Billy Porter is opening up for the very first time about his HIV+ diagnosis.
In a personal and touching essay, the 51-year-old actor revealed he was diagnosed in 2007.
Click inside to read what Billy Porter shared…
In his essay for THR, Billy wrote. “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. By February, I had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. By March, I signed bankruptcy papers. And by June, I was diagnosed HIV-positive. 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.”
“It was a fluke. I had a pimple on my butt, and it got larger and larger and harder and harder, and then it started to hurt. One day I was like, ‘I’ve got to get this taken care of,’ so I went to the Callen-Lorde clinic and the queen at the front desk was like, ‘You want an HIV test? They only $10.’ I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, it’s time.’ I got tested every six months, like you were supposed to. So I went in, got the pimple drained and got tested, and then the doctor came back and looked at me. I was like, ‘What?’ He sat down, and I was like, ‘No. Nooo.’ And he said, ‘Your test came back positive.’ Wheeee,” Billy recalled. “For a long time, everybody who needed to know, knew — except for my mother. 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. I tried to block it out. But quarantine has taught me a lot. Everybody was required to sit down and shut the f*ck up.”
Billy wrote about the pandemic, and keeping his diagnosis a secret from his mother.
“But in the last year, I started real trauma therapy to begin the process of healing. I started peeling back all these layers: having been sent to a psychologist at age 5 because I came out of the womb a big old queen; being sexually abused by my stepfather from the time I was 7 to the time I was 12; coming out at 16 in the middle of the AIDS crisis,” Billy said.
Billy continued, “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.” 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. That’s what I was waiting for, if I’m being honest. When we moved her into the Actors Fund Nursing Home, I was like, ‘She’s not going to be here long, and then I’ll write my book and come out and she won’t have to live with the embarrassment of having an HIV-positive child.’ That was five years ago. She ain’t going anywhere,” he continued.
Billy finally was able to tell his mother amid the pandemic.
“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. And I know I didn’t understand how to do that early on, but it’s been decades now.’ 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,” she said.
During the pandemic, Billy also released a video for the black LGBTQ community.