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Billy Porter Reveals He’s Been HIV-Positive Since 2007

"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"

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billy porter hiv positive diagnosis
Billy Porter, photo by Shavonne Wong

    Billy Porter has unloaded the burden of secretly living as HIV-positive for the past 14 years. In a new The Hollywood Reporter story, the Pose star opened up about hiding the diagnosis since testing positive in 2007.

    The Emmy-winner explained he has used his HIV-positive Pose character, Pray Tell, as a proxy. “I was able to say everything that I wanted to say through a surrogate,” Porter said, while acknowledging no one on the show was aware of his diagnosis. “My compartmentalizing and disassociation muscles are very, very strong, so I had no idea I was being traumatized or triggered. I was just happy that somebody was finally taking me seriously as an actor.”

    The 51-year-old actor continued by alluding to the “shame” that came with his HIV-positive diagnosis due to growing up in the Pentecostal church with a devoutly religious family. “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,'” he said.

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    However, living through COVID-19 pandemic forced him to reflect and heal from the trauma in his life. This prompted him to finally tell his mother. “You’ve been carrying this around for 14 years? Don’t ever do this again,” Porter recalled her saying. “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.”

    He added, “And it’s all true. It’s my own shame. Years of trauma makes a human being skittish. But the truth shall set you free. 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. And it couldn’t have happened at a better time.”

    Porter shared that he feels healthier than ever. “This is what HIV-positive looks like now. I’m going to die from something else before I die from that,” he stated. ” 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.”

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    “I’m sure this will follow me. I’m sure this is going to be the first thing everybody says, ‘HIV-positive blah, blah, blah,’ he conceded. “It’s not the only thing I am. 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.”

    Now that Porter is set free, he is looking forward to playing a genderless fairy godmother in the Cinderella remake, starring in the Little Shop of Horrors remake, sharing new music, releasing a memoir, and the final season of Pose, which is currently airing on FX.

    “Every single solitary dream that I ever had is coming true in this moment, all at the same time,” he said. “I’m trying to be present. I’m trying to be joyful, and one of the effects of trauma is not being able to feel joy.”

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    Read the full story at The Hollywood Reporter.

     

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