GAY comedian Thomas Jaspers has been making a name for himself as a rising star on Australia’s comedy circuit. His experiences as a gay man have been front and centre in his shows, whether he’s talking about his own life or appearing as his alter ego Rhonda Butchmore, a loving parody of the leggy queen of the stage, Rhonda Burchmore.
Jaspers told the Star Observer that he was a camp child.
“I think there’s this weird assumption that because you’re camp — and obviously you’re aware that you’re different — everyone starts calling you gay, which is funny because obviously there’s some correlation. I don’t know why that is, I obviously have no idea because I was a kid.”
Jaspers was eventually drawn to that most iconic piece of camp Australiana: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. After seeing ads for the film on TV, he begged his father to record it on VHS for him to watch.
“He did, and I got home from school the next day and I watched it back-to-back three times,” Jaspers said.
“I had no idea what gay meant, or what a drag queen was, or how amazing Guy Pearce’s pecs were or anything like that, I just really loved this movie.”
When Jaspers eventually came out to his parents it was a low-key affair.
At around 17 he had a best friend, another guy, and the two would often stay at each other’s houses.
“I was totally in love with him, but he was heterosexual — we never really spoke about it, but I think he knew that I was in love with him and he didn’t really mind,” Jaspers said.
“One night mum said to me, ‘Dad thinks Jordan’s your boyfriend,’ and I said, ‘he’s not, but I wish he was,’ and she was like, ‘yeah, I thought so’.
“That was it, it was so easy.”
A few years later Jaspers bought his own copy of Priscilla, and was confused to learn there was a scene in the film he’d never seen before, in which Guy Pearce’s character Adam is beaten up in the remote South Australian mining town of Coober Pedy.
“I called my dad, and it turns out Dad, when he taped it when I was 10 years old, had purposely taped over that bit with commercials, because he knew that I was different, and he didn’t want me to think that if I came out of the closet, that I would get beaten up,” Jaspers said.
His father had grown up in a Catholic family, and it had left him with some residual discomfort about homosexuality.
“I wouldn’t say homophobic, but he was very uncomfortable with the idea of having a gay son,” Jaspers explained.
“But even while he still had all these problems with it, he still didn’t want me to think that that’s what it would be like.”
Jaspers had come out to his father a few years before, not long after coming out to his mother.
“He said, ‘look, I do have a problem with it, but that’s just how I was brought up and I really don’t want to have a problem with it, so I’m going to work really hard to get over that, because it’s not your fault, it’s mine’,” Jaspers recalled.
“And he has, he’s been amazing. He comes to all my drag shows.”
**This article was first published in the December edition of the Star Observer, which is available to read in digital flip-book format. To obtain a hard copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional areas.