The moment was immediately recognized as historic for the LGBTQ community and for Pittsburghers who knew Porter before he hit it big. Richard Parsakian, owner of Eons Fashion Antique and a member of The Mayor's LGBTQIA+ Advisory Council, has been friends with Porter for 30 years and was thrilled to watch the results live, but wasn't surprised given Porter's performance on the show.
"After episode six of the first season, I said, 'He's gonna win an Emmy Award,'" says Parsakian. "I was so thrilled that we are represented on that stage. ... Billy essentially is the tip of that iceberg. He represents everything that we wanna say in the world, in the sense that he has a platform now."
casting; the show has the largest transgender cast ever assembled for a TV show, along with bringing on trans crew members for behind-the-scenes work including directors, choreographers, and writers. During his acceptance speech, Porter read a quote from writer James Baldwin about fighting the way to self-acceptance, which reads, "It took many years of vomiting up all the filth I’d been taught about myself, and half-believed, before I was able to walk on the earth as though I had a right to be here." Porter then told the audience that everyone has a right to be here.
Parsakian says his joy over the win for the LGBTQ community is intertwined with his joy for his friend's success. "I am so so proud that we have an artist who has a voice that can articulate our thoughts, our struggles," says Parsakian, getting choked up. "When the marginalized community is silenced and erased — a lot of trans women of color talk about this, but I think as a queer community we can talk about it too — we don't wanna be erased. He represents the forgotten people, and we are not forgotten anymore."
Parsakian notes that Porter has always been a supporter of his hometown, and not just by visiting Eons whenever he comes to town. Two months after the Tree of Life shooting, Porter returned for a benefit concert at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland.