Feature writing

Stonewall 50

Greg Rikaart: ‘The Freedom I Have as a Gay Man, Husband and Father Is Fully Because of Stonewall’s Pioneers’

Website:
The Daily Beast

Date:
June 15, 2019

The ‘Young and The Restless’ star talks powerfully about how Stonewall infused his ‘DNA’ fighting injustice, and helped ease his and his husband’s experiences of becoming parents.

How and when did you first hear about the Stonewall Riots, and what did you make of them?

I grew up on Staten Island, a ferry ride away from Greenwich Village and Stonewall, which seems like that would set the stage for an early understanding/knowledge of the Stonewall Riots. Sadly though, my adolescent exposure to gay culture and its impact was limited to what I saw on television, which back in the Reagan era was a lot of fear-based coverage of the AIDS crisis and the rare one-dimensional gay character on a TV show.

While I am a product of NYC public schools, we didn’t learn about the Stonewall Riots back in the ’80s. That all being said, it’s hard to remember when I first learned of Stonewall, though I imagine it was once I was in college. I can probably credit the internet and great mentors who lived through that era.

What I first made of the Stonewall Riots was having profound respect and admiration for those who were brave enough to stand up to injustice. As a gay man who knows that it is in my DNA to fight against injustice, I’m grateful to have learned directly or indirectly from those who fought before me.

What is the significance of the Riots to you? How far have LGBT people come since 1969?

The significance of the Stonewall Riots on me cannot be overstated. The freedom I have to live my life as a gay man, a husband and a father is fully because of the pioneers in 1969 whose righteous anger had reached boiling point.

The impact of that marbles through my life in countless ways, but a tangible example is the ease in which I became a father.

Rob (Sudduth, Rikaart’s husband) and I were in the delivery room as our son came into the world, we were well taken care of in our own hospital room with him until he was ready to come home, and we are listed as his two parents on his birth certificate.

I think that also answers the question of how far we’ve come. Side note: in 2019 this example is not the norm in MANY states. LGBT people who wish to become parents can still face legal obstacles, which is exhibit A that the fight is still not over.

What would you like to see, LGBT-wise, in the next 50 years?

What I would like to see in the next chapter of the LGBT equal rights movement are more elected officials and judges advocating for our rights, and more empathy and understanding from ALL elected officials and people outside of the LGBT community.

I’d like to see the cultural needle continue to move forward, so we are no longer hearing about high LGBT youth suicide rates, bakers denying cakes, employees being fired because of how they identify their gender, etc. etc., until we reach a point of full inclusion and equality.