Billy Porter breaks 14 years of silence, the truth is the cure

Billy Porter breaks 14 years of silence: “This is what HIV positive looks like now.” For the first time since being diagnosed more than a decade ago, the “Pose” star opens up about the shame that forced her to hide her condition from her classmates, colleagues, and even her mother, and the responsibility for it. He is speaking now: “The truth is the cure.”

Billy Porter breaks 14 years of silence

“I have to start in 2007,” he says, sitting across the table. He is here, in the Little Owl of the West Village, to get something out of his chest, something that he has been wrapped up in secret for so long that he can barely remember the previous life. “In June of that year,” he continues, a ball of nerves, although the artist refuses to elaborate, “I was diagnosed with HIV positive.”

In the 14 years since then, Pose’s Emmy-winning star hasn’t told anyone, fearing marginalization and retaliation in an industry that hasn’t always been kind to her. Instead, the 51-year-old, who has cultivated an enthusiastic fan base in recent years due to his talent and authenticity, says that he is using his HIV-positive character on the FX series Pray Tale. as his representative. “I was able to say everything I wanted to say through a surrogate,” he revealed, admitting that no one involved in the show had any idea what he would get out of his life.

Now, as the Peabody Award-winning series, a dance-scene drama set against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis, wraps up its third and final season, Porter is preparing for the future. There is a memoir on which he resisted and passed the deadline set for the end of this year; a Netflix documentary about his life, which will put her in business with Pose co-creator Ryan Murphy; She will face Cinderella in 2021, in which she will play the fairy godmother; a directorial debut; lots of new music; and many more.

But the Broadway-trained actor, an Oscar below an EGOT, is not interested in entering the next phase of his life and career with the shame that has plagued him for more than a decade. So, with Murphy backing up and a bunch of documentary cameras floating above, Porter tells his story. An edited version follows.

Well I’m living to tell the story. There is a whole generation that was here and I lean on their shoulders. I can be who I am in this place, in this moment, because of the legacy they have left me. So it’s time to put on my big boy pants and talk.

I was the generation that should have known better, and it happened anyway. That was 2007, the worst year of my life. I was on the brink of darkness for almost a decade, but 2007 was the worst. In February, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. In March, I signed the bankruptcy papers.

And in June, he was found to be HIV positive. The shame of that time combined with the shame that I had already [accumulated] in my life silenced me, and I remained silent for 14 years with that shame. HIV positive, where I come from, I grew up in a very religious family in a Pentecostal church, this is God’s punishment.

In 2007, it all came down to that.

It was a whisper. I had a pimple on my butt, and it got bigger and bigger and harder and harder, and then it started to hurt. One day I thought, “I have to take care of this,” so I went to the Colon-Lorde clinic and the reception queen said, “Do you want an HIV test? They are only $ 10.

I got tested every six months, as I should. So I went in, took out my pimple and got tested, and then the doctor came back and looked at me. I was like, “What?” He sat down and I said, “No. Nooo”. And he said, “Your test came back positive.” Wow.

For a long time, everyone who needed to know knew, except my mother. He was trying to build a life and a career, and he wasn’t sure he could do it if the wrong people knew about it. This would be another way for people to discriminate against me in a profession that is already discriminatory. So I tried to think about it as little as I could. I tried to stop it. But the quarantine has taught me a lot. Everyone needed to sit down and be quiet.

For a long time, everyone who needed to know knew, except my mother. He was trying to build a life and a career, and he wasn’t sure he could do it if the wrong people knew about it. This would be another way for people to discriminate against me in a profession that is already discriminatory. So I tried to think about it as little as I could. I tried to stop it. But the quarantine has taught me a lot. Everyone needed to sit down and be quiet.

Billy Porter breaks 14 years of silence

My husband and I rented a house on Long Island because I have a pre-existing condition and cannot live in the middle of it. I have to defend myself and I have the means. Never before have I had the luxury of thinking about self-care or balance on any level. It’s like I have to move on. COVID created a safe space to stop, reflect, and deal with the trauma in my life.

Now I am in treatment for a long time. I started at 25 and have been running on and off for years. But in the last year, I started actual trauma therapy to begin the healing process. I started to remove all these layers: I was referred to a psychologist at 5 years old because she was an adult queen who came out of the womb; My stepfather sexually abused me from the age of 7 to 12; Dating at 16 in the midst of the AIDS crisis.

