Queer Trauma: IRJE #6

In Billy Porter’s newly released memoir Unprotected, he goes deep into detail about his traumatic upbringing as a queer Black boy with a religious family. Specifically, Porter writes about how he was taught that being gay was a sin at church, while being sexually abused by his step-father:

As I tried to grapple with the idea that I would be burning in hell for all of eternity, I threw myself into my studies and back into theater. Those things still managed to bring me joy, but time spent at home began to feel more and more like a minefield. Because I would go home and play footsies with my stepfather under the table at dinner and do things with him in the middle of the night when he came home from work–though I didn’t even know what those things were called. That man would be in my room, at the very least, two times a week for five years. (pp. 35-36)

Porter’s secretly abusive step-father left permanent damage on Porter’s wellbeing that he still struggles to grapple with today, but it also was a prominent factor towards Porter’s success. In high school, Porter stayed away from home as much as possible (because of his step-father) by going to school, musical theater rehearsals, dance classes, and more, which taught him to have a strong work ethic and to be independent.

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