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Billy Porter Says Black Queer People Are Black First

Billy Porter

Vanity Fair has unveiled its latest edition, a special issue guest-edited by journalist Ta Nehisi Coates. Operating as the magazine's September issue, the issue has Breona Taylor painted by Amy Sherald. Inside the issue, Coates pulled together a portfolio titled "You Said Hope" that celebrates 22 activists and visionaries, shot by a variety of photographers. Among the features were Patrisse Cullors-Brignac, Indya Moore, and Billy Porter. 

For Porter's feature within the portfolio, he was shot by photographer Dana Scruggs. In the accompanying interview, Porter spoke of previously being afraid that society had "become desensitized to the [savage imagery of violence against people of oclor] and therefore we were losing this war on racisim and oppression." He said that the footage of George Floyd, and the global reaction to it, changed his perception as it "galvanized the people all over the world to rise up, once again, for equality and justice." 

Later, Porter spoke about this moment in particular.

"None of us are free until we are all free," he said. "This moment has lit a fire inside of me and truly thrusted me into using my platform to deliver the message [that] Black queer people are Black first. Queer second. Our queerness is not a 'choice.' It is who we are and we will no longer be silenced. None of us are free until we all are free."

It's a particular point to make, and a scenario that Black queer and trans folks have been often confronted with: to choose which is of more importance, or which comes first. For Porter to play into this idea, that the identities of Black queer and trans folks can be parcelled off, is disappointing given his ongoing conversation about living authentically.

"I chose to live my life in the fullness of my truth and authenticity decades ago, when being Black and queer could literally mean one’s death," he said earlier in the same interview. "There are still too many of us, trans women of color to be exact, that live in fear for their lives simply for existing on the planet and living their true, authentic lives."

And, for many of us, that authenticity means living as, and showing up as, all parts of ourselves equally.

RELATED | Billy Porter Says Cousin Threatened to Kill Him If He ‘Turned Gay’

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