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Was Saturday Night Live’s Pat Character A Statement About Transgender People?

7c522dbc3f8c4040fc6bd206b166cb64It started out as a complete joke; I wasn’t trying to make a statement about sexuality or anything, I was really trying to figure out how to make this character. To me, the most interest part of it was that Pat was so oblivious to how other people were reacting to Pat. I was basing it on a couple of people, but mainly an accountant I knew, who asked you to lunch and wouldn’t take no for an answer and was completely oblivious to how he was coming off. And that’s what was interesting to me. Then I added these jokes on that you can’t tell if it’s a man or a women. I wasn’t trying to make a statement about sex but once it became popular, the people’s reaction to Pat was really fascinating. I didn’t think it was that interesting that you didn’t know if Pat was a man or a woman; to me, so what? But people felt very uncomfortable not knowing. People would ask me to tell them but I didn’t have an answer, and they couldn’t stand that. Then I met this friend who asked if I’d do appearances as Pat, so I came to Chicago and I did the St. Patrick’s Day parade — and made a lot of money, too! Then I started being Pat and he would pitch me to mall openings. We still have some of these letters that said, We find it immoral to have a character that you can’t tell if it’s a man or a woman. There was this response from people who thought it was subversive and the truth is, it is kind of subversive but I only came to that as I experienced while being Pat. It wasn’t something I thought about before I did it…

Matt Lauer asked me to come on the Today show because he loves Pat. I hadn’t done Pat in 20 years. I feel like the trans community wouldn’t like it. The truth is, to me the joke is that Pat is not transgender — I think on the Wikipedia page it says Pat is transgender and I have to go on there and take that off (but I don’t know how to) — but identifies as a man or a woman but you just don’t know which. That’s the joke of Pat. It isn’t transgender, but I could see for obvious reasons why people would make that association and that it wouldn’t be cool to do that. You would have to go around and constantly explain that, no, I am not making fun of transgender people.”


Julia Sweeney explaining the origin and impact of her most famous character in an interview with Salon

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