Why Billy Porter Felt 'Free' After Revealing His HIV-Positive Diagnosis

Billy Porter has opened up about how he feels after revealing his HIV-positive diagnosis to the world.

In a May 19 op-ed in The Hollywood Reporter announcing his HIV status, the "Pose" star explained why he concealed it from his family and fans for so long. "I have lived with that shame in silence for 14 years," the actor said, noting that he tried to "block it out" so that his career wouldn't be threatened. "HIV-positive, where I come from, growing up in the Pentecostal church with a very religious family, is God's punishment."

But quarantine "taught [him] a lot." "There's a whole generation that was here, and I stand on their shoulders," he observed. "I can be who I am in this space, at this time, because of the legacy that they left for me. So it's time to put my big boy pants on and talk." He also shared his mother's touching reaction. "You've been carrying this around for 14 years? Don't ever do this again," she told him. "I'm your mother, I love you no matter what."

"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," the actor concluded, stating he doesn't care what anyone thinks. "You're either with me or simply move out of the way."

Billy Porter has now elaborated on that "joy," appearing on "The Tonight Show" on May 27.

Billy Porter has 'never felt joy like this before'

In the May 27 episode of "The Tonight Show," Billy Porter spoke at length about his feelings after publicly revealing that he is HIV positive.

"I've been positive since 2007," he told Jimmy Fallon, further revealing why he initially kept his HIV status a secret. " ... Having lived through the AIDS crisis, it was heavy for me. It was a heavy year, 2007." As he detailed in The Hollywood Reporter, Porter filed for bankruptcy and was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes that same year.

"I lived with the shame of it for a really long time," Porter continued. "And last week I released that shame, I released that trauma, and I am a free man, honey! Free!" The studio audience applauded him, telling Fallon he felt good. "I've never felt joy like this before," he said. "And, you know, we talk about it in the Black church," he reflected. "You know, this joy that I have — the world didn't give and the world can't take it away ... I got some joy now ... it really feels great."

Porter also spoke about how he initially decided not to go public with the diagnosis until his mother died, so that she wouldn't have to go through any "persecution" through her church. Six years after entering a nursing home, however, his mother is still "full of life," which is when he broke the news to her — and she had that heartwarming reaction.