There has not been a time when you have not had a trauma that you have discovered in the last year. And that was my engine for a long time. My trauma has served me, my story has served me, in terms of forward momentum. And as an artist, I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to figure out my nonsense. When I got Kinky Boots, my character Lola’s journey was to forgive her father.

Giving the gift of practicing forgiveness in a narrative eight times a week for three years, eight times a week, I allow myself to forgive my father and both [my father and my stepfather] in the field. Every day there was another launch. Then came the pose. The chance to get over the shame [of HIV] and where have I come to right now. And the brilliance of Prayer Tale and the possibility that he could say everything he wanted to say through a surrogate.

My compartmentalisation and dissociation muscles are very, very strong, so I didn’t know I was traumatized or provoked. I was happy that someone took me seriously as an actor. I survived so I could tell the story. That’s what I’m here for. I am the recipient, and emotionally that was enough, until it stopped being so. Until I got married [in 2017].

Now I try to have a family; Now it’s not just me. It’s time to grow up and move on because shame is destructive and, if left unresolved, it can destroy everything in its path. And my shame really stemmed from my relationship with my mother and my pre-existing relationship with the church.

My mom had already gone through so much persecution by her religious community due to my strangeness, that she didn’t want her to have to experience hers “I told you so” about hers. She didn’t want to put him through that. He was ashamed. He was ashamed.

I was the stat that everyone said I would be. So I made a pact with myself that she would let him die before telling her. That’s what I was waiting for, if I’m honest. When we took her to the Actors Fund Nursing Home, I told her, “She won’t be here long, and then I’ll write my book and go out and she won’t have to live with the shame of having HIV.” Positive baby. That was five years ago, she’s not going anywhere.

So my sister and I made a plan. We were going to get vaccinated and we were going to see Mom. We’ll get a room and I’ll break the news to you. Then I woke up on the last day of the [shooting] pose; I was writing in my gratitude journal and my mom popped into my head. I was like, “Let me call it that.” Within two minutes of the conversation, she said, “What’s wrong?” I didn’t say anything. “She said,” Son, please tell me what’s wrong. “

Billy Porter

Then I broke the band-aid and told him. She said, “Have you been taking this for 14 years? Never do this again. I’m your mom, I love you no matter what. And I know I didn’t understand how to do it early.” Yes, but decades have passed. And everything is true. It’s my own shame. The trauma of the years makes a man stingy. But the truth will set you free. I feel like my heart is breaking.

It felt like a hand had held my heart for years, years, and everything was gone. And it couldn’t have been at a better time. Each and every dream I’ve ever had comes true at this very moment, at the same time. I’m getting ready to play Cinderella’s fairy godmother. I have new music on the way. I have a close memory. The pose is out. I am directing my first movie. And I am trying to be present. I am trying to be happy and one of the effects of trauma is not being able to feel happiness.

Ryan actually called me for the first season. They called me at Fred’s on Wilshire Boulevard, and he sat down and said, “I’ll need you for happiness.” Woof. No one can see it. I’m very good at hiding that side of my fight, and that caught my attention. Then we had this wonderful conversation about the work that I have done in my life and how this is my moment: the moment to sit on my throne, the protagonist. And I had a lot of “almost” before [pose].

I remember the first time I saw Angels in America in 1994 and thought, “There’s a queer black guy who’s not just a minor character, that’s the heart of this fucking story. He’s the person I am. He’s the artist.” A.M. How do I get there? “I was oiling my head with 14 inches of orange rubber hair, rolling like a Little Richard automaton in the crack. And that’s not what I wanted. Not because I came here. And now Ryan should have led me to happiness, and I could not.

I’m glad, yes; There is superficial joy, but also a sense of dread throughout the day, every day. It wasn’t the fear that [my status] would come out or that someone would expose me; It was a shame that this happened in the first place. And as a black person, especially as a black person on this planet, you have to be perfect or you will be killed. But look at me. Yes, I am the statistic, but I have passed it. HIV positive now looks like this. I’m going to die for something else before I die for it.

My T-cell level is double hers from this drug. Now I go to the doctor; As a 51-year-old black man, I go to the doctor every three months. This does not happen in my community. We don’t trust doctors. But I go to the doctor and I know what is happening in my body. I am the healthiest of all my life. So it’s time to drop everything and tell a different story.

No more stigma, let’s get it over with. Is the time. I am living it and I have felt ashamed for a long time. And I am sure that he will follow me. I’m sure it will be the first thing everyone says: “HIV positive blah blah blah.” Well. what. It is not just a thing that I am. I am much more than that diagnosis. And if you don’t want to work with me because of my status, you don’t deserve me.

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