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Dublin: 14 °C Friday 19 July, 2019
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"The country needed to have that conversation" - Panti returns to the Saturday Night Show

Panti, aka Rory O’Neill, was back with Brendan last night.

Image: RTE Player

DUBLIN DRAG QUEEN Panti Bliss says she is attempting to ‘draw a line’ under the Pantigate incident which saw her propelled into the spotlight after an appearance on the Saturday Night Show earlier this year.

Panti’s appearance as Rory O’Neill on the show in January resulted in huge controversy after RTÉ redacted and apologised and paid out after O’Neill’s comments about homophobia in Ireland were alleged to be defamatory.

Panti’s subsequent Noble Call speech saw the issue gain international attention and focused debate on the issue of inequality and prejudice against gay people in this country.

Source: rory oneill/YouTube

Opening last night’s interview Panti said she was appearing as herself as a mark of moving on from the controversy, while quipping:

It feels like it’s only been five lawyers since I saw you last.

She called the “kerfuffle” and the immediate aftermath “stressful and upsetting and weird” but that over time it turned into a good thing, not just for her but for the country.

I think the country needed to have that conversation. No matter what side you’re on it was good that we had the conversation.

She also said that Pantigate opened people’s eyes to what a drag queen is.

I was always having to try to persuade people that it was worth paying a theatre price ticket to go and see a show with a drag queen in it.

The aftermath of the Saturday Night Show controversy and the subsequent Noble Call means that Panti is now sometimes expected to be the “perfect gay, and represent all gays now”, she said.

But I’m just going to continue on and if I want to make that slightly dirty joke I’ll make it, but it is sort of an odd, weird pressure.

A Woman in the Making

Panti Bliss’s book A Woman in the Making was the main focus of the interview. It follows O’Neill’s life as a young gay man in Ireland in the 1980s to moving to Tokyo to perform a drag act, to returning to Ireland and dealing with a HIV diagnosis.

Panti described coming out to her parents relative to revealing the diagnosis as “guilt free” because “being gay was just who I was so in a way it was like telling my parents that I had blue eyes. The worry was that they might hate the fact that they had a blue-eyed child”.

She said that going home to deliver the news to her parents that she was going to die – which was accepted as the ultimate outcome of a HIV diagnosis at the time – was not a “natural order of things”:

Nobody should have to tell their parents that.
I would have preferred to tell them I was gay a hundred times over than have to tell them that.

Source: RTÉ - Ireland's National Television and Radio Broadcaster/YouTube

Hailing developments in HIV treatments since the diagnosis 18 years ago Panti exclaimed:

I take one magic pill a day and I carry on.

You can watch the full Panti interview here, from around the 56 minute mark

Revisit our #Pantigate coverage here>

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About the author:

Emer McLysaght

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