Billy Porter is speaking about the responsibility that comes with sharing his HIV-positive status

'The truth is the healing. And I hope this frees me'
Billy Porter
Photo credit Getty Images
By , Audacy

In a highly personal new, cover interview with The Hollywood Reporter Billy Porter revealed his HIV-positive status for the first time since being diagnosed, over a decade ago.

Now the Pose star is reflecting on the responsibility of speaking out and not hiding his diagnosis any longer.

Porter was diagnosed HIV-positive in June of 2007, in the 14-years the ensued, the Emmy-winning actor told virtually no one, due to the fear of marginalization and that the industry he worked in would further inflict painful moments.

The actor found somewhat of a cathartic portal on the FX series, Pose, where Porter plays an HIV-positive character, Pray Tell. Billy shared, “I was able to say everything that I wanted to say through a surrogate,” adding that nobody working on the series knew that he was drawing from his own experiences.

As Pose¸a New York, ball-scene, drama that takes place through the AIDS epidemic of the late 80s and early 90s, comes to a close at its third and final season, the actor who is just an Oscar short of an EGOT is gearing up for his next chapter.

He has a memoir set for later this year, a Netflix documentary about his life, which is in collaboration with Pose co-creator, Ryan Murphy, a new modern take on Cinderella where he will play the fairy godmother, a directorial debut, a new music project, and more.

However, the Broadway star does not want to begin this next chapter of his personal or professional life with the shame that has followed him since his 2007 diagnosis.

Armed with a documentary film team, and the support of Ryan Murphy, Porter will now tell his story.

He tells readers he pondered, “Having lived through the plague, my question was always, ‘Why was I spared? Why am I living?’”

“Well, I’m living so that I can tell the story. There’s a whole generation that was here, and I stand on their shoulders. I can be who I am in this space, at this time, because of the legacy that they left for me. So it’s time to put my big boy pants on and talk.”

In the span of six months in 2007, Porter was diagnosed with Type-2 diabetes, filing bankruptcy papers, and then in a fluke circumstance received his HIV-positive diagnosis.

Porter shares, “In 2007, it all came tumbling down.”

“It was a fluke. I had a pimple on my butt, and it got larger and larger and harder and harder, and then it started to hurt. One day I was like, ‘I’ve got to get this taken care of,’ so I went to the Callen-Lorde clinic and the queen at the front desk was like, ‘You want an HIV test? They only $10.’ I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, it’s time.’ I got tested every six months like you were supposed to. So I went in, got the pimple drained, and got tested, and then the doctor came back and looked at me. I was like, ‘What?’ He sat down, and I was like, ‘No. Nooo.’ And he said, ‘Your test came back positive.’ Wheeeew.”

Porter says that the people who needed to know about the diagnosis knew, except he kept his status secret from his mother. Growing up in a Pentecostal home, Porter grew up hearing that AIDS was God’s punishment towards the LGBTQ+ community, thus installing a constant sense of shame in the actor.

Through the trauma in his life, Porter says he learned to compartmentalize, coinciding with some of his biggest successes, like his role as Lola in Kinky Boots and his career-defining role on Pose. “My trauma served me, my story has served me, in terms of forward motion. And as an artist, I’m grateful to have been given opportunities to work through my s***,” explained Porter.

Amidst major career successes, Porter’s starring role in Pose led him to become the first openly gay, Black man to win an EMMY.

In his interview, Billy concluded, “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.”

LISTEN on the Audacy App
Sign Up and Follow Audacy
Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images