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Necessity mothers invention for D.C. queer businesses in pandemic era

Online drag bingo, free home delivery among tactics employed by resourceful locals

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covid-19 lockdown, gay D.C., gay news, Washington Blade
Goldie Grigio serves a customer at Duplex Diner. (Blade photo by Michael Lavers)

With no end in sight of the COVID-19 lockdown, spotty testing and epidemiologists saying a vaccine is likely a year off, Washington’s LGBTQ entertainers and entrepreneurs are getting creative about how to forge ahead in the pandemic’s wake.

Like many restaurants, Duplex Diner (2004 18th St., N.W./duplexdiner.com) is soldiering on with a closed dining room and curbside service. Resident drag queen Goldie Grigio (aka Andrew Bair) works two Friday nights per month from 6-7:30 at the pick-up window (Venmo: @goldiegrigio) keeping, of course, at least six feet away. Customers pay online in advance.

“She’s kind of our resident drag queen and she does lots of different things so we thought this was a fun way to tie in with the viewing party for ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’” says Duplex manager Kelly Laczko, a lesbian who’s worked there for eight years, including five as manager.

Most of the Diner’s 27 employees (about 60 percent of whom are LGBT, Laczko says) have been laid off. Laczko and five others are rotating to fill current shifts. Duplex is open Monday-Saturday for dinner and Saturday and Sunday all day for brunch (no dinner on Sunday nights).

Prior to the pandemic, the diner didn’t have a large carryout component but had added Uber Eats and GrubHub within the last year. Most of the menu, save about 12 items that are not conducive to takeout, are available. Drinks and alcohol are also available.

“Things have been surprisingly good,” Laczko says. “We’ve had so much love from the community and people have been amazing. We’ve gotten a lot of support so far. We are very lucky.”

As for coronavirus concerns, Laczko says it’s something she’s hyper aware of. With 2,927 confirmed cases in the District and 105 COVID-19 deaths as of this week, she’s aware of the potential danger.

“Obviously it’s stressful,” she says. “I try not to be in my head too much about it. All of the staff, we’re taking all the precautions — wearing masks and gloves, washing our hands constantly, just trying to be as safe as possible. Nobody comes into the building except those of us who work here.”

Goldie Grigio (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Drag bingo moves online

Long-time D.C.-area drag performer Regina Jozet Adams (aka Richard Armstrong) has moved her weekly drag bingo events for Freddie’s Beach Bar and The Brass Tap (locations in Annapolis and Baltimore) totally online with the bar owners’ blessings. She has an intact day job in manufacturing but knows many area drag queens who performed full-time who are hurting.

“As a show director, I’m concerned about my girls not being able to work,” she says. “It’s hard for me to sit back when I see my girls not able to make any money.”

The Brass Tap bingo nights, which feature mostly straight crowds under normal circumstances, had just started in October and were still gaining steam but the Freddie’s one — which, perhaps surprisingly, drew about a 60 percent straight crowd — was popular, Adams says.

She hostesses the shows with Jalah Nicole at the Brass Tap and Ophelia Bottoms at Freddie’s and her drag daughter, Ashlee Jozet Adams at both locations.

There were logistical hurdles in getting the operation set up online — a wi-fi boost, two laptops, her TV and phone in addition to performance space in her living room. She gets the bingo cards online that allow her to see the cards of those playing. She and her girls intersperse games of bingo with lip sync performances. She says internet delay can be “pretty intense” at times and slows down the proceedings.

Adams concedes some of the magic of live performance is lost by going virtual but bar owners and patrons spoke up and said they wanted to continue during lockdown. So far the Freddie’s virtual bingo attracts about 10 players weekly. The Brass Tap averages just a few. It’s $5 to play.
Adams says doing the games online is fine, but she worries it may erode patronage when things get back to normal.

“I’ve been in the business since 1988 so I’ve seen it change quite dramatically,” she says. “Of course initially people will be excited to come back to the clubs once the lockdown lifts, but once the novelty of that wears off, I could see us losing another 5-10 percent of people who just want to sit at home and watch drag on their computer the same way we lost about 20 percent when ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ took off and people could just sit at home and get their drag fix. We’ve already had people say, ‘You’re gonna keep doing this, right?’”

