Billy Porter disses Harry Styles' Vogue cover: 'I had to fight my entire life to get to the place where I could wear a dress to the Oscars'

·7 min read

Billy Porter is causing quite a stir after recent comments about his contributions to non-binary fashion.

On Sunday, The Sunday Times, of the U.K., published an article featuring an in-depth interview with the 52-year-old actor. Porter talked about various topics, including his struggles with self-acceptance, abuse, sobriety and how his generation "kicked the door down" to make way for queer artists like Lil Nas X and other raising non-binary visibility in mainstream media, 

Billy Porter in one of the many gender-fluid ensembles he's worn to red carpets and other events — this one at the Los Angeles premiere of Cinderella in August. (Photo: Amy Sussman/WireImage)
Billy Porter in one of the many gender-fluid ensembles he's worn to red carpets and other events — this one at the Los Angeles premiere of Cinderella in August. (Photo: Amy Sussman/WireImage)

But it's his comments about Harry Styles that are making headlines.

"I changed the game," Porter exclaimed, crediting himself with Styles' history-making feat, in December, of becoming the first man to grace the cover of of Vogue — in a dress, and wearing various skirts within its pages. “I. Personally. Changed. The. Whole. Game. And that is not ego, that is just fact. I was the first one doing it and now everybody is doing it."

Porter, who has graced many red carpets in gender-fluid looks — from his famous tuxedo gown by Christian Siriano worn to the Oscars to his gold Egyptian Sun God look at the 2019 Met Gala — and went on to criticize Vogue for featuring Styles instead of him.

"I feel like the fashion industry has accepted me because they have to," he said. "I'm not necessarily convinced and here is why. I created the conversation [about non-binary fashion] and yet Vogue still put Harry Styles, a straight white man, in a dress on their cover for the first time. I'm not dragging Harry Styles, but he is the one you're going to try and use to represent this new conversation? He doesn't care, he's just doing it because it's the thing to do. This is politics for me. This is my life. I had to fight my entire life to get to the place where I could wear a dress to the Oscars and not be gunned now. All he has to do is be white and straight."

Styles has never confirmed his sexuality in any way. In a 2019 Guardian interview, he said, "Am I sprinkling in nuggets of sexual ambiguity to try and be more interesting? No… in terms of how I wanna dress, and what the album sleeve’s gonna be, I tend to make decisions in terms of collaborators I want to work with. I want things to look a certain way. Not because it makes me look gay, or it makes me look straight, or it makes me look bisexual, but because I think it looks cool. And more than that, I dunno, I just think sexuality’s something that’s fun. Honestly? I can’t say I’ve given it any more thought than that.”

People took to social media to share their thoughts on the Porter interview, and many fans criticized him for seemingly taking credit for modern non-binary culture.

"It is pretty disappointing that Billy Porter would say Harry doesn't care and is just doing this because its a thing to do. Who gave you the right to judge Harry and also assume such things. You don't know his reasons and Harry has never said 'I am straight,'" a fan tweeted.

"As someone who is non-binary it strikes me as highly questionable that billy porter claims that HE - a cis man - created the conversation. harry styles never claimed anything of the sort … and the vogue cover/story as far as i remember wasn’t even about non-binary fashion," someone else added.

There were other fans, however, who felt like Porter was justified in his comments, pointing out that Black queer people seldom get recognized for their contributions, whether in or out of the binary, including transgender activist Charlotte Clymer, who said Porter is "absolutely right about this."

"Billy Porter's Tuxedo gown shook the world. In this current era, he is CORRECT. I still give them a sideeye for not having Billy Porter on the cover but having a yt man on the cover. It spoke volumes. All Billy Porter did was answer the question and clocked it," another supporter wrote.

"The audacity to accuse billy porter - a black gay man who had to fight for his place in the midst of the aids crisis - of 'using his gayness & blackness as leverage'. just to defend some dude who gets opportunities because he's white. the "it's not about race" energy is strong," another person argued.

Styles has yet to comment on the growing debate, but during his Vogue interview in December, he talked about what influenced his style.

"There’s so much joy to be had in playing with clothes," he had said. "I’ve never thought too much about what it means—it just becomes this extended part of creating something."

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