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Philip Patston on

Mon 12 Jun 2006 In: Community

I would hate to be labelled a precious and prissy queer trend critic but, alas, it seems my inaugural offering won me that exact title, which I have no option but to wear with pride. Thanks to the blogger who cared enough about what I thought to tell me what he thought and may we remain forever in disagreement over the symbolic and metaphysical reality of ice cream. Excuse me as I step cautiously into new territory this time and comment on something far safer than queer trends: my life. I was in Australia the other week attending a festival and conference. I was looking forward to better getting to know one of the participants – a young, good looking chap with eyes and brows so dark and Greek that I stammered and tripped over my words when I met him briefly last year. I wanted to make up for dribbling ice cream down my chin when he asked me for my performer's bio. So I arrived at the venue – it was registration time and he was busy talking to everyone. I hung around, catching up with other people, registering and finding out where I had to be for the first session – a panel discussion on how art affects your day job as an artist (don't ask me, I'm a comedian, not an artist). Finally, the object of my interest finished a conversation and I lunged towards him, desperate now to escape the intense lesbian feminist vegan depressed artist who had been chewing my ear and complaining about the gristle in it for the last ten hours, or so it seemed. "Stelios," I said with great control, "lovely to see you again." He looked at me blankly. "I'm Philip, from New Zealand." "Oh, Philip," he shrieked, "I'm sorry. I didn't recognise you without your stutter." I laughed graciously, forgiving him for his callous insensitivity as he bored into me with his felafel-coloured lenses. "That's okay," I said – and then it wasn't – "I've b-b-been having sp-sp-sp-speech th-th-th-th-therapy." "And wiping your chin too, I can see," he grinned, "or has someone been licking it for you?" Winking, he flittered off somewhere else. I sighed, finding him strangely appetizing, but it was the kind of hunger I knew could turn to nausea at any time. And so it continued – a flirt here, a suggestion there, an ambiguous look at the end of the corridor. By the end of the first day, I was damn near ready to get that lesbian artist to show him how to chew my ear. But not quite. The conference dinner was that evening. The wine was flowing. The bullshit commonly known as conference talk was flowing. Stelios was flowing around the room. Hormones and adrenaline were coursing around my body. I was creating the rest of the evening in my head in wide-screen Dolby Digital HD when two words cut through my inner home theatre like an unwanted phone call, right at the good bit: "He's straight," someone said. "Who's straight?" I asked. "Stelios. He's been in a relationship with a woman for five years." "Stelios who?" Oh, the bitter sting of denial revealed. Oh, the pain and humility of realising that the flirts, suggestions and ambiguous looks had all been misinterpreted. The DVD inside my head stopped, skipped to “Menu” and the director's cut began to play. Suddenly I was watching tight close-ups of a would-be Stelios, recoiling in horror and dismay at my mistaken advances. My brazen attempts to cover my faux pas with jokes fail – they go over his head – and he flounces out, chastising me for considering him no more than a sex object. I made a mental note to add that scene to the Hollywood script I'm going to write one day and sighed. I immediately began to reframe his good points to ease the sense of loss: popular – unfaithful; well-dressed – shallow; good-looking – stupid. I wondered if his girlfriend had gay-acting on her list of desired attributes. You know, terrorism is a significant threat, but I'm far more concerned about the alarmingly increasing likelihood that the campest guy in the room will be straight. The gay-acting straight man is vogue and coming to a classified ad near you. Don't be confused – GAWM does not mean he's of mixed Chinese and European descent. Get used to these new social enigmas and, if it helps any, just think of them as lesbians trapped in men's bodies. It could possibly help the hurt of yearning for lost potential. Gay, disabled, vegetarian Philip Patston has performed professionally for fifteen years and is well-known for his live and broadcast comedy, including the stand-up comedy show “Pulp Comedy” between 1997 and 2003. The year of his ‘straight' role of Josh Sinclair on “Shortland Street” in 1999 he was named Queer of the Year by TV show “Queer Nation” and received a Billy T James award for comedy. He's a recovering social worker and human rights activist who spends his time running Diversityworks and choosing his gigs.     Philip Patston - 12th June 2006

Credit: Philip Patston

First published: Monday, 12th June 2006 - 12:00pm

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