Billy Porter is living fully in his truth.
The “Pose” actor who plays the HIV-positive character Pray Tell in the FX series is covering The Hollywood Reporter and sharing that he’s been quietly living with HIV since 2007. The 51-year-old revealed that he’s been silent on his diagnosis because of “shame” and “embarrassment” in particular when it came to his mother.
According to Porter, he didn’t want to subject his religious mother to further persecution “because of his queerness” so he decided to “let her die” without knowing—but his resilient mom is very much so still alive and he finally gained the strength to share the news, first with her and now the world.
While sitting alongside his friend/ frequent collaborator Ryan Murphy who joined him for moral support, Porter told The Hollywood Reporter;
“I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I was the statistic that everybody said I would be.“It wasn’t a fear that [my status] was going to come out or that somebody was going to expose me; it was just the shame that it had happened. As a Black person, particularly a Black man on this planet, you have to be perfect or you will get killed,” he says.
“And my shame was really connected to my relationship with my mother and my ex-relationship with the church. 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. I was ashamed. I was the statistic that everybody said I would be,” he adds. “So I’d made a pact with myself that I would let her die before I told her. That’s what I was waiting for, if I’m being honest. When we moved her into the Actors Fund Nursing Home, I was like, “She’s not going to be here long, and then I’ll write my book and come out and she won’t have to live with the embarrassment of having an HIV-positive child.” That was five years ago. She ain’t going anywhere.
The actor also noted to The Hollywood Reporter that his “Pose” character Pray Tell has been his proxy…
“I was able to say everything that I wanted to say through a surrogate,” he reveals, acknowledging that nobody involved with the show had any idea he was drawing from his own life.”
and his status reveal is part of his journey toward feeling even freer as a human being.
“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,” said Porter “This is for me.”
He added, “I’m the healthiest I’ve been in my entire life. So it’s time to let all that go and tell a different story. There’s no more stigma — let’s be done with that. It’s time. I’ve been living it and being in the shame of it for long enough.”
Kudos to Billy for opening up.