Archive | May, 2012

Mimi Swartz, Texas Monthly (Air Shaft)

31 May

Reliable Narratives, Mimi Swartz, Texas Monthly (Air Shaft), 2012. Glass microspheres, enamel and acrylic satin varnish on canvas. (Left image unlit; right image lit.)

See this post for background; this post for a blue-and-pink version.

Sarah Tressler vs. the Houston Chronicle — Do I help her case?

10 May

My getting fired by the Houston Chronicle after coming out about my colorful past turned out to be a mere prequel to the revelation that my successor on the society beat, Sarah Tressler, was a stripper with a blog. Girlfriend went on Good Morning America and may have gotten a book deal.

This week, my divorce from the wife I married for art was the prequel for Tressler’s press conference with Gloria Allred announcing she’s suing the Chron for gender discrimination. Allred cited the fact that most exotic dancers are women; therefore firing them for dancing or having danced disproportionately harms women in addition to discouraging them from trying to improve their lives.

Said Tressler:

I don’t believe that I should have been terminated because of a claim that I did not disclose on my employment application that I worked as an exotic dancer. There was no question on the form that covered my dancing. I answered the questions on the form honestly

I feel that women should not be denied other employment because they have worked as exotic dancers

Here’s where the prequel may help Tressler’s case: Despite never having disclosed on my employment application that I had worked as an escort and porn actor, the Chronicle did not cite that as a reason for firing me. (I did come out about my past to an editor by submitting a draft of this essay, but not until years after I’d been hired.)

In fact, the wording of the email implied that I had quit and the reason for termination was that the paper was unable to grant me an extended unpaid leave “due to the present climate” in which it found itself. No mention of my sex work. And I was welcome to apply for any open position upon my return.

There are differences in our individual situations, of course, but the biggest two that spring to mind are that I’m a man and that and I didn’t get fired for failing to disclose my sex work when I applied for the job. She’s not, and she did.

For the record, and with respect to Tressler’s remarks, I don’t think men who have worked as exotic dancers should be denied other employment either. But officially, at least, that’s not why the Chronicle denied me other employment.

Notes on a brief marriage

9 May

1. I spent both my last night as a married man and my first night as a divorced man in my ex’s bed. Not my ex-wife’s bed, mind you, but the bed of the ex I lived with for four years. (He wasn’t in it; I was housesitting for him and watching the dogs whose lives were also once intertwined with mine.)

2. She is my ex-wife; he is simply my ex. I can’t call him my ex-husband, afer all, yet in practice he was more of a husband to me than she was a wife. Still, she was, undeniably, my wife. Though she aroused none of the passions he did, and she and I lived apart and only communicated sparingly, mostly via texts and tweets, I felt a nervous sense of duty toward her that I’ve only felt toward my ex — never toward men with whom I haven’t cohabitated. Something about going through the process together did that.

3. Our marriage was a trust exercise. We knew almost nothing about each other, yet we chose not to draw up prenuptial agreements or to annul the marriage after the onstage performance. We were vulnerable to each other, each responsible for the other if a medical emergency had occurred; she had my computer passwords and we each had each other’s Social Security number and information about each other’s incomes. Either of us could have approached the divorce more combatively, and Reese would have had ample ammunition after learning my past as an escort — and my reentry into the profession — and my disastrous experience with crystal meth. At the very least, she could have chosen to annul instead of divorcing upon learning the news. But she didn’t.

4. Legally, our case was Britt vs. Britt, because Texas automatically gave Reese my last name despite our vows reflecting our wish that I add hers to mine. The state makes the decision for you; Reese, who per our agreement was the one suing me for divorce, also had to petition the court to let her change her name back to Darby. However, when he summoned us to the judge’s chambers, my otherwise by-the-book father-in-law called us Mr. and Mrs. Darby.

5. While ceremonies are an important part of marriage — mine had a cathartic effect on me, leading to my coming out about my colorful past and launching a 10,000-mile journey — actually undergoing civil marriage as an artwork makes you vulnerable in a way that simply staging the ceremony doesn’t.

6. A marriage as an artwork can be both a travesty and something rather sweet, idealistic and sincere at the same time.

7. The intention to make art is as good a reason to get married as any other.

8. Although the wedding was on the stage of a gay strip bar, it was officiated by an ordained minister; sending back the marriage license with his signature completed the marriage legally. Yet the judge’s signature alone was required to dissolve the marriage. From a legal standpoint our divorce ceremony, at which the same minister officiated, was superfluous, whereas the wedding ceremony was an essential ingredient, regardless of its setting. Clergy could help legally bond us to one another, but only the state could sever that bond.

