Billy Porter opened up about his own spirituality and insisted that God doesn’t “hate fags” in a powerful interview about his HIV diagnosis.
The Pose star revealed on Wednesday (19 May) that he has been living with HIV since 2007. He later sat down with Tamron Hall to discuss the shame and stigma that led to him keeping his status a secret for 14 years.
In the wide-ranging interview, Billy Porter told Tamron Hall about the “survivor’s guilt” he experienced following his HIV diagnosis.
“Why did I survive? What’s the point? Because there’s something in the survival that is greater than me,” Porter said.
“And then Pose happened. And I said, ‘OK God, universe, she, them, they’ – whatever we call the force – ‘I understand because I was left here to tell the story, to remind the world that we were here, we’ve always been here, we’re still here, and we’re not ever going anywhere.'”
Billy Porter said his own experience of HIV mirrors his Pose character Pray Tell’s in some respects – however, he pointed out that being diagnosed in 2007 meant he could access antiretroviral drugs, guaranteeing him a long and healthy life.
He went on to urge people watching at home to see “the God” that’s in him.
“I say God because we have to start speaking in the right terms,” Porter explained.
“The first thing that’s taken away from us as LGBTQ people, from everybody, is our spirituality, is God. ‘God hates fags’ – no he doesn’t. Stop it. I can’t do it and I won’t do it anymore.”
Billy Porter experienced ‘debilitating shame’ after being diagnosed with HIV
Porter said the shame of being diagnosed with HIV was “debilitating”, adding: “The shame took over because I’m the generation that was supposed to know better, so here I am.”
The Broadway legend went on to reveal that he had “stomach issues” in the 14 years since his diagnosis – symptoms he now puts down to the crushing impact of shame.
“My stomach just felt like it was always in knots. It felt like there was a hand on my heart squeezing every day all day,” Porter said.
“Every morning I would wake up with dread and try to find my way to work through it. Shame is a destroyer. It destroys everything.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Billy Porter described Pose as a gift, saying it gave him the chance to work through the trauma surrounding his HIV diagnosis.
He also praised his mother for her loving response when he told her that he is HIV positive earlier this year.
“That is what being a Christian means. That is what it is,” Porter said, adding that the world “could use her as an example”.