Billy Porter Makes History With New Essence Cover; Talks “Black Lives Matter,” Loving Himself In A Hateful World And Opens Up About Black Trans Lives Mattering Too

Billy Porter gets real about white supremacy, the tiredness the Black community feels, and breaking boundaries inside and outside of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Porter, 50, is the first openly gay Black man to receive an Emmy for his performance in the hit series #Pose, and now he is the first openly gay man to grace the cover of #EssenceMagazine. During a virtual sit-down interview, Porter speaks about a number of issues, and his first discussion revolves around the current state of Black people in the midst of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Countless Black lives have been lost at the hands of police brutality, and Porter says this is just the tipping point following hundreds of years of oppression.

“But not just a tipping point over what has happened recently. It’s a tipping point 300 years in the making. We are oppressed with malice aforethought, which is what it’s always been in this country, and we’re tired of it,” said Porter. “We’re like a dysfunctional family who keeps secrets and doesn’t want to talk about it,” he continued. “They don’t want to talk about the actual thing. They want to act like the actual thing never happened so that there’s never a healing that can take place. White people are so afraid that we want vengeance that they can’t acknowledge the truth.” Porter says it’s simple: Black people just want their rights. “We want our rights. We want equality. We want to be treated like human beings. We want to know that we can walk out of our houses and not be under threat of death every single day simply because of the color of our skin.” The only way we can move forward, Porter says, is to have those tough conversations.

While being Black is an experience he could easily relate to with the next Black person, his identity and masculinity as a queer Black man was always questioned and challenged during his upbringing. “My masculinity was in question from the moment I could comprehend thought. I was never masculine enough by society’s standards to walk the earth,” said Porter.

Porter goes on to address the violence from within the Black community that is projected onto the trans community. “Stop killing us! Our trans women are out here, dying at the hands of our own. We can’t ask for anything more than what we’re ready to give. It starts with us first, and I’m calling it out,” said Porter. The actor then calls out Black conservatives’ lack of attentiveness when it comes to members of the  LGBTQ+ community. “You all want to act like you’re concerned about our salvation. But don’t worry about my salvation. Let me do that. If you think I’m going to hell, you keep that s–t to yourself. I don’t need tolerance. I don’t need acceptance. We demand respect for our humanity, too,” he said.

The actor says that at the end of the day, he’s Black first despite anyone’s unwillingness to accept him. “You want the police to stop being brutal? Okay. Yeah, I’m with you, but this f–got over here that you all love to f–k with, I’m Black first.” Things take time to change, and more conversations must come to the forefront, and Porter says that’s a sentiment that he understands. “I’m very excited to engage in this conversation and have ESSENCE have my back because it’s those of us in positions of power in our community who can change the conversation,” he explained. “I’m so moved by the olive branch that this is saying to the world and to our community collectively, that LGBTQ+ Black people are Black people first and we need to be supported and honored too. Stop killing us like everybody else is.”

To read Porter’s full cover story, visit essence.com

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