Does God Hate Queers? Queer Britain


Does God Hate Queers?

Riyadh Khalaf shines a light on the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community. Riyadh meets a disfellowed Jehovah's Witness.


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Transcript


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This programme contains some strong language

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I'm Riyadh, a gay man living in London,

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a vlogger and a journalist.

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I grew up Catholic, but my father is Iraqi

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so I spent much of my childhood at the local mosque.

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When I came out, I began to understand that mainstream religions

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don't like people like me.

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To me, LGBT stands for, "Let God burn them."

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You say, "Well, it's LGBTQ."

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Well, then, you can say, "Let God burn them quickly."

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God hates fags. What part of that don't you understand?

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How can you engage yourselves with the same sex?

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The Koran clearly says that it is wrong,

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what you are doing.

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You're walking through a Muslim area dressed like a fag, mate.

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You need to get out of it.

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I want to know, though,

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can you bring together your religion and your sexual identity,

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even though the scriptures say that you're wrong?

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Does God really hate queers?

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I don't think God hates queers. I think people hate queers.

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God created all of us, so how could He hate us?

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God loves everybody, really, I think God's quite forgiving.

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But see, you say that as if we're supposed to feel sorry about it.

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I'm not going to apologise for being what You made, that's like

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the little cake that you made in the oven being like, "Sorry, I'm burnt."

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You left me in too long.

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I feel like He doesn't hate anyone.

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He just doesn't want anyone to be gay.

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I would say that God likes me very much.

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Why would it be a sin to hold my girlfriend's hand?

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It just doesn't make sense.

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Of course, attitudes toward homosexuality have changed with the times,

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and even religions have had to adapt, especially here in the UK.

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But it's still a fact that in 72 countries,

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same-sex relations are illegal, and in 13 of those countries,

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it's punishable by death.

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One option is that you can abstain.

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Which is not something that I would ever do,

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but I'm super intrigued by the fact that there are still

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faith-based organisations out there willing to help you

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rid yourself of your homosexual demons.

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-AMERICAN ACCENT:

-Do you believe that the Lord tonight has set you free?

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Yes, sir.

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Tell them!

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I'm not gay no more!

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I am delivered!

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I don't like men no more.

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I said I like women!

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Women, women, women!

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I'm not gay!

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I would not carry a purse.

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I would not put on make-up.

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I will,

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I WILL love a woman.

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What did I just watch?

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AMERICAN ACCENT: "I don't like men no more!"

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Yeah, you do.

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I moved to London about a year and a half ago.

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Dalston's a great place to find yourself

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and not be ashamed of who you are, I think.

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One day, I told my family that I am gay and I have a boyfriend.

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I was raised as a Jehovah's Witness,

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so we were taught that homosexuality is a sin.

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-AMERICAN ACCENT:

-People have their own ideas

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about what is right and wrong,

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but what matters is how Jehovah feels.

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He wants us to be happy and he knows how we can be happiest.

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That's why he invented marriage the way he did.

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-CHILD:

-You mean, one man and one woman?

-Exactly!

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Because I'd confessed to my parents,

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we had to confess, also, to the congregation.

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They saw that I wasn't as repentant as I was probably supposed to be,

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and that is when they decided to disfellowship me.

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Disfellowshipping is being judged and excommunicated

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from the Christian congregation.

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The whole process is to keep the congregation clean.

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This is the Bible that I used to preach with.

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I've pretty much got rid of everything else,

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but I just can't bring myself to get rid of this, for some reason.

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I just think it's a lack of respect to throw away a Bible.

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I've actually got the date in there, when I got this Bible.

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December 2013.

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That was about ten months before I came out.

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I'm trying to find out as much as I can

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about what the Jehovah's Witnesses don't like about the gays.

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There's a lot.

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They say that if you are homosexual,

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the reason why that is, is because you have a demonic possession.

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How glam.

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Josh hasn't been back to his hometown since being ostracised

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by his family and congregation two years ago.

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-You grew up here?

-Yeah.

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And your family still live here?

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Yes, they live down this street, actually, a bit further down.

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These were the streets that I used to preach on, as well,

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so I'd literally go from door to door on this street.

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Does it feel like you kind of want to rock up there to number 22,

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knock on the door and give the spiel again, or has it completely gone?

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I think I'd be a bit rusty now.

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At some point in your life,

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-you realised that you were having feelings...

-Yes.

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..that weren't quite accepted by the Jehovah's Witnesses.

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I suppose when I reached the age of 14,

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I started looking at guys and thinking, "Oh, yeah."

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You know. "This is clearly what it is."

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And I was caught watching porn at 14.

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-Rookie mistake!

-Can you believe it?

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-On dial-up, as well.

-No!

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You know, my mum found some stuff as well, and that's how I...

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Dude, are we, like, the same person?

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Do you feel like the kid who was here

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is the same guy that is in front of me now?

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Are you a different person?

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It almost feels like a dream, ages ago.

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I was brought up to be a person

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that I thought I was supposed to be, in the religion.

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You can only live so long lying to people and, like, pretending.

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So I told my parents, and then you have to be put into something

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that's called a judicial committee.

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And they ask you a lot of questions about what you've done,

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how many times have you had sex, what kind of sex have you had?

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Do they make a distinction between a hand job and anal?

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-Yeah.

-Oh?

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You can even be disfellowshipped for homosexual pornography.

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And then it goes up, yeah, so, hand job, blow job,

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anal sex...

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-Is anal, like, the worst you can do?

-Yeah.

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Oh, OK.

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So, this is Kingdom Hall,

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where you would come for your meetings.

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When you were here the last time, was this for the judicial process?

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I just remember walking out into the car park and giving my...

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my parents a call to let them know the news.

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That's the worst kind of news that you want to hear

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if you're a Jehovah's Witness parent.

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I got a letter through my door a few days after that,

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saying that my family no longer would be able to see me any more,

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and I went round in the evening and kind of...

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..said goodbye to them, I guess.

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And there was loads of tears, loads of crying and...

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..and then I left and I drove off, you know.

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And I've never seen them since.

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I don't blame them for what's happened.

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Because I understand what's going on.

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But I'd also just love there to be some connection,

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no matter what it is, you know?

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If they can find it in themselves to have some connection.

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When he was disfellowshipped from the Jehovah's Witnesses,

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he was sent a letter by his family.

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He told me that it was too painful for him to read out in person,

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so he's sent it to me.

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"Dearest Joshua,

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"it is with the deepest sorrow and tears

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"that we have to write you this letter.

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"Association and texts have to stop now,

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"until the day when we are family again.

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"Please keep going in your resolve to come back to us,

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"as a single day will not go by without one of us thinking of you.

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"We love you so much. Please be strong, love from Mum.

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"I love you so much. Love, Dad."

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Just the idea of not having your family there.

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They're still there, they're not dead,

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but you can't be with them, you can't even...

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She said that he can't text them any more.

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This...

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relationship.

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My mum and me, and the idea of her throwing me out

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and not having me in her life any more...

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I know it would kill her and it would kill me.

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They're basing these huge life decisions...

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..on a book.

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Josh has had literally no choice

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in finding himself on the outside of his faith.

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But there are faith groups all over the UK

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opening up to the LGBTQ community.

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I identify as trans-masculine,

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so I use he/him pronouns.

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My sexual identity, I say that I'm pansexual.

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Growing up, and struggling with my sexual identity

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and then my gender identity,

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I just didn't feel like I belonged anywhere.

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So my faith has been incredibly important,

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because it's always given me a reason to keep going.

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Could it be possible to genuinely reconcile the desire

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for a faith identity as an LGBTQ person?

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How important is your faith to you?

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I had this feeling that I was somehow wrong

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or that I was somehow, you know, a bit gross.

