Feature writing

Stonewall 50

Queer Eye’s Bobby Berk: ‘In Middle America We Need More Stonewall Riots—Not Violent, But to Keep Up the Fight’

Website:
The Daily Beast

Date:
June 19, 2019

Bobby Berk of ‘Queer Eye’ tells Tim Teeman that the rights LGBT people have won ‘are in danger. Now the cloak of “religious freedom” is being used to attack us.’

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

Growing up in the middle of Missouri, I never heard of them. It wasn’t taught in high school. I didn’t hear about them until I moved to New York City in 2003, when I was 21. I lived a few blocks from the Stonewall and started learning what they meant, why it was a landmark, and what it meant for our community.

What is the riots’ significance now to you?

The rights we won are in danger. Now the cloak of “religious freedom” is being used to attack us. Even though we have come forward, in a lot of ways we haven’t. We’ve fallen backwards in a lot of ways. In coastal cities we’re ahead of the times, but in Middle America we need more Stonewall Riots—not violent, but definitely to keep up the fight.

It’s up to people like myself who have the luck and are blessed to have a platform that we use it. With more visibility comes acceptance.

How far have LGBT people come since 1969?

We’ve traveled so far from a time where people couldn’t be out, couldn’t hold hands, couldn’t get married. We have marriage equality, and we have the Equality Act, if stupid Mitch McConnell will allow it to pass through the Senate.

We have come so far, and we’ve lost ground under Trump. People say once his administration is gone it will get better, but he’s been putting horrible conservative judges into our courts. The effects of that will last for decades.

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

I hope we pass enough equality laws that even conservative judges have no choice but to uphold them. The only way to ensure our rights continue to grow and be secure is to get out there and vote and not be complacent. Don’t think other people’s votes will count for you, you need to vote yourself.

What would you say to the Stonewall rioters if you could?

“Thank you,” because without them we probably wouldn’t be where we are today.