Speaking his truth. Billy Porter revealed he is HIV-positive on Wednesday, May 19, a diagnosis that he has kept private since 2007.
In 2007, Porter had gone to a clinic to get a pimple drained and was asked if he wanted a $10 HIV test. The Tony winner took the offer, since he regularly got tested every six months. This time, the results were different, and he told most of his inner circle.
“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,” Porter said.
The actor, who will play the Fairy Godmother in this summer’s Cinderella movie, had a religious upbringing, and coming out as gay in the 1980s as the AIDS crisis raged on caused his mother much stress.
“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,’” Porter explained. “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.”
Five years ago, the Broadway veteran moved his mother into a nursing home, believing she’d surely pass soon. She’s still alive. “She ain’t going nowhere,” Porter added.
When the Kinky Boots star, who married businessman Adam Porter-Smith in 2017, finally told his mother the truth this year, she told him to never keep a secret like that again. “She said, … ‘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,’” he recalled.
Though accepting his diagnosis was an inner battle, it’s clear Porter isn’t held back by his HIV status. He recently made his directorial debut on FX’s Pose, where he plays HIV-positive character Pray Tell, and Cinderella is expected to make waves when the movie musical hits Amazon Prime later this year. Plus, he’ll be sharing more of his life story when his new music and memoir release.
“The truth is the healing. And I hope this frees me,” he said. “I hope this frees me so that I can experience real, unadulterated joy, so that I can experience peace, so that I can experience intimacy, so that I can have sex without shame. This is for me. I’m doing this for me. I have too much s–t to do, and I don’t have any fear about it anymore. I told my mother — that was the hurdle for me. I don’t care what anyone has to say. You’re either with me or simply move out of the way.”