“Pose” Star Billy Porter for Gay Times Magazine

Posted on May 30, 2019

“Pose” star Billy Porter covers the June 2019 issue of Gay Times magazine.





On Stonewall rebellion: “It started then and it continues now and to be part of that mission, to be part of that civil rights movement, is really important to me. I stand on the shoulders of my black folks who came before me and know what it feels like to be disenfranchised. It’s a continued call to action for me and I hope that everybody in the LGBTQ community can come together and continue to fight for equality. I hope that’s what I exhube.”

On when he came out in 1985: “I was trying to get out of my circumstances and remove myself from the trauma and the toxic energy that was my childhood and my early teenage development. It was very traumatic and it was homophobic – it was violently homophobic and I knew then that if I was going to survive, I was going to have to extract myself from that. I found the arts and I found the theatre, a community that embraced me for who I am, and as I went deeper and deeper into that community, I discovered we were in the middle of a plague and had to fight.”

On working in a heteronormative industry: “I’ve spent 25 or 30 years in this business trying to fit in because that’s what I was told. I was told in every community – even in my tribe – I was informed early that if I didn’t ‘fix’ myself and put on the extra layer of performed masculinity through the lens of the heterosexual normative construct, I would not be successful and not be able to work in the way I wanted to work. That I wouldn’t be taken seriously and a lot of those things were true for a very, very long time. Something inside of me understood that my authenticity was the only thing that made sense. I chose early on in my career that if I couldn’t be authentic in this show business world in the traditional sense of being a television actor, crossover artist, being a celebrity – whatever comes with that – if I couldn’t do it authentically then I didn’t want to do it because it would be a lie! I didn’t want to lie for the rest of my life. I got very used to being marginalised and being put in a corner; my talent, my gift, my passion – all of what I brought to the table being put in a box in a corner. When Pose came around, it was literally like, ‘Wait, we’re going to actually tell the real story?’ I’ve always had big dreams, but I didn’t even realise that I was not dreaming big enough. I didn’t realise that the information I had received had put a cap on my dreams – a ceiling – until I walked through that door and met Ryan Murphy. I met Steven Canals and I met you, and this project came to be. This experience has taught me to dream the impossible and that’s an energy and focus that we all need to take into whatever this next phase of what we’re doing right. Whatever is going on, we had to remember that anything is possible and dream the impossible. I am very much a person who believes in the law of attraction. You are what you say and you are what you say you are. Pose has really helped me change my language and dream the impossible and believe that we can change the world.”

“I always felt like – this was the messaging I received – that you as a black gay man are allowed to be this and that is it. You can be the best friend of the white girl or the white boy; you can bring up the rear or be the funny best friend; you can be the talented funny best friend; you can stop the show on the side, but when it comes to the ‘at what cost’ portion of the story or the human story, there was no space for that. I was not happy about it but very used to being plunged into those archetypes. I never imagined that I could be a black, gay, out leading man. I never saw that in my future. I never saw that because it never existed. When all of our dreams are spring-boarded off our dreams that we’ve already seen, it’s difficult to dream things. And then, to
move forward without hubris, knowing that is who you are. Something inside me always knew I was one of the first, but I see anybody that was succeeding in that way quite frankly. I kinda felt like I’m going to try, do it and keep going. But y’know, I’m going to have to butch it up if I want to be on TV. If I want to be in the movies, I’m going to have to make myself masculine enough so it’s palatable and stomachable for the masses.”

On his sense of style: “One of the instruments of silencing that I came across when starting is this idea of clothing. This idea of how you present. The first impression is what people see, right? We have a construct in our society that certain things mean masculine and certain things mean feminine and you can’t cross those boundaries and not be marginalised or ostracised for it, silenced or dismissed for those things. I’ve always had an outrageous sense of style and fashion. I’ve very often been laughed at for the kind of things I wanted to wear. This microscope of masculinity within the media. Men are under this microscope from the moment you hit [the red carpet] and everybody is looking to see if you slip up. One slip up and you’re a fagot, and you can’t be on that superhero show anymore. You can’t play that masculine part anymore, and nobody will believe that you’ll fuck a woman anymore. And so, I looked at the landscape and saw that these men are straitjackets. Literally ‘straight-jackets’. They can’t do anything without someone judging their fashion choice in relation to how they’ll get cast. When I came into this moment, I realised that it’s been very clear, to me, that nobody thinks I’m masculine anyway, and now I’ve got the job where that lens is no longer plausible and doesn’t matter. I’m Pray Tell on Pose; I’m queer, I’m out, I’m fabulous, I’m a leading man and I’m running shit. I don’t have to adhere to any of these rules and I can go onto these red carpets and play because it doesn’t matter. Y’all weren’t casting me as that anyway, and I still survived and I’m still here. So I need to do it the way I want to fucking do it! I didn’t even realise that there was any kind of gender-neutral dresses. I didn’t realise that was what I wanted to do until I was set free by actually getting this job, and then all the limits were taken off. You can do whatever you want!”

On the importance of authenticity: “We talk about authenticity and throw inclusion and authenticity around like we’re doing it. I showed up and I saw this community, specifically the transgender community. I realised that the T in LGBTQ has largely been absent from my knowledge and my consciousness. I just didn’t know how much I didn’t know and it awakened something in me because I saw these people and thought, their authenticity – as bad as it’s been for me – these people living inside their authenticity can get them killed every single day. Every single day, these girls walk out their house and onto the streets. They can be killed simply because somebody feels like it’s alright, nobody will give a fuck, anyway. These trans women can be executed simply for living inside a real kind of authenticity that is not popular. It really moved me because that’s the death of authenticity that I didn’t know I didn’t have, and I need to get it and I need to embrace it. One of the ways I do and I’m going to express that is by taking the chains of what I’m wearing. It feels very insignificant but simultaneously I realise now how important it is, really it is to… I don’t know, it’s blowing my mind and I’m trying to find the words for it because it never occurred to me that I was the first man to wear a dress to the Oscars. For real. It never occurred to me that going to the Met Gala in what I went to was a big deal. It’s literally me being me. It really is me being me and that’s so great because the layer of having to pretend to make other people feel comfortable is completely gone. It’s so freeing Janet, I can’t tell you!”

On what he would tell his 16-year-old self: “I would say that the first thing you must do, which I did, is extract yourself from the danger. Extract yourself from the people who don’t know how to love you. Extract yourself from anything that’s toxic. Change the narrative of, ‘I need the love of people, my mother, my father, my family to exist on the planet’. No! We don’t need acceptance, we don’t need tolerance, we need respect for our humanity. We demand respect for our humanity and we will give respect for everyone else so that we can all move forward. Everybody’s humanity is valid, even if we don’t understand it or like it. That’s what I would tell my younger self and anybody today that you must do. You must break free. It’s the only way you will survive.”

On his dreams without limitations: “OH BABY! I need to be The Head Bitch in Charge, hunni. I’m trying to be a mogul. I’m trying to be like Ryan Murphy, I’m trying to be like you! Yes, that’s what I wanted, but I thought, ‘You’re a fagot, you can’t do that!’ But yes, I can. Yes I can, and yes I will. I want to be the person. I want to be one of the people that is at the forefront of being able to be the Svengali that helps to make sure all the stories are told, and that all the babies are taken care of. If I can be a part of that energy, I’m good.”



[Photo Credit: Gay Times Magazine]

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