Actor Billy Porter Reveals He's Been Living With HIV Since 2007, "This is For Me...I Told My Mother"
Renowned actor, singer and style guru, Billy Porter has attracted the attention of many for his role as Pray Tell in the groundbreaking drama series, Pose. Porter portrays a gay black man who is HIV-positive, trying to navigate and adjust to his new life. Many fans praised Porter for the authenticity he brought to the character, yet it seems Porter’s role hit closer to home than many may have realized.
During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Porter admits that he is HIV-positive and has been so for 14 years.
The 51-year-old Emmy award winner admits that he’s kept his status a secret for over a decade; only telling “everybody who needed to know — except my mother.”
“There's a shame connected to it, based on the world — the stigma, but also specifically for me. You know, my childhood was fraught with a lot of religious shaming. Growing up in the Pentecostal church, I was shamed for my behavior from my attributes, from the minute I could comprehend thought and, you know, told I would never be blessed and told that aids was God's punishment for gays and all of that, that we already know.”
Porter explains that 2007 was considered the worst year of his life. Within six months he was diagnosed with type II diabetes, filed for bankruptcy and was informed that he was HIV-positive. He continues:
“The manifestation of the shame was not being able to tell my mother. You know, ultimately, I don't care what anybody else thinks. But my mother having been through so much already, so much sort of persecution by her community by her religious community but I there was already so much of it in her life that she had to deal with because of my queerness that I just didn't want her to have to live through. You know, I had made a pact with myself that I would let her die before. That's not really so good. That's not really a good thing.”
Aside from seeking out trauma therapy to begin his healing process, Porter states that his partner of over 10 years, Adam Smith was also a factor that led to him telling the world about his status and seeking healing.
“Now, it's not just me. You know, it's not I, you know, for me, it's like, I can beat myself up forever. I can torture myself forever. We do that to ourselves all the time. But now there's another person in the room. And now it's time to look at some stuff. So that I can grow up and move on.”
He adds that being given the starring role of Pray Tell was also the push he needed to start living in his truth. Porter explains how he was able to use Pray Tell as his surrogate and use this character to say everything that he felt he needed to say.
Porter recalls the day he revealed his big secret to his cast members on the last day of shooting the final season of Pose.
“I got up in front of the cast and the crew that all the people that helped to create the space for me. And I told them the truth. Because at a certain point, the truth is the responsible road. The truth is the healing. We are recognized not just in this country, but in the world. It's not just America, it's the whole world. And the only way for a civilization to heal is with the truth.”
Porter also made an appearance on the Tamron Hall Show to recount his experience to his beloved friend and the rest of the world in his first interview since going public about his diagnosis. He candidly discusses what made him get tested back in 2007 which ultimately led to his diagnosis and his journey to healing and telling the people closest to him. Check out the interview below!
Looking towards the future, Porter excitingly lets fans know that he is booked and busy in the days that lay ahead! He reveals that he’s in preparation to play the fairy godmother in Cinderella, in the process of releasing new music and will soon be releasing his first memoir. Most importantly he confesses, “I’m trying to be present. I’m trying to be joyful, and one of the effects of trauma is not being able to feel joy.”
As a message to the rest of the world, Porter leaves us with this sentiment:
“The truth is the healing. And I hope this frees me. I hope this frees me so that I can experience real, unadulterated joy, so that I can experience peace, so that I can experience intimacy, so that I can have sex without shame. This is for me. I’m doing this for me. I have too much sh*t to do, and I don’t have any fear about it anymore. I told my mother — that was the hurdle for me. I don’t care what anyone has to say. You’re either with me or simply move out of the way.”
If you’re looking to keep up all things Billy Porter and his upcoming projects, you can be sure that Gaye Magazine will keep you in the loop!