9. In fact, once the minister signed the marriage license, the Universal Life Church and I were effectively through with each other. The marriage’s countours were much more defined by our interactions with the government, whether obtaining the license, filing for divorce, filing taxes “married filing separately” but still needing to fill out each other’s personal information on our own forms, being targeted for an insurance scam aimed at newlyweds by a company who got our address from the county clerk’s office, or, of course, going to court to end the marriage. Another reason our marriage was civil as well as ceremonial.

10. By marrying onstage, Reese and I physically elevated ourselves above the crowd, reflecting the social and legal elevation our wedding gave us over gay couples. At Leon’s Lounge, we divorced standing on the same floor, and therefore the same plane, as everyone else, effectively stepping down from our privileged perch to renounce the 1,138 federal rights of marriage.

11. People hope to complete themselves by getting married, but I didn’t expect my marriage to complete me. That’s what it did, though, by bringing my various, previously compartmentalized worlds together. That’s why I’m staying Devon Britt-Darby even after the divorce, integrating my family name with my artistic identities and acknowleding what milestones the marriage and divorce are.

12. The marriage was one social sculpture, my return to escorting another. Besides the fact that the former spawned the latter, they are separate pieces except to the extent that doing the latter during my 10,000-mile road trip added a few more layers of absurdity to the way Texas and the United States privileged our marriage over those of same-sex couples.

13. Much happened during our marriage to reinforce the piece’s social commentary and art criticism. Numerous politicians raised the very slippery-slope argument The Art Guys’ mock wedding had paralleled, most notably in this instance. And Michele Bachmann said gays were free to marry people of the opposite sex. (Hey Marcus: We’re free to divorce people of the opposite sex, too.) To top it all off, on our first full days as newly single people, North Carolina passed a consitutional amendment banning both gay marriage and civil unions. (Update: And on our second full day as newly single people, the president announced his support of gay marriage conceptually but said he still favored letting states decide for themselves to discriminate.) Our marriage was very much of its time.

14. It is possible to experience the institution’s transformative power in a time-limited marriage that returns one to single life a better person.

Quicker than a Kardashian: the solemn and holy estate of divorce

8 May

My marriage to Theresa Anne “Reese” Darby ended at 1:21 p.m. Monday in the judge’s chambers in the Austin County Courthouse in Bellville, Texas, as my now-ex-father-in-law, an attorney, whisked through the legalities so quickly you’d have thought he was afraid the either would wear off.

Then we returned to Houston for the divorce reception at Leon’s Lounge, where our minister, the Rev. Christian Chiari, Doctor of Divinity, Doctor of Philosophy and Universal Philosopher of Absolute Reality, Universal Life Church, led us in renewing our vows — before concluding:

In so much as Reese and Devon first consented to live apart in wedlock, bearing witness to the travesty of justice that is marriage inequality, and have fulfilled their vow to divorce quicker than a Kardashian once the state of Texas permitted it, I now pronounce them ex and ex. .. Let them eat cake.

Thanks to all who attended either our wedding, divorce, or both, and to all who participated in the discussions it helped generate.

And thanks most of all to Reese, whose 11th-hour proposal on Twitter made it all possible. As we stated in our vows, I will attach her last name to my own, always remembering to faithfully hyphenate, to honor the important milestones we’ve shared. She’s my ex-wife for life, which makes me the luckiest gay alive.

Bless this divorce

4 May

When appropriating wedding-cake toppers for a divorce cake, it’s not easy to find a pair that hint at why the relationship was destined to fall short of six months:

Hours after my marriage to Reese Darby ends in judge’s chambers on Monday, May 7, the same minister who married us will preside over a brief ceremony at Leon’s Lounge during which we’ll feed each other the first piece of divorce cake before sharing the rest with those gathered to celebrate either the sanctity of our divorce or happy hour. This will conclude our social sculpture The Art Gay Marries a Woman.

Reese and I are preparing an archive of documentary materials related to our marriage that will include a recorded conversation between husband and wife. Or ex-husband and ex-wife, if we don’t get around to recording it before the divorce party.

In the meantime, if you want to make it with a married dude, this is your last weekend to make it with this one.