Freddie Lutz, long-time owner of Freddie’s, has been posting comical fashion videos on his social media. He’s closed at both Freddie’s and Federico Ristorante Italiano just down the street in Crystal City, Va., but remains hopeful.

“One loan just came through today,” he said by phone last week. “We’re gonna try to get people back in some aspect or another soon.”

Miss Pixie soldiers on

Merchandise at Miss Pixie’s in early March, just before the lockdown. (Blade file photo)

Miss Pixie (i.e. Pixie Windsor) of Miss Pixie’s Furnishings and Whatnot (1626 14th St., N.W./misspixies.com) is also keeping busy and says things are, “Good, good, good.”

Though she had to furlough her staff of 10 and says her sales overall are down 88 percent, she has been keeping busy working in the shop between five-seven hours daily, selling things on social media (her Instagram, especially, has been popular) and through her display window. She’s offering free deliveries throughout the region (“I just drove a 10-inch brass bowl out to Centreville, Va.,” she says) and just does her best to practice safe social distancing.

“I’m surprised, the first couple of days of this, I was pulling everything out of closets thinking I’ll finally have a month or two to go through everything, then we got busy, so it’s not a bad problem. … It’s a different kind of way to work.”

She hasn’t been able to go to auctions — her usual source of inventory — but had plenty on hand and in storage to keep things going. She also has vendors who are eager to supply her with items should the pickings get slim.

“Another guy who’s a picker for me, he just called me today and said, ‘I got a whole warehouse full, you just tell me,’ but I’m gonna wait ’til it thins out a little here first,” Pixie, who’s bi, says.

She’s on unemployment but says she can maintain her rent if she sells $1,000 per day. Her landlord balked at her suggestion of a free month. A normal Saturday pre-pandemic, she’d sell between $10,000-20,000 worth of merchandise. She sells antiques, second-hand furniture, household tchotchkes, collectibles, dishware and more. She’s applied for small business aid but received nothing thus far. But no city interference so far either.

“I’ve been kind of waiting for it but I haven’t had anything yet,” she says. “I’ve been doing a lot of deliveries but I’m not out in the big pink van. I have thought, ‘Oh my God, what am I gonna say I’m doing if I get pulled over.’ But all my deliveries are contact free. I call them up, they come out to the curb. I’m kind of walking the line. I may hear something but so far so good.”

Shhhh, no talking!

Also moving to 100 percent virtual is today’s National Day of Silence, an annual GLSEN event celebrating its 25th anniversary that is a student-led protest of the “silencing and erasure of LGBTQ people.” Last year, nearly 8,000 gay/straight alliance clubs (GSAs) participated. This year, organizers predict the day of protest will be the largest-ever online gathering of LGBTQ youth.

Ordinarily students participating take a vow of silence for the day. But with school closed, Day of Silence this year will consist of social media campaigns, virtual meetings, artwork, videos and resource guides to “connect and empower LGBTQ youth.”

Christ Staley is a 17-year-old high school senior, lesbian and president of Spectrum, the GSA at her school, Monroe Woodbury High School, a school of 2,312 students in Central Valley, N.Y. Though she hasn’t seen a lot of anti-queer bullying in her school (she’s been out since seventh grade), she says it’s still important for the 10-15 Spectrum students to have a presence. She was pleasantly surprised last year to see so much solidarity from teachers. So many requested ally stickers they ran out.

She says the April 24 event to her will feel successful if she and her fellow members are “just able to get the message out there that LGBTQ discrimination is prevalent and we should stand together to help end this.”

Find out more at glsen.org.

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D.C. summer ablaze with events, concerts, art

A plethora of activity in wake of COVID restrictions loosening up

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After a year of public events being cancelled and residents staying cooped up in their homes due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the “outside” is finally open and D.C. is effervescing with events. Check out ways to make up for lost time during the remaining months of this year’s summer season:

The Baltimore Museum of Art will open Women Behaving Badly: 400 Years of Power & Protest, an exhibition dedicated to the women who rebelled on Sunday, July 18. The exhibition combines prints, photographs, and books to tell the stories of past heroines and modern trailblazers, celebrating women throughout history who broke rules, transgressed boundaries, and insisted upon recognition of their human rights. For more information, visit the BMA’s website

