Billy Porter, who was diagnosed with the HIV virus in June 2007, disclosed one day ago that he is HIV positive. In a candid conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, the Pose star spoke about living with the virus, journey to healing and self acceptance.
In this interview, Porter revealed that the decision to lay it out to his mother about living with the virus for 14 years, finally inspired him to tell the public.
It all began in 2007:
Porter described 2007 as “the worst year of my life”. He said that his HIV news came only months after he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. In the same year, he went bankrupt as he walked unsteadily “on the precipice of obscurity for about a decade or so”.
“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,” Porter said to The Hollywood Reporter.
“HIV-positive, where I come from, growing up in the Pentecostal church with a very religious family, is God’s punishment.”
His diagnosis came as a “fluke”, at the Callen-Lorde clinic in New York.
“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,’” explained Porter.
He was offered a HIV test at the Callen-Lorde clinic; and the positive result shook his world. Out of the fear of losing his career, Billy Porter decided to reveal his HIV status only to the ones who “needed to know”. Along with this, he eve vowed to keep this news a secret from his mother.
“I was trying to have a life and a career, and I wasn’t certain I could if the wrong people knew,” explained Porter. “It would just be another way for people to discriminate against me in an already discriminatory profession.”
Couldn’t bring himself to reveal his diagnosis:
Along with the fear of retaliation and marginalization, he was also unable to bear the thought of revealing to his mother. “My shame was really connected to my relationship with my mother and my ex-relationship with the church,” explained Porter.
“My mother had been through so much already. So much persecution by her religious community because of my queerness; that I just didn’t want her to have to live through their ‘I told you so’s.’ I didn’t want to put her through that. I was embarrassed and ashamed; the statistic that everybody said I would be.”
Finally revealed to his mother while on the sets of Pose:
In all these years, he worked really hard to keep HIV diagnosis out of his mind. However, the isolation period as a result of the pandemic, pushed him to face his internalized shame; explained Porter.
Porter finally made up his mind to speak to his mother about the diagnosis; after dealing with trauma therapy in the past year. The original plan was to tell her in person at her nursing home with his sister. But eventually he ended up telling her over phone on his last working day on Pose.
“Not two minutes into the conversation, she’s like, ‘What’s wrong?’ I said, ‘Nothing.’ She’s like, ‘Son, please tell me what’s wrong.’ So I ripped the Band-Aid off and I told her. She said, ‘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.”
Billy Porter told that there is “no more stigma” attached to HIV. He also added: “I’m so much more than that diagnosis. And if you don’t want to work with me because of my status, you’re not worthy of me.”
This trailblazing actor went ahead and opened up about his diagnosis to Pose’s cast and crew, on their last day of filming.
“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, and have sex without shame,” Porter said.
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