ
s if
nothebig
¥ It bothers me when a guy acts like a girl
¥ I donÕ
t think a husband should have to do housework
¥ Men are always ready for sex
Ð Pleck, Sonenstein
, and Ku, 1993.
Masculinity Ideology: Its Impact on Adolescent Males Heterosexual Relationships. Journal
of Social Issues, 49 (3), 11-29.

• It is essential for a guy to get respect from others


• A man always deserves the respect of his wife and children
• I admire a guy who is totally sure of himself
• A guy will lose respect if he talks about his problems
• A young man should be physically tough, even if he’s not big
• It bothers me when a guy acts like a girl
• I don’t think a husband should have to do housework
• Men are always ready for sex

Traditional Male Role 19

Attitude Items

¥ Control
Ð Need respect from others
Ð Need to be physically tough
¥ Dependence
Ð Shouldn
Õt talk about problems
Ð Shouldn
Õt act like a girl
¥ Public perception
Ð Totally sure of himself
Ð Always ready for sex
¥ Responsibility
Ð Should have respect of his wife and children
Ð Shouldn
Õt have to do housework

My conversations with the men in the documentary made me


realize that when men lose function they experience huge levels of
fear – fear of losing control, fear of dependence, fear of negative
public perception, and fear of losing responsibility.

When men lose 20

function
É

¥ FEARof losing control


¥ FEARof dependence
¥ FEARof negative public perception
¥ FEARof losing responsibility

To explain the impact of this, let me explain my fear–love


continuum.
21

The fear love continuum

FEAR LOVE
¥ Drive Passion¥
¥ Low creativity High creativity
¥

¥ Judgement Acceptance¥

When people act out of fear their actions are characterized by


drive (fear of not succeeding), low creativity and judgment.
Conversely, when people act out of love, they are passionate, highly
creative and accepting. So fear of losing function leaves men driven,
uncreative and intolerant of functional diversity.
Because men fear loss of 22

function
É

¥ É they are intolerant of functional diversity

So, what is functional diversity? Well, let’s firstly define function.


Function has a vast array of meaning, from the very pragmatic and
physical to the somewhat esoteric or spiritual:
23

What is function?

¥ Task
¥ Job
¥ Utility
¥ Occupation
¥ Role
¥ Meaning
¥ Purpose

1. Task – work or assignment, often important or difficult


2. Job – paid trade or profession, something needing to be done
or dealt with
3. Utility – the quality or state of being useful
4. Occupation – an activity on which time is spent, paid or
unpaid
5. Role – the usual or expected function of someone, the part
played in a given social context
6. Meaning – what something means, what someone intends
to express
7. Purpose – the reason something or someone exists
My definition of diversity is the synergy of similarity and
difference. It is also defined as variety (in a group, society or
institution).
24

What is diversity?

¥ Synergy

¥ Variety

Putting these together, I define functional diversity as:


“The variety in human beings’ capacity to independently do what
they need to do and become who they choose to be.”
25

What is functional diversity?

¥ The variety in human beings


Õcapacity to
independently do what they need to do and
become who they choose to be.

Now, going back to the meanings of function, it is my theory that,


in our culture or society, men are mostly valued for the more
pragmatic, physical realms of function (task, job, utility, occupation),
whereas women are more valued for the esoteric, spiritual elements
(role, meaning, purpose). This is, of course, a generalization, but one
that corresponds to the Traditional Male Role Attitude Items above.
Value of function by 26

gender

Task

Job

Utility

Occupation
Male

Female Role
Function type

Meaning

Purpose

0 2 4 6 8 10

Value given

If we look at what disabled or impaired people are valued for,


compared to non-disabled or non-impaired people, we can generalize
that their value around all aspects of function is very low and that
they are valued for no one aspect in particular.

