It’s not the title one expects to find on the spine of a book, declaring itself boldly from beneath the WWE logo. Its incoherence drives one to look at the cover, to stare into the face (and half-clad body) of the man in the publicity shot. The full title makes anyone catch their breath, searching for any indication of identity in his figure, dusting off old gay- and queerdars:
Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE.
This title tells one nothing of the man Pat Patterson (the focus of the book and its writer in conjunction with Bertrand Hébert). Pat Patterson the storyteller. Pat Patterson the wrestler. Pat Patterson the gay male partnered with one man for forty years while he was a wrestler. Accepted is an expanding story, something maybe a grandmother (or perhaps “uncle” would be more appropriate here) would spin. The warmth in his storytelling style makes one feel like an intimate in the previously-untold intimate history of Pat Patterson (who I am struggling with calling merely “Pat” because of this ingenious mixture of the personal with performance).
Pat Patterson is a contextual individual. Throughout his book, he implicitly provides readers with the multiple codes he has had to navigate because of his backgrounds, codes of passing as hetero even with a gay partner, the transition away from the francophone world, class (coming from the poverty class of Montreal), and wrestling (tough terminology for those with no history in wrestling or its fandoms). The generalized exceptionalism of his partner, defining his beloved as just short of godly, represents a man in love, a man in mourning, and a man who believes his partner had to do so much for so little gain. In his book, he bemoans the fact that even these many years later, in a society that is growing increasingly tolerant of queer relationships, he can still only refer to his late, great partner as “friend.”
I recommend this book for those interested in Canadian and American history post-World War II as well as those interested in the inner workings of wrestling organizations and the ways that people (especially gay males) interact with microcosmic, highly-performative versions of our society.
I also recommend this book for my ten-year-old self. Queer, enamoured with wrestling, and on the cusp of going from tomboy to transman, I think she/he would have become a different person if she/he knew that queer inroads into the WWE were already there to be furthered. Perhaps if I’d had this book then, I wouldn’t have abandoned wrestling feeling so spurned.
This last line is a link to Pat Patterson’s autobiography Accepted: How the First Gay Superstar Changed WWE, published 2016 through the WWE and Toronto’s ECW Press, on Amazon.