Billy Porter: “I Have PTSD” From Living Through the AIDS Epidemic

"It was relentless. It was like you were in a perpetual free fall of terror."

Billy Porter is teaching LGBTQ history even outside of his role as Pray Tell on the hit FX series Pose.

Earlier this week, Porter attended a screening hosted by UM Studios of the new documentary 5B, which tells the story of the nurses who worked in the AIDS ward at San Francisco General Hospital in the 1980s. During his introduction of the film, Porter spoke about how he was at the ACT UP die-in at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the one depicted in the Pose Season 2 premiere.
 

After the screening, Porter sat down with NewNowNext to discuss why he took time out of his busy schedule to come to the 5B screening.

“I think it’s important to use my powers for good,” he tells us. “I have a platform. I’ve always had a platform, but its exponentially larger as a result of Pose. It’s what I have to give back. It’s a no brainer for me.”

The Tony Award winner went on to speak about what it was like living in New York during the AIDS epidemic, and how he witnessed it firsthand while working on Broadway at the time.

“The arts was probably the hardest hit community during the AIDS crisis,” he says. “It was terrifying. It was relentless. It was like you were in a perpetual free fall of terror. When am I going to get it, not if, and when am I going to die? I buried more friends by the time I was 21 than my 85-year-old grandmother had. I don’t know how to describe it. I have compartmentalized it. But the devastation it has reeked on my psyche is not lost on me. Especially inside of how I move through life, how I function inside of intimate relationships. I have PTSD. I know it.”

Porter adds that he is “very happy” for the PrEP generation, which doesn’t have to go through what he did. He just wants the younger generation “to care about the education on why they have to take PrEP, and remember that there were people who came before them.”

Back to the St. Patrick’s Cathedral demonstration, Porter says that “of course that is going to be there” on Pose, also promising that viewers will see “other benchmark moments [in the new season]. Historical moments.”

5B is in theaters now.

I write about drag queens. Dolly Parton once ruffled my hair and said I was "just the cutest thing ever."
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