Billy Porter


Why I am committed to disturbing the peace

So it looks like I caused a kerfuffle this past Sunday at my concert at the amphitheater at Hartwood Acres. It appears that some folks were offended by the colorful language I used in my “political rant,” dissenting from President Donald Drumpf and his cronies. Here’s what I’ll say:

First and foremost, I apologize for dropping F-bombs in the presence of children. Please understand that I have been out on the road doing concerts in adult venues since March and it never occurred to me even to ask whether there were children present. Nor did it come to the minds of the presenters to request a clean show. So for that I am profoundly sorry.

That said, it is no secret who I am and what I stand for. I have been an activist with a very loud and sometimes controversial voice for decades (just type my name into Google). Prior to my arrival, the Post-Gazette published a Weekend section preview detailing what the evening would be about. (It was headlined “Billy Porter’s Back in Town, and Arriving With a Message,” and the last sentence was, “Prepare for fireworks.”) My grandmother used to say sometimes the world makes you so mad you just gotta cuss! It’s cussing time, y’all. Leave your kids at home.

James Baldwin said, “An artist’s job is to disturb the peace.” I take my job very seriously. The challenging thing about crossover success is that it sometimes comes in the form of playing characters that everyone can love for his or her diplomacy. Everyone loves Switzerland. Here’s what I need everyone to understand as we all move forward. I won a Tony Award as the big-hearted drag queen Miss Lola in “Kinky Boots” — a character I loved playing and will soon play again on Broadway. I suspect many of you came to the concert expecting Lola. And while there are many similarities between us, Lola is a creation of fiction and resides in the comfortable space we in show business call “commercial success.”

Billy Porter the man is a very different entity with a voice that will never be defined or confined by anything or anybody. And while I profoundly apologize for cussing in front of children, I encourage you all to harness and activate the same outrage you have for my F-Bombs and direct that energy to our “leader,” who managed to get elected even after bragging about grabbing women by their ... well, this is a family newspaper. I find myself staring in the face of a president and an administration that think it’s perfectly fine to put my humanity up for legislation — again! We already did this, y’all. Folk have already fought and died for our rights, so excuse me if I’m having a hard time worrying about other people’s comfort levels.

I’m turning on my news outlets every day and seeing the leader of the free world lie every time he opens his mouth. I see a man whose lies have led to an investigation of collusion and treason against our country. I see the GOP standing silent to all these things and therefore complicit in them. I also see Congress, under the cloak of many-a-night, aggressively passing laws that roll back progress and protections we’ve made in the country over the past century pertaining to my basic human rights by making discrimination against me legal ... again! I see an administration attacking my transgender brothers and sisters in the military just because it can. I see it attacking women. I see the KKK and white supremacist attacking my Jewish brothers and sisters in this country by marching mask-less in the streets and chanting, “Jews will not replace us,” among many other terrifying things, and a president who responds by blaming the victims. And this is just the tip of the iceberg of the last 200-plus days of terror this administration has vomited on this country. I haven’t slept in months. I fear for my safety and my family’s every time I step out of the bubble that is New York City.

I know in my heart that ultimately love is the answer, but sometime tough love needs to be implemented, and it ain’t pretty. I’m working on grace. But the line has been drawn in the sand. It’s unfortunate, but there are sides now. I’ve chosen mine. You chose yours.

And as for the over $450,000 we raised for the Allegheny Parks Foundation at the stellar benefit the evening prior — you’re welcome.

Ellis Porter