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I was feeling, like, you know, if this continues,

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then I don't want to be on my own,

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I don't want to feel this isolated and kind of...

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..sad all the time, you know, and kind of self-hating all the time.

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I'd rather just, um...

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not be around.

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Yeah.

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It was the knowledge that there was this power that loved me

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no matter what I did or who I was that's actually save my life.

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Did you feel that there was a fear there? Because, obviously,

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you've seen the way certain churches treat gay people.

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In the church that I'm in now, and the church that I came out in,

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they practise what they preach in terms of being open,

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in solidarity with the LGBT community.

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So I always felt safe.

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You've got a very special day coming up, is that right?

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I am having a naming ceremony.

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It's kind of like a dedication or a christening kind of thing.

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Because I started my transition over two years ago

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and I became quite upset with the name that I chose

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and became quite disconnected from it,

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because I wasn't passing and people would call me Ellie.

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So what I wanted to do was kind of stand up in front of my community

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and say, "Hey, this is me, I want to be a part of the community."

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And the more that I've kind of come back to my church and kind of...

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Got through the fear and just said, "Fuck it, this is who I am,"

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the more that I...

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.. start loving myself and my name again.

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So it's actually really important to me now.

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You seem so strong because of your faith.

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You can just feel it, it's radiating from you.

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If you had one piece of golden advice

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for a young trans person of faith, what would it be?

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Your faith is going to get you through.

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And also, you have to learn how to love yourself first.

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I think that's the thing.

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Because you can change your own internal monologue,

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even if you can't change anybody else's mind.

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I'm going to see you in a couple of weeks at your renaming ceremony.

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-Yeah, definitely.

-I can't wait.

-Me neither.

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I'll chat to you later.

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Elijah is insanely inspirational.

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The renaming ceremony is just going to be that next step that

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he needs to take to feel absolutely 100% comfortable in his own skin

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and with this new name that he's chosen.

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I think it's going to be a very, very special

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and emotional day for him, and probably for me as well.

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An advert suggesting gay people can be cured through therapy

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has been banned by Transport For London.

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Should you try to cure gays?

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Well, this man says therapy changed his sexual desires.

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I've always been aware of my homosexual issues,

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and even though I've been married for almost 29 years,

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I have been in conflict in terms of my Christian identity

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and my understanding of sexuality.

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So it's been my personal desire to try to establish

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the greatest heterosexual potentiality that I have.

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Has it been a struggle?

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It has been a struggle.

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I'm about to call Dr Mike Davidson.

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He's from the Core Trust,

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which is a Christian organisation who say they can change you

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and get rid of your homosexuality.

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DIALLING

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Mike!

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Hi, Riyadh.

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How do you help gay people?

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So, for some people,

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homosexual feelings are inconsistent with the values that they hold.

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Because we see it as a developmental issue,

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it is something that we think anybody can work on

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if that's what they want to do.

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A developmental issue? Explain that.

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So, developmental in that context is about postnatal,

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in other words, what happens to you after you have been born.

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The environment is very important.

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Do you believe that homosexuality is a choice?

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Certainly, in my case, it wasn't a choice.

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I found that I had these feelings

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and I was not consciously aware of choosing anything.

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But I recognised in my life that I had choices around those feelings.

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And I think that that is a very important dimension

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that is being lost today.

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Were you shameful of your homosexuality?

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Absolutely. I was. Because I didn't understand it.

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For me, it didn't sit comfortably.

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And, certainly, certainly, there was a spiritual component to this.

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There was an understanding of a Biblical world view.

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And I'm not talking about eight Scriptures,

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I'm talking about the whole tone and tenor of Scripture.

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Is it possible for a gay person to be religious

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and for the two to live in harmony?

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Clearly, there are individuals who hold those two things together,

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and are happy doing so.

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But if you take the biblical scholarship,

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there is no way you can reconcile

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modern understanding of homosexuality

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and spiritual faith that is Bible-based.

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-For a client coming to you seeking your service...

