Billy Porter reveals he was diagnosed with Type II diabetes and HIV over a decade ago. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the actor opened up about his medical condition. “I was the generation that was supposed to know better, and it happened anyway. It was 2007, the worst year of my life. I was on the precipice of obscurity for about a decade or so, but 2007 was the worst of it,” he told the publication.
“By February, I had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. By March, I signed bankruptcy papers. And by June, I was diagnosed HIV-positive,” Porter said. “The shame of that time compounded with the shame that had already [accumulated] in my life silenced me, and I have lived with that shame in silence for 14 years. HIV-positive, where I come from, growing up in the Pentecostal church with a very religious family, is God’s punishment.”
The American Horror Story and Pose star revealed that this is the first time he has shared this deeply personal and emotional information, primarily for fear of marginalization and retaliation from the entertainment industry. “For a long time, everybody who needed to know knew — except for my mother,” he said. “I was trying to have a life and a career, and I wasn’t certain I could if the wrong people knew. 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.”
According to Porter, he never intended to break the news to his mom. “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. “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. So I’d made a pact with myself that I would let her die before I told her.”
But Porter’s pact came to an end when his mother sensed that something was going on. “I woke up on the last day of [shooting] Pose; I was writing in my gratitude journal, and my mama popped into my head. I was like, ‘Let me just call her.’ Not two minutes into the conversation, she’s like, ‘What’s wrong?’ I said, ‘Nothing.’ She’s like, ‘Son, please tell me what’s wrong.’ So I ripped the Band-Aid off, and I told her. She said, ‘You’ve been carrying this around for 14 years? Don’t ever do this again. I’m your mother; I love you no matter what,’” he recalls.
Porter also revealed that he used Pray Tell, his HIV-positive character on Pose as his representative. “I was able to say everything that I wanted to say through a surrogate,” he says. The Emmy-winning star also told the media outlet that nobody working at the FX series knew that his character had so much in common with his own life.
The 51-year old actor says he refuses to keep living in the darkness, and despite whatever others think, he will live without fear and unapologetically. “I’m sure this is going to be the first thing everybody says, ‘HIV-positive blah, blah, blah.’ OK. Whatever. 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,” he states.
Billy Porter will continue shining and creating magic with his talent. “I’m getting ready to play the fairy godmother in Cinderella. I have new music coming out. I have a memoir coming out. Pose is out. I’m directing my first film. And 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.”