Billy Porter declares he’s a ‘free man’ after going public with HIV diagnosis

·3-min read

Billy Porter has declared he’s a “free man” after he told the world he’s been living with HIV for 14 years.

The Pose star was first diagnosed with HIV in June 2007 but he chose to keep his status a secret from the public and from his mother due to pervasive stigma.

During an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Friday (28 May), Billy Porter opened up about the incredible moment he “released that shame” and told the world that he is living with HIV.

Porter told Fallon that being diagnosed with HIV was “heavy” for him as he lived through the AIDS epidemic, which killed huge swathes of queer people.

“I’ve lived with the shame of it for a really long time and last week I released that shame, I released that trauma, and I am a free man, honey,” Porter said.

He continued: “I’ve never felt joy like this before, and we talk about it in the Black church – this joy that I have, the world didn’t give it and the world can’t take it away. I got it. I got some joy now, and it really feels good, it really feels great.”

Pose star Billy Porter kept his HIV status secret due to ‘stigma’ in the church

The Broadway legend went on to reflect on the “stigma” surrounding queerness and HIV in the Pentecostal church, in which he was raised.

He said his mother faced “persecution” in the church when he came out as gay. He ultimately decided to keep his HIV status a secret from her, fearing she would face backlash once more from religious figures if word got out.

“I didn’t want her to go through that again and my sister and I had vowed we were just going to wait till she was dead, and she went into a nursing home six years ago and she ain’t going nowhere!” Billy Porter joked. “She’s full of life! So it’s time to tell her.”

Elsewhere in the interview, Porter revealed that he is currently recording a new album, telling Ariana Grande, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga to “move out of the way”.

“I am so thrilled because for the first time in my life it’s exactly what I want it to be, the music is exactly from me, what I want to say, and the message and the gift that I want to give to the world, which is hope, love, we have to choose it. We have to recommit to it every day, we have to choose it so that we can fight the evil that is pervasive. We can only fight it with love, it can only change with love,” Porter said.

Billy Porter also reflected on Pose, his groundbreaking FX series, which is due to bow out this summer at the end of its third season.

The actor said it was always the plan that Pose would come to an end around 1996, when antiretroviral drugs to treat HIV first became available.

Porter said Pose is “too important to continue just because it’s a hit”, explaining that the show has reached a natural conclusion.

He also said he used the show and his character Pray Tell as “a proxy” for his own healing

“If I don’t ever do anything else – and I’m already doing a lot of other things – but if I don’t ever do anything else in my life, I will have done it. I’ve said everything I’ve needed to say and now it’s time to tell a different story. Now I get to tell a different story and I’m excited about that,” he said.

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