POSE star Billy Porter revealed he's HIV positive but kept diagnosis a secret for 14 years due to "shame."
Ironically, his character on the show is also HIV-positive, which helped him come to terms with his own diagnosis.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Billy opened up about his decades-long diagnosis and why he kept it a secret.
The 51-year-old actor revealed: "I have to start in 2007. In June of that year, I was diagnosed HIV-positive.
The actor said that he has told almost no one of his diagnosis fearing "marginalization and retaliation."
The Pose actor further said that he did reveal his diagnosis through his character on the show, but that no one really caught on.
"I was able to say everything that I wanted to say through a surrogate,” he revealed, acknowledging that nobody involved with the show had any idea he was being inspired by his own life.
The actor, who is known for his daring fashion sense on the red carpet, dubbed 2007 as "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," he said.
"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."
The American Horror Story star claimed he found out when he went to the doctor to get a pimple looked at.
"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," he recounted.
"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.'"
Billy explained that "everybody who needed to know, knew – except for my mother," adding he was worried that if the wrong people found out, his life and career would be over.
"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."
The style icon then claimed that the Covid-19 lockdown made him sit down and reflect on his life, pushing him to seek trauma therapy.
"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," he said, adding that he had been going to therapy for years but never dealt with the real issues.
However, he acknowledged that his Pose character helped him come to terms with his diagnosis, saying: "Then came Pose. An opportunity to work through the shame [of HIV] and where I have gotten to in this moment.
"And the brilliance of Pray Tell and this opportunity was that I was able to say everything that I wanted to say through a surrogate.
"My compartmentalizing and disassociation muscles are very, very strong, so I had no idea I was being traumatized or triggered.
"I was just happy that somebody was finally taking me seriously as an actor."
It was his character what helped him open up to his mom, especially after claiming that he would much rather wait until she died before he told her.
"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," he claimed before saying that he simply told her over the phone last year and she simply told him she loved him.
And to why he's speaking out 14 years later and revealing his truth to the world, he told the outlet: "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. 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."
Billy added in his interview that he and his husband, Adam Smith, are trying to have a family.
The couple met in February 2009 after being introduced to each other in a get-together.
Adam is a successful businessman who co-owns a luxury eyewear brand called Native Ken.
After meeting in 2009, the two dated for some time before breaking up. They reunited again in 2015 and got married two years later.
If you or someone you know is affected by any of the issues raised in this story, call RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network) at 800-656-HOPE (4673).
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