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Posted by Philip Patston on 19 August 2008, 5:57 pm in ,

Diverse Dads mull over macho mainstream

Did you hear the one about the gay, disabled comedian who wanted children?

He was only joking…or was he?

Billy T Award-winning comic Philip Patston admits he’s nearly become a dad four times in his life – once in a drunken teenage moment and three times in discussion with lesbian friends. But right now, at 40, he’s quite content to be an uncle to two nieces, two nephews and numerous children of friends. “Children are wonderful,” he quips, “and even better when you can give them back to their parents.”

But seriously, he’s believes some people would question his ability – even suitability – to be a parent.

Read more about “Diverse Dads – Fathers of the Future” »

“People still struggle with the thought of gay men being fathers,” he says, “and many would feel that maybe disabled Dads don’t quite make the muster. I think a gay, disabled father is way out of the realm of imagination for most people!”

To test his theory, Patston will front a panel discussion with disabled and gay fathers as part of Waitakere City’s Focus on Fathering Week in September. “Diverse Dads – Fathers of the Future” aims to draw attention to the experience of men who may be overlooked as fathers.

Patston, who played Shortland Street’s Josh Sinclair, boyfriend of Waverley, in 1999, says he believes both gay and disabled men have valuable experiences, attributes and life learning to share with children. “Certainly my life has been about awareness and resilience, communication and negotiating boundaries – I think that sets you on the path to good parenting.

“I think there are many unspoken assumptions underscoring society’s attitudes to fathers. There’s still this macho, mainstream idea of what a father is. I think a lot of people still think gay men and disabled men haven’t quite got what it takes. We want this panel to challenge those stereotypes and celebrate diversity in fathering.”

The founder of Diversityworks – a business and charitable trust that promotes creativity and social change – has lined up six men of diverse backgrounds to talk about the impact on their diversity on their relationships with their children. “As civil union becomes more common and disabled people strive for inclusion, this event will give an important glimpse into the future demographic of fathering,“ he says. “We’re also hoping that there will be some wisdom shared by these diverse dads have that might be useful to mainstream dads – and mums – who may be struggling with their role as parents.”

Panellists include:

Tony who lives in Avondale says parenting has provided him with his greatest personal growth to date! “It has allowed me to reach untapped emotional depths I'd never imagined possible, in respect to how you can feel about another human soul.“

Ian and Erik who met each other at the Hero Parade 1994. Ian is of Ngapuhi and Ngati Kuri descent and Erik is of Dutch descent. In the last ten years they have raised over 20 children from two generations with up to seven children at one time living with them.

Rob who broke his neck in a motor vehicle accident in 1984. He is the proud stepfather of 2 teenage girls and father of 2 year old Thomas. Rob works as a service manager with a North Shore based company and lives in Kumeu.

Jonny who is CEO Tiaho Trust in Whangarei. Proud husband and father to two daughters aged 15 and 20, he has cerebral palsy. His approach to fatherhood: “Tell them you love them everyday and remember that all teenagers can be particularly nasty at times – it’s part of their job description and it will pass. Outrageous Fortune?…You bet!!!”

Patston is also working alongside researchers from AUT University, exploring disabled men’s perspectives on parenting. They would like to talk to men living in greater Auckland, who are aged 18 years or over, live with a physical and/or sensory disability, and have a youngest child under the age of five.

“Diverse Dads – Fathers of the Future” will take place on Tuesday 2 September, 7.30—9.00pm at Kelston Community Centre. This year's Focus on Fathering celebration, coordinated by Promoting Great Parenting, Violence Free Waitakere and the Waitakere City Council, opens with a supper at the Civic Centre on Monday the 1st September, includes free resources displays at West City Mall, seminars and Health Checks, all ending with the Fathers Day picnic, from 9-2.30 at the Tui Glen Reserve on Sunday the 7th.



Philip Patston

Ph 09 376 4837

Mob/text 021 764 837

Email philip@diversityworks.co.nz

More info: www.diversityworks.co.nz/diverse-dads/

Focus on Fathering

Elaine Dyer

Project Manager

Violence Free Waitakere

Promoting Great Parenting

ph 09 4168774 or 8374849

Email elainedyer@clear.net.nz>

Chris Mullins

Mob 027 278-8335

Email wellpoint@slingshot.co.nz

AUT Research on Disabled Fathers

Marta Leete

Free Phone 0508 BEING-A-DAD (0508 234-642)

Phone: 09 921 9154

Email: mleete@aut.ac.nz