Tschabalala Self: By My Self is on view at the BMA through Sept. 19, 2021. Explore 13 paintings and two related sculptures curated by Cecilia Wichmann that reveal artist Tschabalala Self’s depth, intricacy, and singularity. The exhibition explores how the compositional process generates meaning in Self’s work, reflecting her theory of selfhood as a consciousness that is at once produced by external images and by an ongoing reworking and evolving of forms into a new whole. Self was born in Harlem, New York, in 1990 and is based in New Haven, Conn. For more information, visit the BMA’s website

The 1455 Summer Festival will begin on Thursday, July 15 at 4 p.m., featuring a stellar lineup of literary leaders and creatives (many of whom are part of the LGBTQ community) who will share their insights into the art of storytelling. The lineup will include literary superstar Brian Broome, author of “Punch Me Up to the Gods,” and Booker-Prize-winning author “Shuggie Bain” and fashion designer Douglas Stuart, among others. Some of the festival’s events include “What Makes a Successful (Queer) Narrative?” a panel that’ll dissect queer storytelling throughout the years. There will also be a teen poetry contest with a $5,000 grand prize. For more information, visit the festival’s website.

The National Museum of Asian Art will open Hokusai: Mad about Painting on Saturday, Aug. 28. The exhibition will feature work by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) best known for his iconic woodblock print, “The Great Wave Off the Coast of Kanagawa” and a breathtaking painting titled “Breaking Waves” that was created 15 years after Great Wave at the height of Hokusai’s career. Drawing on the museum’s impressive Hokusai collection, visitors have the opportunity to see a new presentation, with artworks being added throughout the summer. In addition to Breaking Waves, the exhibition includes works large and small, from folding screens and hanging scrolls to paintings and drawings. For more information, visit the NMAA’s website.

Awesome Con will be from Friday, Aug. 20 to Sunday, Aug. 22. The event is D.C.’s own Comic Con, a celebration of geek culture, bringing more than 70,000 fans together with their favorite stars from across comics, movies, television, toys, games, and more. Awesome Con is home to Science Fair, Book Fair, Awesome Con Jr, Pride Alley, a celebration of queer creators and fans curated by GeeksOUT, and Destination Cosplay. For more information, visit awesomecon.com. 

A scene from 2019’s Awesome Con. This year’s event is slated for the weekend of Aug. 20. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Maryland Renaissance Festival will begin on Saturday, Aug. 28 and runs Saturdays and Sundays and Labor Day Monday through Sunday, Oct. 24 for nine weekends of thrills, feasting, handmade crafts, entertainment and merriment in Crownsville, near Annapolis, Md. The 27-acre Village of Revel Grove comes to life each autumn with more than 200 professional performers on 10 stages, a 3,000 seat arena with armored jousting on magnificent steeds and streets filled with village characters. For more information, visit rennfest.com. 

The National Museum of Women in the Arts will be open for special evening hours from Thursday, Aug. 5 to Friday, Aug. 6 from 5-8 p.m. The featured exhibitions are Mary Ellen Mark: Girlhood, which presents images photographer Mary Ellen Mark made throughout her career depicting girls and young women, and Selections from the Collection, which highlights historical and contemporary art by women around the world. Free timed tickets are required so that the museum can ensure the safety of patrons and their staff. Visit their website for more information. 

The 13th Annual Ukefest will begin on Friday, Aug. 13. Celebrating a decade dedicated to this small but mighty music maker, UkeFest Artistic Directors Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer return alongside extraordinary instructors like Peter Luongo, Kevin Carroll, Ginger Johnson and more. The program orientation will kick off on Friday night, followed by four days of classes and evening events. For those looking for more intensive skill development, Strathmore’s UkeFest is the only program of its kind that offers an advanced track. Admission is $225 and more information is available at Strathmore.org.

The Drive-In at Union Market will start at 7:30 p.m. every first Friday of the month through October. While watching films under the stars, enjoy dozens of local, regional, and international foods: Egyptian favorites by Fava Pot, night market noodles from Som Tam, ice cream locally churned by The Creamery, tasty takeout burgers from Lucky Buns and more. Movie audio will be transmitted through an FM transmitter on the radio and through speakers placed on Neal Place. All movies are shown with open captioning, and the movie plays rain or shine. Each showing costs $20 per car. For more information, visit unionmarketdc.com. 

