How Harvey Fierstein Helped Me Know That I Could Have a Place in This World

Playbill Pride   How Harvey Fierstein Helped Me Know That I Could Have a Place in This World Tony Award-winning Kinky Boots star Billy Porter reflects on the influence of actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein.
Harvey Fierstein and Billy Porter
Harvey Fierstein and Billy Porter
Harvey Fierstein
Harvey Fierstein Photo by Monica Simoes

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I came out in the 1980s. Harvey's Torch Song Trilogy, as well as George C. Wolfe's The Colored Museum, was the only outlet that we had as young, gay people that were not stories about being victims as a result of being gay. Gay people were in the power position. These were plays with gay characters that were empowered, that drove the narrative, who were the emotional center and engine of the piece. That was so eye-opening and inspiring to me because it let me understand that I, possibly, could have a place in the world. Not just in show business, but in the whole, wide world.

Harvey is somebody who was intelligent enough to speak from a position of experience and also has the craft, talent, and skill to make it artistic because we as artists have the power to manipulate the narrative and change people's minds through art. We have the power to do those things — and that's what Harvey's work did and still does for me. All the way back to the '60s and '70s, Harvey had the courage to be that voice when no one else was really doing that in this arena and in that way. We should all be that! We should all be that brave as to use that platform that we have, in this business we call show, to make sure that we're pushing the message forward of acceptance.

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