No more shame: Billy Porter breaks silence on HIV status

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NEW YORK (AP) — Billy Porter has broken his silence over his HIV diagnosis, saying he told nearly no one for 14 years out of shame and fear of retaliation and marginalization in his industry.

“The truth is the healing. And I hope this frees me. 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,” the award-winning “Pose” star told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview published Wednesday.

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The 51-year-old Porter, who won an Emmy for his HIV-positive character Pray Tell on the FX series, said the isolation of the pandemic led him to reflect on his secret, kept from his mother and those involved with his ballroom drama set in New York at the height of the AIDS crisis in the ’80s.

Telling his mother was the most difficult. Having grown up in the Pentecostal church, in an intensely religious family, the stage and screen star said the shame of being queer was compounded by his HIV status.

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“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,’” Porter recalled.

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