Value of function by 27

impairment

Task

Job

Utility

Occupation
Impaired

Non-imp Role
Function type

Meaning

Purpose

0 2 4 6 8 10

Value given

I have always noticed the relative absence, compared to women,


of men working in the disability sector. When you map the impact of
the loss of function for men and women onto those of disabled people,
one thing is very clear: men have a lot more value to lose than women
when they lose function.
Impact of function loss - 28
Impact of function loss - 29

women men

Task

Task

Job
Job

Utility
Utility

Occupation
Impaired Occupation
Impaired
Loss
FunctionRole
type Loss Role
Function type

Meaning
Meaning

Purpose
Purpose

0 2 4 6 8
0 2 4 6 8
Loss of value
Loss of value

Impact of function loss - 30

men vs. women


Task

Job

Utility

Male Occupation
Female
Function type
Role

Meaning

Purpose

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Loss of value

Thus, I theorize, men are less comfortable than women with


issues of impairment and disability because it simply pushes their
buttons.
There are other reasons. Testosterone is closely linked with visual-
spatial ability, which is why men enjoy, more than women, practical
tasks like driving, building, sport etc – all of which require good
physical co-ordination and visual-spatial ability. Losing physical and
intellectual function, particularly, threatens a man’s ability to do these
things.
Why men fear loss of 31

function

¥ More to lose
¥ Testosterone
¥ Without / within

Furthermore consider these differences between men and women:


men’s sex organs dwell outside; women’s inside. Men cannot conceive
and create children, as women can – inside them. Men gather
information primarily through their sense organs located primarily on
the outside of their bodies whereas women gather information
primarily through their intuition, their feelings, inside their body. And
finally, without getting too much into the gender stereotype debate,
look at household roles: women’s domain is generally inside and
men’s, outside.
So, returning to the notion that we are creative beings, men
create “without” and women create within. Male identity is, far more
than women, situated in the realm of physical function, so impairment
and disablement threaten male identity.
So how does this all tie in with my being an ideal man? Well, first
of all, let me share with you the results of a Myers-Briggs-based
Personality Test I did recently at PersonalityBook.com – well worth the
US$20 in my estimation.
Why I could be an 32

ideal man
Personality Area Average Average My Comparison to
male female score the Average

Extroversion 51 67 55 +5 | -8

Emotionality 74 76 68 -6 | -8

Agreeableness 40 56 50 +10 | -6

Thinkingvs Feeling 36T | 48F 47F 7F -43T-41F| -40

Thoroughness* 63 72 94 +31 | +22


Openness* 51 53 100 +49 | +47
Sensingvs Intuiting* 18S 19I 33 +51 | +14
Judgingvs Perceiving* 9J 7J 45P +54 | +52
* Guiding parts of my personality

SOURCE:PersonalityBook
.com

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 life – support
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. As I have
pointed out, 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, not meaning to boast, apparently I am 78% self-
actualized…
But what about the theories I have spoken about? How do I
compare to the average, straight disabled bloke?

Why I could be an 33

ideal man

¥ Thorough
¥ Surrender control
¥ Open
¥ Accept dependence
¥ Intuitive
¥ Ignore public perception
¥ Perceptive
¥ Take responsibility
¥ 78% self-actualised

Firstly, I think I have successfully surrendered control. There are


aspects of my life – due to stigma, disablement, homophobia and the
like – that I cannot control. I no longer expect to control everything.
More than anything I have developed the ability to trust…that
everything is perfect.
I accept that, in order to live the busy, autonomous lifestyle that I
have created and chosen, dependence on personal assistants and
funding to employ them is necessary.
I ignore public perception. Simply put, though it is still hard
sometimes (especially when he’s cute) I have learnt to reject
rejection. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I don’t care when people think
I’m Steady Eddie, but I don’t care for long.
Finally, I take responsibility. I am not a victim of circumstance. I’ve
moved away from the “fight for rights” struggle, towards creativity
and identity, and a spiritual understanding of the purpose
disadvantaged people have (and choose) to help humanity evolve.
Yes, disabled gay men have rights and no, we are not well afforded
those rights yet (disability especially is “the last bastion of human
rights). But I’ve chosen to move on and creatively form an identity
based on who I am rather than who I am not. Part of my creative
process has been to understand and believe I am here to raise human
consciousness about diversity. At the same time I am empowered by
the notion that even though it’s bloody hard at times, my soul made a
choice to live this life and that, even though I don’t always understand
it, there’s a reason people mistake me for Steady Eddie.

Why I could be an 34

ideal man

¥ Not a real man

¥ Nothing to lose

To sum up, I may just be an ideal man for three reasons: I am not
Steady Eddie, I’m not a real man and I have nothing to lose.
35

MoreÉ

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.co.nz

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