Billy Porter says disclosing HIV status has freed him from shame

In an interview with People magazine, Porter speaks of relief he felt after breaking his silence

Billy Porter has been receiving praise and accolades for his starring role in the FX drama series Pose, but it was his brave decision to disclose that he’s been living with HIV for over a decade that’s been the most satisfying for him.

In May, Porter, 51, told The Hollywood Reporter that he had been diagnosed as HIV-positive in 2007, keeping it a secret from the public for 14 years. During that time, very few people knew the actor/singer’s diagnosis, not even his mother.

“I was trying to have a life and a career, and I wasn’t certain I could if the wrong people knew,” Porter told The Hollywood Reporter. “It would just be another way for people to discriminate against me in an already discriminatory profession. So I tried to think about it as little as I could. I tried to block it out.”

Billy Porter
Billy Porter celebrating his historic win at the Emmys. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Since revealing to the world this secret, Porter has felt that a big weight was lifted off his shoulders. On Friday at the annual The Elizabeth Taylor Ball to End AIDS, where he was an honoree, Porter explained to People how much his life has changed for the better since disclosing the news.

“There is a shame component with being Black, with being queer, with having HIV that is silencing and destructive,” Porter said. “I am no more silenced, I am no more shamed, and I’m ready for whatever comes next.”

Porter felt compelled to use his celebrity platform to help empower those who needed inspiration to be brave. “I think it’s important that those of us who have a platform use our platforms in ways that move difficult conversations forward and that can be transformative in some way and make a change, make a difference,” Porter continued.

Porter is up for an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series as Pose’s lead character, Pray Tell. It’s his third year in a row earning a nomination for this role, winning the trophy in 2018 during the show’s first season.

Pose ended its successful run on FX earlier this year. Although only airing 26 episodes over three seasons, the show’s co-creator Steven Canals stated there was a very clear intent for the show, a 1990s period piece on ball room culture in the height of the AIDS epidemic, to follow a specific narrative and it ended naturally, according to Entertainment Weekly.

“We came into the third season feeling like we’re barreling pretty close to the ending. Obviously, we had conversations about, do we stretch out the narrative or do we actually end it where we said we intended to end it? We felt like the audience would know if we were deciding to stretch the narrative.”

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