American actor, singer, performer, and style icon Billy Porter has just revealed that he was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS back in 2007. He had been hiding this news from his co-workers, industry people, and even his own mother at one time. Now, he is speaking his truth, and relinquishing the shame he had felt for all these years.
Porter sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to share his full story.
It begins in 2007, a time which Porter calls the worst year of his life. He faced bankruptcy, a Type-2 Diabetes diagnosis, and his HIV diagnosis all in that one year.
"The shame of that time compounded with the shame that had already [accumulated] in my life silenced me, and I have lived with that shame in silence for 14 years," said Porter.
At the time, he was keeping this news about his health from mostly everyone, including his mother. According to him, the only people that knew were the ones that needed to know.
"I was trying to have a life and a career, and I wasn't certain I could if the wrong people knew. It would just be another way for people to discriminate against me in an already discriminatory profession. So I tried to think about it as little as I could. I tried to block it out."
So how did he manage, bottling up this news? He did it in quite a profound way.
Porter has been on the show Pose since its release back in 2018, playing the role of Pray Tell, who is HIV positive on the show.
He had been using Pray Tell as a "surrogate" for saying everything he felt he couldn't say for so long about himself and his illness.
"I was able to say everything that I wanted to say through a surrogate. My compartmentalizing and disassociation muscles are very, very strong, so I had no idea I was being traumatized or triggered."
Porter grew up in the Pentecostal church with a very religious family and was ready to make a pact with himself that he would never tell his mother about his diagnosis, and that he would wait until she passed. The pact didn't last very long when he realized that "she ain't going anywhere."
So, he and his sister devised a plan. They would go get vaccinated, go visit their mother and tell her the news about the illness that Porter had been hiding for fourteen years.
Well, the plan soon turned into a phone call between Porter and his mother. The second she heard his voice, she knew something was wrong, and pressed on to hear what he had to say, to which she replied,
"You've been carrying this around for 14 years? Don't ever do this again. I'm your mother, I love you no matter what. And I know I didn't understand how to do that early on, but it's been decades now."
After their conversation, Porter said that he felt freer than ever.
"I feel my heart releasing. It had felt like a hand was holding my heart clenched for years — for years — and it's all gone."
The 51-year-old has new music and a memoir coming out, he is directing his first film, and his show Pose is thriving.
"I'm doing this for me. I have too much shit to do, and I don't have any fear about it anymore."
"The truth is the healing. And I hope this frees me."
We are so proud of Porter for speaking his truth.
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