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Billy Porter Makes History With 'Essence' Cover, Demands Respect

Billy Porter

He is the first openly gay star on the magazine's cover. 

MikelleStreet

Multihyphenate Billy Porter has made history many times over. In a few of his latest accolades, he became the first Black gay man to win an acting Emmy. Then he was the first male-identified cover star of Allure magazine. Today, he is the first openly gay cover star of Essence.

In a story written by Out's former culture and entertainment director Tre'vell Anderson, traces Porter's own relationship with his identity as a Black gay man, encountering the roadblocks that people put up as a result of it within the music and entertainment industries. Eventually, instead of trying to conform to palatability, Porter leaned into who he was and -- after facing unemployment and bankruptcy -- found success, notably with Pose. The show was, for Porter, the first time he was able to fully bring himself into a role.

But now, with a platform, the powerhouse can now speak from both of those identities.

"We're like a dysfunctional family who keeps secrets and doesn't want to talk about it," he said, describing America's relationship with racism and slavery. "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."

For Porter Black Lives Matter, and while he can and does say that to white America, he must reassert the nuances to the Black community as well: All Black Lives Matter.

"Stop killing us!" Porter said in the story. "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."

"Don't worry about my salvation," he continued later. "Let me do that. If you think I'm going to hell, you keep that shit to yourself. I don't need tolerance, I don't need acceptance; we demand respect for our humanity, too."

RELATED | Janelle Monae Fought for Billy Porter's Oscars Performance

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Mikelle Street

Mikelle is the former editorial director of digital for PrideMedia, guiding digital editorial and social across Out, The Advocate, Pride.com, Out Traveler, and Plus. After starting as a freelancer for Out in 2013, he joined the staff as Senior Editor working across print and digital in 2018. In early 2021 he became Out's digital director, marking a pivot to content that centered queer and trans stories and figures, exclusively. In September 2021, he was promoted to editorial director of PrideMedia. He has written cover stories on Ricky Martin, Miss Fame, Nyle DiMarco, Jeremy O. Harris, Law Roach, and Symone.

Mikelle is the former editorial director of digital for PrideMedia, guiding digital editorial and social across Out, The Advocate, Pride.com, Out Traveler, and Plus. After starting as a freelancer for Out in 2013, he joined the staff as Senior Editor working across print and digital in 2018. In early 2021 he became Out's digital director, marking a pivot to content that centered queer and trans stories and figures, exclusively. In September 2021, he was promoted to editorial director of PrideMedia. He has written cover stories on Ricky Martin, Miss Fame, Nyle DiMarco, Jeremy O. Harris, Law Roach, and Symone.