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.

2 Responses to “Sarah Tressler vs. the Houston Chronicle — Do I help her case?”

  1. Robert Boyd May 11, 2012 at 1:28 pm #

    I think your situation may have affected the Chron’s decision. They found out about Tressler’s stripping (and, probably worse from the Chron’s POV, her blogging about it) and thought, “Not again!” If you hadn’t preceded her, they might have thought that this was something that they could work out or sweep under the rug. Maybe not–I’m just guessing about their thinking, which I assume is highly reactive.

    Which makes me wonder–are they going to be more proactive from now on? Are they going to ask in job interviews for prospective writers if they have done sex work in the past? (Or present?) Oh, to be a fly on the wall for those interviews. It would be amusing to see writers who have some sex work backgrounds to flood the Chron with job applications and resumes–as long as they blog about the experience later.

    • Devon Britt-Darby May 11, 2012 at 1:49 pm #

      I think you’re right about their being reactive — although the “they” in this kind of decision is probably more Hearst than Chronicle — but I also think they thought they were sweeping things under the rug by firing her. Now the only way to sweep things under the rug may be to settle. That’s what happens when you let Richard Connelly tell you who should and shouldn’t be working for you.

      I’ve heard Sarah and I were just the tip of the iceberg at the Chronicle, and I’ve certainly met a substantial number of people who have done both sex work and journalism, often at the same time. The market values the two fields very differently — remember, journalism consistently ranks as one of the worst fields to enter — so the former increasingly has to subsidize the later.

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