Yesterday I saw Rupert Everett in the role of Oscar Wilde in The Judas Kiss, a play that focuses on the pivotal decisions Wilde made, first in 1895, not to flee England and avoid trial for gross indecency (aka loving men) and second in 1897 to reunite with his lover after serving a two year prison term, though the price was rejection from all his friends and family.
As soon as I left the theatre I received a message from a friend in the US to let me know that Wilfried Knight had taken his life, overwhelmed with grief over the suicide of his husband, Jerry Enriquez, a couple of weeks ago.
On March 3rd 2013, Wilfried published on his blog an account of the events that led to Jerry hanging himself. Apparently Jerry’s being bullied at and then fired from a soulless organisation was enough to drive him to attempt suicide, but what sealed his fate was the loss of his Canadian visa, which meant that he and Wilfried were thrown back into a situation where no country would accept both of them as residents – basically because they were two men in love and not a man and a woman.
Inevitably, some will look at Wilfried’s death in the light of the recent untimely deaths of a horribly long list of men who have performed in porn, but when it comes to the manner of their passing, porn is merely coincidental. What our lost brothers really have in common, and they have this in common with every member of our community who dies long before they should, is that they, or those around them, felt they were beyond help.
This can be a hard concept to grasp without knowing more about some of the beautiful people we have lost recently, and this is where porn may be partly responsible. Who would expect a person who looks so gorgeous, is a minor celebrity in the community, gets to have hot sex all over world with stunning men and if you read his Twitter feed seems to be thrilled several times a day about it, to have felt so low and so beyond help? The fairly obvious answer is that behind every porn persona is a real person with real problems and, at times, real pain.
For that matter, being able to see despair when looking at anyone in the world can be very difficult. Many of us hide our pain well. And why wouldn’t we? Sometimes it’s just that we know our friends are dealing with enough of their own problems, and we don’t want to be a burden. Other times, nothing is so unhelpful as a person who appears to seize upon our pain like a meal to feed their own sense of usefulness. So instead of answering the question, ‘How are you?’ with ‘Pretty shit really’, we often say, ‘Fine, thanks’.
At the same time, we all know someone who may be doing their best to hide their pain, but who is clearly a hot mess, and we either don’t know where to begin with them or we’ve tried and nearly or actually given up trying to find a successful approach. Believe me, I know.
As in all things, doing nothing is the easiest thing to do, but if we do nothing then nothing is going to change, and it won’t be long before we’re either reading about the loss of another beautiful soul or, worse, hearing about a friend who just gave up.
We need to learn to be better at being there for each other. We need to learn to be better at helping brothers and sisters who are in pain, whether they are simply grieving or are deeply fucked up by this crazy world, and we need to learn how to shine a light to guide them out of the dark.
Above all, we need to dispose of our own concept of ‘beyond help’ and not give up doing whatever we can to be there for those who are hurting – to the last.
I admit, this is easier said than done. Aside from how complex and widespread are the hardest problems, like mental health and drug addiction, and how few effective resources are available to help with them, I know that finding the right balance between imposing on someone and supporting them is very tricky. But to be honest, before we’re even confronted with any of those problems, I think most of us get stuck on the question ‘What can I do?’
The thing is, if you’re just asking yourself that question, you’re asking the wrong person. Ask that question of that person who you think might need your help. They might tell you there is nothing you can do, but just knowing someone cares could make all the difference to them.
No-one who did not contribute to their pain should feel responsible for a decision someone else makes to take their own life, and I respect the prerogative of anyone who makes that decision, but no-one should be lost because they do not have the support that could have held them through dark times to much better ones.
I don’t know it would have made the critical difference if I had been aware of Wilfried’s bereavement and offered him my support, but from the short time I spent with him in October last year, he struck me as a man who embraced life and had ambitions for the future. I’m sure that his closest friends did all they could to support him, but it appears he needed more to see him through his grief.
It goes without saying we should do everything we can to not leave anyone in our community that way. What needs to be said, though I can’t speak for everyone, is that when it comes to other people’s pain, I think most of us could do more. Too many people I know in London are living far too close to the edge without a safety line. I think it’s a safe bet the same is true in many more cities around the world.
From the sound of it, even if Wilfried and Jerry hadn’t lost their visas to live in Canada, they still would have needed a lot of support to get through a very tough time, but there’s a good chance that neither of them would have felt so helpless if same-sex couples had had the same rights and respect as straight couples.
Over 100 years have passed since Oscar Wilde’s life was destroyed by a community that would not give him the freedom to be with the person he loved. Sadly, I doubt Wilfried will be the last beautiful man who dies as a result of the inequalities gay men and women face, but losing him doesn’t have to be a total waste if the strength of his love inspires us to fight harder to end the INSANITY of laws everywhere in the world that prevent same-sex lovers from living together in either one of their home countries.
You aren’t the only ones who need to do this but, my American brothers, please make more noise and FIGHT! Share these links:
Support the campaign:
And have that uncomfortable argument with your straight friends and relatives. Let Wilfried inspire you to fight harder to change the world, then remember him and celebrate in his memory when we win. I think I knew him well enough to say he would like that.
You may also like to help prevent teen suicides by donating to:
And finally, believe me and try to remember, whether it’s for yourself or someone who you know is in a bad way, now or in the future. There is no such thing as beyond help.
– Dolan Wolf
Dolan Wolf is, amongst other things, a bad-boy, good-guy, porn actor, writer, kinkster, sci-fi geek and activist from London, and when he remembers to, he can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of his stupid little life.