Unwind with an hour-long vinyasa outdoor yoga session taught by District Flow Yoga every Tuesday and Thursday on District Pier and every Sunday morning on Recreation Pier at The Wharf. Enjoy waterfront views and fresh air as you shed the stress of the day or greet the new one. The outdoor yoga class on Sunday, July 25 is hosted on Recreation Pier from 9-10 a.m. and costs $10. Tickets must be purchased on Eventbrite. For more information, visit wharfdc.com. 

FUTURES, the first building-wide exploration of the future on the National Mall, will open in the late summer and run through summer 2022. This exhibition is your guide to a vast array of interactives, artworks, technologies, and ideas that are glimpses into humanity’s next chapter. Smell a molecule. Clean your clothes in a wetland. Meditate with an AI robot. Travel through space and time. Watch water being harvested from the air. Become an emoji. The FUTURES is yours to decide, debate, delight. Patrons are encouraged to dream big, and imagine not just one future, but many possible futures on the horizon—playful, sustainable, inclusive. Visit the Arts and Industries Building’s website for more information. 

The National Portrait Gallery will open “Hung Liu: Portraits of Promised Lands” on Friday, Aug. 27. Hung Liu (b. 1948) is a contemporary Chinese American artist, whose multilayered paintings have established new frameworks for understanding portraiture in relation to time, memory, and history. Often sourcing her subjects from photographs, Liu elevates overlooked individuals by amplifying the stories of those who have historically been invisible or unheard. More information is available at the gallery’s website.

 After a long COVID drought, music is back! The 9:30 Club has a schedule of shows starting in September, notably the return of the Bob Mould Band on Sept. 18 at 6 p.m. (tickets are $25 and still available). Tinashe performs her “333Tour” on Oct. 3 (tickets on sale July 16). Visit 930.com for the full schedule and hurry, because many shows are already selling out. 

Bob Mould, gay news, Washington Blade
The Bob Mould Band plays 9:30 Club on Sept. 18.

Meanwhile, at I.M.P.’s Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, more shows are headed our way, including James Taylor and his All-Star Band on Aug. 10. Wilco and Sleater-Kinney perform Aug. 20. For more throwback fixes, New Kids on the Block are slated for Aug. 4 and Alanis Morissette with Garbage and Liz Phair play on Aug. 31. Visit merriweathermusic.com for the full lineup. 

Wolf Trap has a full schedule of events planned this summer as well. Highlights include Renee Fleming on Aug. 6, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts on Aug. 12, and ABBA the Concert on Aug. 15. Visit wolftrap.org for the full schedule.

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Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington celebrates 40th anniversary with virtual concert, retrospective

Veteran choir soldiers undeterred through pandemic with Zoom rehearsals

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Members of the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington gather in front of the Supreme Court on Sept. 3, 2013. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

GMCW Turns 40
Streaming begins Saturday, June 5 at 7 p.m.
Available through June 20
Tickets: $25
gmcw.org

Discussion of the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington quickly becomes emotional for its members both veteran and newbie(-ish). They’re the kind of strong feelings that only exist when one has sacrificed and invested in something.

“It’s an experience that touches our soul in a way that not that many LGBTQ+ people get to experience,” says tenor Javon Morris-Byam, a gay 28-year-old music teacher who joined three years ago. “We have music tying us together and in the end, we make a product that we can share with the public and that’s a humbling experience.”

Steve Herman, 79, is a founding member, though he doesn’t sing. One of a group of “non-singing members,” he joined in June 1981 and has helped over the decades painting scenery, designing ads, serving on the board and more. His partner at the time had joined the chorus as a singer.

A Gay Men’s Chorus performance in 1983. (Washington Blade archive photo by Leigh Mosley)

Now retired after 47 years in the federal government, he says the Chorus “has been a major centerpiece of my life.”

“This may sound corny, but I couldn’t imagine my life without the chorus,” Herman says.

The chorus is celebrating its 40th anniversary this weekend with a streaming concert simply dubbed “GMCW turns 40” that can be streamed starting Saturday, June 5 at 7 p.m. and can be viewed until June 20.

Selections will include “From Now On” (from “The Greatest Showman”), “Rise Up,” “Make Them Hear You” (from “Ragtime”), “Truly Brave” and a new song called “Harmony’s Never Too Late!” written for the occasion by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, composers of “Ragtime.” Video clips of past performances will also be included in a montage. Tickets are $25 at gmcw.org.

