Rocking the vote. Billy Porter encouraged the LGBTQ+ community not to forget about politics during Pride — especially when it comes to fighting for equality.
“You know, Pride initially started as an activist march,” the Pose star, 52, told Us Weekly at the Variety Power of Women event on Thursday, May 5. “So let’s get back to that.” In order to fix what Porter called “our fractured government,” it’s important to understand and get involved in politics at all levels. “What we need to be talking about is … how to vote, where to vote, who to vote for and really understanding politics on a local level,” the Tony winner explained.
He continued: “I think recently I have begun to understand within the last decade that it’s actually the local level that has the most impact. And I know that a lot of people don’t really know that. And that’s what the other side counts on.”
Porter has long been an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ issues, telling Essence in July 2020 that “being first-generation post-civil rights and feeding directly into — as a gay man — the AIDS crisis, activism is in my DNA. And while I don’t fancy myself an organizer, you tell me where to show up, I’m going to show up. I’m that kind of activist.”
In May 2021, the Cinderella star opened up about deciding to share his status as HIV-positive, explaining that he feels a responsibility to speak up in order to encourage others to live their truth. “Having lived through the plague [the AIDS crisis], my question was always, ‘Why was I spared? Why am I living?'” he told The Hollywood Reporter at the time. “Well, I’m living so that I can tell the story. There’s a whole generation that was here, and I stand on their shoulders. I can be who I am in this space, at this time, because of the legacy that they left for me.”
In 2007, Porter tested positive during a routine HIV test. While he told his inner circle the news, he kept it a secret from most people for 14 years. “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,” the Broadway veteran explained at the time. “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 continued: “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,” he added. However, when the actor did finally share his status with his mother in 2020, she told him to never keep a secret like that again.
The experience taught Porter an important lesson about sharing his life story with the world. “The truth is the healing. And I hope this frees me,” he told the outlet. “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.”
Reporting by Travis Cronin
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