“Hello, my name is Billy Porter, and I’m an activist and proud member of the LGBTQ community, and it’s a privilege to join you today.” So began the actor and Pose star’s “State of the LGBTQ Union” address, delivered mere hours before Donald Trump was scheduled to speak before the American people.
As is the American custom, at the beginning of each calendar year the president addresses a joint session of Congress along with the U.S. Supreme Court and his cabinet. Blasted into television sets around the country (and the world), his annual “State of the Union” speech is meant to offer insight into national priorities and propose legislative agenda. (Last night’s official “State of the Union” address by Trump had actually been postponed after its originally planned date, Jan. 29, occurred during the government’s partial shutdown.)
But unlike Trump, Billy Porter’s “State of the LGBTQ Union” speech took the opportunity to address issues facing the queer community in particular — both the triumphs and the setbacks of 2018, and a look at what’s ahead for 2019, a year that marks 50 years since the Stonewall Riots.
“While our rights are under threat and the sanctity of identities is in peril, let me be clear: the state of our union is strong,” Porter says.
But the “State of the LGBTQ Union” is not all metaphorical rainbows. Last year, in 2018 alone, 29 trans individuals lost their lives to violence, and anti-LGBTQ violence rose from previous years’ numbers. “And as the attack on our brother Jussie Smollett shows, violence can touch our lives no matter who knows your name,” Porter says.
Billy Porter also mentions our queer brothers and sisters in Chechnya, and our fellow community members in Brazil, where the nation has elected one of the most virulently anti-LGBT politicians to its highest office. And then there’s the trans military ban the Trump administration is attempting to enact.
But Porter insists the way to combat all of this is through love: “Love is strength — strength we must have to fight for our integrity and for our very lives. We will fight hate with solidarity by standing for our siblings around the world.”
“And If the victories of the last year prove anything,” he says, “we ain’t going no damn where.”