Dyllón Burnside is an actor currently starring as Ricky Evangelista in Pose, the second season of which starts on FX on Tuesday, June 11, at 10 p.m.
When/how did you first hear about the Stonewall Riots, and what did you make of them?
I first heard about Stonewall and the riots that took place there when I came to New York for a summer music theater program at NYU. I met an older couple who became big brothers to me. They were the first gay black married couple I had met in my life. I was so shocked, fascinated, and curious about them.
I didn’t know much about gay culture and had even less experience with gay bars. They took me on a tour of Christopher Street and the old “gayborhood” in the village. Stonewall was our first stop. I was lucky enough to meet guys like them who really had an interest in mentoring and caring for younger brothers.
That’s something I’m truly grateful for because everyone doesn’t find that and I think that kind of sharing of history and experiences is so necessary for the community. It gave me a sense of security and belonging. I was also shocked that I had never heard anything about Stonewall before, which highlighted for me a need to tell the stories of queer people and history in the media on a much larger scale. It’s why I do what I do.
What is the riots’ significance for you now?
To know that people fought with their bodies and souls for my right to be and express freely made me feel a responsibility to honor that bloodshed. It is also what emboldens me to keep fighting with pride.
Knowing that their fight produced results reinforces my faith that the work I’m doing and seeds I’m sowing to further liberate men, men of color, and queer men of color from the bondage of toxic masculinity, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny, will bear fruit as well.
How far have we LGBT people come since 1969?
We have come to a place in history where LGBTQ folk are more visible and celebrated than ever, and that only continues with the rise of shows like Pose. The work of our ancestors made room for us to thrive in our communities.
We can now find refuge in our bars. We have safe places to pray and worship. We even have brilliant queer folks leading major companies and organizations and serving as leaders in our government. However, the work doesn’t end there. We still see our people persecuted all around the world and even here on U.S. soil.
What would you like to see, LGBT-wise, in the next 50 years?
In the next 50 years I’d love to see queer folks not only be accepted in the mainstream but embraced as the mainstream. I look forward to the day when the lives and experiences of queer people, specifically queer people of color, are normalized. No more being treated as the other.
I envision a world where the collective “we” invokes an image of all “the people” living and working side by side, sharing mutual respect and understanding.