Pose's Billy Porter Is HIV-Positive: Emmy Winner Breaks 14-Year Silence

Billy Porter

Billy Porter was diagnosed as HIV-positive 14 years ago, the Emmy-winning Pose star revealed in The Hollywood Reporter‘s May 19 cover story.

In a 2,400-word essay for THR, Porter says that his HIV was first detected in June 2007, after going to have a blemish looked at. “For a long time, everybody who needed to know, knew — except for my mother,” he writes. “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.”

Over the past year, Porter says, “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.” Doing so gave him the courage to reveal his diagnosis to his mother, followed by the cast and crew of FX’s Pose — all on the last day of shooting the acclaimed drama’s third and final season.

“Years of trauma makes a human being skittish,” he shares. “But the truth shall set you free.

“[A]s a Black person, particularly a Black man on this planet, you have to be perfect or you will get killed,” he continues. “But look at me. Yes, I am the statistic, but I’ve transcended it. This is what HIV-positive looks like now. I’m going to die from something else before I die from that. My T-cell levels are twice yours because of this medication.  [A]s a Black, 51-year-old man, I go to the doctor every three months. That doesn’t happen in my community. We don’t trust doctors. But I go to the doctor, and I know what’s going on in my body. I’m the healthiest I’ve been in my entire life. So it’s time to let all that go and tell a different story. There’s no more stigma — let’s be done with that. It’s time… 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.”

Porter is the recipient of an Emmy (for his role as Pose’s Pray Tell, who is HIV-positive), a Tony Award (for his turn as Lola in Broadway’s Kinky Boots) and a Grammy (for Best Musical Theater Album for Kinky Boots).

He was recently named TVLine’s Performer of the Week for his work in Pose‘s Season 3 premiere.

Following Pose‘s series finale (airing Sunday, June 6), Porter will appear as Fab G, a genderless fairy godparent, in Amazon Prime’s musical adaptation of Cinderella, which is set for release in September.