Thea Kano, the Chorus’s artistic director since 2014 (she was associate director for a decade prior), says “Make Them Hear You” has “kind of become our anthem over the last 10 years,” so contacting its composers for a commission made sense. They premiered it last summer virtually at the Chorus’s Summer Soiree, a COVID-induced postponement of its usual Spring Affair.

Thea Kano, center, joins members of the Chorus at the United States Supreme Court on the day of the Obergefell v. Hodges marriage equality decision in June of 2015.(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Kano, a straight ally, directs the Chorus with aid from Associate Conductor C. Paul Heins, Assistant Conductor Joshua Sommerville and accompanist Teddy Guerrant. Justin Fyala has been the Chorus’s executive director since 2016. Staff also includes Craig Cipollini (director of marketing), Kirk Sobell (director of patron services) and Alex Tang (accompanist).

Under the main Chorus umbrella are five ensembles: 17th Street Dance, a 14-member performance troupe started in 2016; Rock Creek Singers, a 32-voice chamber ensemble; GenOUT Youth Chorus, a teen choir of about 25; Potomac Fever, a 14-member harmony pop ensemble; and Seasons of Love, a 24-voice gospel choir.

GenOUT Youth Chorus. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Musically, the Chorus’s repertoire is eclectic.

“(We sing) everything from spiritual to glam rock to punk to traditional classical, and everything in between,” Morris-Byam says. “I love when the chorus is all together and able to produce a big powerful sound.”

Kano says working with Fyala is “a dream” and says under his leadership the Chorus is “in a very healthy financial place, which is wonderful and a very humble thing to be able to say right now particularly given that we’re in a pandemic — that’s not the case with a lot of arts organizations.”

The D.C. Chorus is a quasi-unofficial spin off of its San Francisco counterpart. During an early ’80s national tour, the San Francisco group performed at Washington’s Kennedy Center and had a profound effect on local audiences. Marsha Pearson, a straight woman who lived in Dupont Circle at the time and enjoyed hanging out with gay men, was one such person.

“I couldn’t believe we didn’t have one of these,” she told the Blade 10 years ago for a story on the Chorus’s 30th anniversary. “I thought, ‘We’re the nation’s capital, how come we don’t have this?’”

The Chorus performs at the popular gay nightclub Tracks in 1984. (Washington Blade photo by Doug Hinckle)

She hand wrote fliers — four to a sheet — had her sister photocopy them at her office, cut them up by hand and passed them out at Capital Pride in 1981. Accounts vary about how many showed up to the first practice at the long-defunct gay community center (no connection to the D.C. Center) on Church Street. Pearson remembers about 30. Others say it was more like 15-ish. It was June 28, 1981 and, by all accounts, an innocuous beginning.

Pearson never sang with the group — it was exclusively a men’s chorus. She asked if anybody had any conducting experience. The late Jim Richardson did and became the first director.

“I still remember the first chord,” Pearson told the Blade in 2011. “It was just a simple thing, you know, like do, mi, so, do, but I just got goosebumps. I was just elated that even one note came out, I was so excited. I got those same goosebumps at the anniversary concert last weekend. I put their CDs on and I get the same thing, especially on certain things they sing. You just can’t believe it sounds so great.”

Click here for more about the history of the group. A bio/history is also available at gmcw.org.

COVID has, of course, wreaked havoc on the operation. Thankfully, Kano says, no members have died from it, though a handful (she says fewer than 10 that she knows of), including Kano, have had it and recovered.

The Chorus continued its Sunday evening rehearsals via Zoom, which, because of the precision required for musical performance, was tougher to take online than, say, a business meeting. It never occurred to the Chorus leadership to take a hiatus.

“I look back now like, ‘Why didn’t we take some time off,’ but I think off the top of my head at the time it was like, “We sing and we’re a social justice organization and community is such a big part of who we are,’” Kano says. “And so for suddenly, with no notice, to have something that we love so much and are so passionate about …. to suddenly just turn the lights off, that wasn’t even an option.”

A GMCW rehearsal in 2007. (Washington Blade file photo by Henry Linser)

With the Chorus and dancers and GenOUT, there are about 200 current volunteer performers. It’s been slightly higher at times. Some were deterred by the thought of rehearsing via Zoom although some former members no longer in the D.C. area — even a few overseas — rejoined when virtual participation became possible.

The murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement last summer and beyond was a galvanizing event. The Chorus responded with its “Let Freedom Sing” concert, which Kano says celebrated the intersection of Black and LGBTQ people.

Featured soloists perform in ‘Let Freedom Sing.’ (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

“It was our way of saying we raise our voice in solidarity with those facing injustice,” Kano says.

But does that get messy at times? Surely not everyone in a choir of this size is on the same page politically, even in a progressive city like D.C., right?

As a nonprofit, the Chorus avoids anything ostensibly political. Kano says the issue did arise when they were invited to sing at a Virginia-based gun-reform event last year. They participated, but carefully.

“So anytime you mentioned guns, it becomes political,” Kano says. “It’s not about whether or not we support the Second Amendment. It’s us standing in solidarity with those who have been victims of gun violence.”

Kano says there’s “a very good chance had this been a non-pandemic year,” they would have been invited to sing at the Biden-Harris inauguration, which she says they “absolutely” would have agreed to.

“We did wonder, though, a few years ago what we would have said if 45 were to ask us,” she says. “We didn’t spend a lot of time on it because we knew that wasn’t gonna happen,” she says with a chuckle.

The holiday shows for the Chorus often involve elaborate costumes, as in this scene in 2017. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Herman says performing at big, pro-LGBTQ “statement”-type events is woven into the Chorus’s history and is understood.

“Every Christmas Eve, we’d sing for the patients at NIH,” he says. “We still do, only then it was primarily AIDS patients. We sang special concerts when the (AIDS) Quilt was first displayed and when there was a March on Washington. We did a lot of community work and outreach at a time when it was really needed.”

Morris-Byam says even today, with so much progress having been made, the Chorus still is needed. He, by the way, calls Kano “one of the most brilliant musicians I’ve ever met.”

“I believe the Chorus is a strong political statement in itself,” he says. “When we’re making a strong, joyful noise, it’s celebrating everything we are, what we can be, and everyone who has gotten us where we are.

The Chorus celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in a performance at Lincoln Theatre in 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

There have been challenges over the years — finding new office space, patching together individual vocal parts for virtual performances — but no warring factions. Kano is, by most accounts, extremely well liked.

The future, Kano says, is bright. She hopes to resume in-person rehearsals in the fall. She spent a big chunk of early lockdown transcribing a Puccini “Gloria Mass” for tenor/bass chorus. She plans to program it with works by Cole Porter eventually.

Ultimately, Kano says, her goals for the Chorus are about making great art.

“Art comes first,” she says. “Because that’s how we deliver our mission. And if we put great art first, it’s going to attract great people. It’s going to both as members and as audience members and patrons, and therefore it’s going to attract great funding, and then all that goes right back into the arts we can further our expansion and our ability to get the mission out.”

Craig Cipollini leads the ‘Grease’ dance auditions in 2010. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)
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Billy Porter talks about his HIV diagnosis and keeping secrets

The Tony, Emmy, and Grammy-Award winning actor revealed the secret he’s been keeping for 14 years in the Hollywood Reporter Wednesday

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Billy Porter appearing on Tamron Hall's show Wednesday (Screenshot via YouTube)

NEW YORK – Daytime talk show host Tamron Hall welcomed Broadway icon and star of the hit tv show “Pose,” Billy Porter on her show that aired Wednesday. The Tony, Emmy, and Grammy-Award winning actor revealed the secret he’s been keeping for 14 years that was made public in a piece for the Hollywood Reporter published Wednesday.

Porter discusses his HIV diagnosis from over a decade ago which the actor said he felt a sense of shame that compelled him to hide his condition from his castmates, collaborators and even his mother, and the responsibility that now has him speaking out. “The truth is the healing,” Porter said.

“I was on the precipice of obscurity for about a decade or so, but 2007 was the worst of it. By February, I had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. By March, I signed bankruptcy papers. And by June, I was diagnosed HIV-positive,” he wrote. “The shame of that time compounded with the shame that had already [accumulated] in my life silenced me, and I have lived with that shame in silence for 14 years. HIV-positive, where I come from, growing up in the Pentecostal church with a very religious family, is God’s punishment,” the actor wrote.

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