About Devon Britt-Darby
Contact me at reliablenarratives (at) gmail (dot) com. Please note that I’m no longer accepting new clients.
An artist, critic and former sex worker, I’m the visual arts editor of Arts + Culture Houston magazine and the former art writer and society reporter for the Houston Chronicle. (More photos below; many more photos here.
From early 2001 to late 2004, I was a San Francisco-based escort known as Devon; during most of that time I wrote a popular blog called Devon the Escort’s Diary, which was later shortened to Devon’s Diary. It was featured on the masthead of HooBoy’s Male4Male Escort Review, which is now known as Daddy’s M4M Reviews. (My old reviews, accessed through the Wayback Machine, are here; my reviews since resuming escorting are here.)
It was while I was Devon that I first developed the discipline to write every day. I wrote about escorting but usually tried to put it in the context of my life, which meant talking about the business side of the business; my friends, whom I gave pseudonyms; art I had seen and art I was making; gay culture and its discontents; politics; books and movies; and whatever else was on my mind.
Many readers told me they liked the art posts best. To be sure, others said the opposite, but while I was a “legitimate” art critic at the Chronicle, ironically, my online readership was nowhere near what it was in the Devon days, when it overwhelmingly consisted of readers far outside the art world.
Unfortunately, at some point in 2003 I did something I’d sworn I’d never do: I began dabbling in crystal meth, only to have dabbling swiftly turn into addiction. Fortunately for me, addiction turned to madness swiftly enough that I hit my bottom much sooner than many methheads hit theirs. A court-ordered staycation in a forensic psychiatric hospital marked the beginning of a grueling transition into earning a communications degree at the University of Houston and my career at the Chronicle.
What I’ve learned in the intervening years is that the overlap and parallels between the art world, the newspaper/media industries and the sex industry is far greater than most people in those spheres either realize or would prefer to admit. All three provide essential services while all too often compromising their missions and indulging in rank hypocrisy. (Furthermore, the differences between gay sex work and casual sex after which no money changes hands are fewer than many gay, bisexual and bi-curious men would prefer to believe.)
I love all three worlds enough to want to make them better and to criticize them as ruthlessly as I sometimes praise them. And, having recently left the Chronicle to pursue a social sculpture I’m currently undertaking, I’m free to be more candid than most people inside all three worlds. (A social sculpture is an artwork that shapes and is shaped by human activity and the world around us instead of clay, wood, steel or other materials.)
But don’t mistake my candor for indiscretion. I have never betrayed a client’s confidentiality, and I would go to jail for an anonymous source. I have many years experience keeping other people’s secrets and continue to do so. It’s just that I’m no longer interested in having any of my own to keep.
I recently retraced the steps of the wild, wild, wild 2004 road trip that landed me in the loony bin — this time, from the perspective of an older, wiser, married man; some of that journey is recorded on this blog.
That’s right — Until just recently I was married. On Nov. 18, 2011 I married Theresa “Reese” Darby, a woman I’d barely met, on the stage of a Houston gay strip bar. It was partly a response to a local museum’s acquisition of a marriage-related artwork that I found spiritually bankrupt and fraudelent in its claims to blur the boundary between art and life. And it was partly a political gesture that pointed out the irony that by marrying a random woman, I, as a gay man, suddenly have more rights than lesbian and gay couples who have been together for decades and may even be raising children together. We vowed to divorce in as timely a manner as the state of Texas will allow and to respect “the freaks, sluts and sex workers of all stripes who prefer not to conform to heteronormative conventions.” (Read more about the wedding here.)
That marriage, itself a performance artwork and social sculpture, brought so many elements of my past and present together in one time and place that I felt a wholeness I’d missed since the early Devon days. Some people thought Reese and I were mocking the institution of marriage, when in fact we were pointing out the myriad ways in which it mocks itself while harming people it excludes. Far from mocking the institution, it turned out marrying as social sculpture gave a loner and a freak like me a way to experience its transformative power for myself. We divorced on May 7, 2012.