TV

Billy Porter Sounds Off on “Cisgender, White, Rich Gay Culture”

"If we don’t take care of the least among us, it doesn’t matter how rich we are, it doesn’t matter how fabulous we are."

Ryan Murphy’s hit FX series Pose does not shy away from addressing the issues that affected the gay community in the 1980s—racism, transphobia, the AIDS crisis—and Billy Porter isn’t afraid to discuss the issues that still do.

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In a recent interview with Vulture, the Tony and Grammy-winning performer said starring in Pose reminded him about how the trans community was erased during the LGBTQ civil rights movements in the 1970s and 80s.

“For me, as a 48-year-old gay man, when I came out, we had to fight for our lives. Because the fight was so intense—and this is what this show has taught me—the T in LGBTQ was almost invisible,” Porter said. “The fight was about something else. I equate it to the idea of the civil rights movement, and Martin Luther King Jr. and his relationship with Bayard Rustin. He was the gay man that taught him and set him up to be the civil rights leader that he was, and was erased from the conversation because that wasn’t the fight.”

Porter says he believes a similar erasure takes place within the LGBTQ community today.

“I sat on the board of the Empire State Pride Agenda for six years, and that’s an organization that really was influential in lobbying and fighting for gay rights, during the AIDS crisis all the way up through marriage equality. When these white, cisgender, rich boys got marriage equality and the organization’s focus turned to transgender rights, those motherfuckers closed their checkbooks, and the organization of 25 years had to close.”

Porter went on to say that it’s everyone’s duty to uplift one another.

“If we don’t take care of the least among us, it doesn’t matter how rich we are, it doesn’t matter how fabulous we are. It doesn’t matter. If you’re neglecting your citizens, you are inhumane. The end.”

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Lamar Dawson is a pop culture junkie and pop diva addict living in Manhattan. Follow him on everything @dirrtykingofpop.
@dirrtykingofpop