By now you’ve likely heard that gay porn star, and 2010 GayVN Performer of the Year, Wilfried Knight has killed himself, just a matter of days after his husband, Jerry Enriquez, had committed suicide. While suicide ought never to be simplified, the major strain on this couple was the fact that they were not accepted as a couple. Ashley Davis succinctly sums up the unacceptable situation:
The couple were married in Canada in 2011, but upon moving to America, the U.S. Defense of Marriage Act prohibited them from being married in the states. This meant Knight was also forbidden from getting a green card sponsored by his husband.
In the blog posts, written before his suicide, Knight explained the ordeal in detail:
“Never mind our commitment, our years together, i was to be thrown out. My partner knew it and decided to look for a job in the only country that would allow us to be together and marry: Canada.
“And i know what most people will say: Why didn’t you guys marry in Washington, or California, or NYC? Well, IF YOU ARE TWO GAY MEN FROM DIFFERENT NATIONALITY, STATE MARRIAGE DOES NOT MATTER, EVEN IF ONE IS AMERICAN: IT NEEDS TO EXIST ON THE FEDERAL LEVEL TO APPLY TO A MULTINATIONAL COUPLE.” (sic)
Knight explained Enriquez obtained a job in Canada at sportwear company Lululemon. They left America to start a life there. But shortly after, Enriquez was fired by the company after a series of events, leaving the couple financially strapped and without employment, a visa, or health insurance.
Five months later, Knight came home to find his husband dead after he did not answer his texts.
…Following Enriquez’s suicide, Knight also found that the same laws preventing their marriage in America also prevented him from being recognized as a surviving spouse after his death, meaning all of his belongings were passed down to Enriquez’s family and not Knight.
“BUT, if you like me have met your partner and lived in USA before, purchased goods, a condo together, well, if you are not from the same nationality, even if state gay marriage exist, in the absence of a will, the living partner left gets….NOTHING.”
Knight said Enriquez’s siblings were packing up his old possessions in America and not allowing Knight access to the proceeds, though they were on good terms prior to his death.
Immigration Equality estimates that there are 35,820 same sex couples in the U.S. facing similar circumstances, meaning they are forced to comply with the U.S. immigration law and separate, live out of compliance with U.S. law or move abroad.
Communications Director Steve Ralls said in a statement:
“Suicide under any circumstance is a tragedy and in this case that tragedy is compounded. Immigration Equality was not aware of Knight’s case and it’s difficult to know all the details surrounding his and his partner’s suicide. What we do know, however, is that no couple should have to deal with the difficult circumstances our immigration laws force so many into. That’s why we’re committed to changing the law as soon as possible. The separation and discrimination couples face is very real and very painful.”
In the final post before Knight killed himself, he emphasized the point of explaining his experience.
“US OR ANY COUNTRY SHOULD HAVE NATIONAL/FEDERAL GAY MARRIAGE TO ALLOW PEOPLE LIKE JERRY AN ME TO BE TOGETHER, EVEN IF FROM DIFFERENT NATIONALITY.”
Along with the struggle for gay rights and immigration status there was another issue in this that’s been largely ignored in the coverage: that of Knight’s status as a sex worker. He wrote the following ~ a long preamble to the entire story of his struggle and loss, which shows just how much the stigma of sex work affects the acceptance and understanding of grief. That addition status of “porn star” was like another circle in Dante’s hell for Knight:
First i expect to be judged or put in the trash bag because i used to be a porn “star”, because generalization is now commonplace in this world, because no one ever reflects anymore, because reality shows have now taken over anything that once challenged our minds. But it is ok, i am not going to apologize for what i have been up to. Sex is only shameful if you want it to be. And my identity does not disgrace my partner’s. He was his own man and in no way should be judged for who he was dating. In any relationship we still stay who we are, individually. And he was as respectable as one can be. And as for myself, i am not druggy, no drunk. Those ready to stereotype me can consult those who know me personally: i am happier hiking or climbing than in any party, and FYI, i have never attended any circuit party. If all men travelling for circuit parties would travel down to every capital city in the world together, gay marriage would already be widespread, just sayin..
Yes i was a porn star, but it always had been a hobby. In the meantime, i also graduated in law, in chinese medicine, in personal training. I have always achieved academically, and always assumed my choices. I will not apologize. I do not see how having sex on screen is less socially acceptable than being a corporate banker regularly backstabbing anyone on his way in order to get richer. To be honest, if what i did bothers anyone, well, no one ever forces anyone to watch, right?
And yes, a porn “star” (still laughing at the term itself) can fall in love, can be in a relationship, and no one but the two people involved, has the right to judge. What people do together in bed or not stay their business.
And i was in love, and so was my partner. He let me be who i wanted to be. He did not agree with everything i was but he let me be. He gave me the best 8, almost 9 years of my life.
And this amazing guy committed suicide by hanging last week, after fighting for so long for us to stay together.
I wish I had something wise or even gentle to say now… But all I find myself able to articulate in my anger is that these laws and the societal notions that form them, these hideous unfounded judgements about sexual orientation and identity, about sex work and sex workers, isn’t “just ignorance”. Oh no it’s not.
It’s a special kind of horrifying hell that too many people have to suffer through. Now it’s up to the rest of us to fight ~ to fight so that Jerry and Wilfried may rest in peace. And so that no more people have to suffer like this.