-Yeah.

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..what sort of cost is it?

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Zero.

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So you do it from the goodness of your own heart?

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I do it because professionals in this country have reneged

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on their responsibility to be open-minded

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to people who are being denied the right and the freedom

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to go in the direction that they want to go in.

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They are being told that they don't know what's good for them.

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That's why I do it.

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Thank you so much for your time.

0:16:120:16:15

-You're welcome.

-Have a good day, Mike.

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I'm sorry, but if you're offering people this service,

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you are telling them that there is something lesser or something wrong

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with their sexual identity and their sexuality.

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I find it deeply, deeply insulting

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that anyone, even a therapist, would say

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that my sexuality is interchangeable.

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That's it.

0:16:400:16:43

I think sexuality is incredibly complex.

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I don't think we can put it down to it just being a choice.

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This is one thing that I'm just so adamant about.

0:16:490:16:53

Being queer is not a choice.

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Um... No. Absolutely not.

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When people ask me if gay is a choice, it's quite infuriating.

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A ridiculous statement.

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You can't help who you love.

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I didn't choose to be this way,

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I wouldn't choose to put myself through all of this stress.

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Do you know what? If it was a choice, I would definitely be gay.

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100%. I love being gay.

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Homosexuality is not accepted in Islam.

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So the Muslim community will never accept homosexuality in a whole.

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You either be gay or you be Muslim.

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No-one is forcing you to be a Muslim.

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What are people like me meant to do, then?

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I was brought up in an Islamic household,

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I'm from an Islamic community,

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I'm from a very conservative Pakistani community.

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For a lot of young Muslims living here in the UK,

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there can be a cultural pressure for them to get married,

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and the idea of coming out is simply not an option.

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I'm going to meet Marium, who says she wants to be with a woman,

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but right now is on the hunt for a marriage of convenience.

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For Marium, the stakes are high.

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This is not her real name, and it's not her own flat.

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Why is it so important for you to get married?

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DISTORTED:

0:18:040:18:06

How do you identify now religiously?

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Do your parents think that you're a devout Muslim?

0:18:350:18:38

And they're wrong?

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If your parents were to find out about your sexuality,

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what would happen?

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And losing your family, for you, is not an option?

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Do you see yourself ever coming out to them?

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You're going to tell me a bit about marriage of convenience, what is it?

0:19:050:19:08

Would you mind showing me your profile?

0:19:190:19:22

This is your description of yourself.

0:19:240:19:26

Wow.

0:19:420:19:43

It's the weirdest dating app profile I've ever seen.

0:19:430:19:47

So, when you're with a girl, at what point do you tell them,

0:19:470:19:51

"I am looking for a gay man to be my kind of cloak?"

0:19:510:19:55

That would be an incredible woman.

0:20:080:20:10

I think she's out there.

0:20:110:20:12

I hope she is.

0:20:120:20:15

A marriage of convenience is a way for Marium to hold on to her family

0:20:150:20:19

and wider community.

0:20:190:20:21

She's not willing to give up on them,

0:20:210:20:23

even if it means she must live a lie.

0:20:230:20:25

In the absence of acceptance, it's an interesting alternative.

0:20:250:20:29

I got these amazing little chocolates for Elijah

0:20:350:20:39

to celebrate today,

0:20:390:20:40

because obviously it is a massive, massive day,

0:20:400:20:43

and it's been an absolutely huge time coming.

0:20:430:20:47

CONGREGATION SING

0:20:540:20:58

Why is it that this church practises such inclusivity and such openness

0:21:060:21:11

compared to most of the others?

0:21:110:21:13

The Bible says, on the very first page,

0:21:130:21:16

that every man and every woman is made in God's image.

0:21:160:21:19

That's what it's about.

0:21:190:21:21

So everyone is welcome, whatever their gender,

0:21:210:21:24

their gender identity and their sexuality.

0:21:240:21:27

they are welcome here in this church.

0:21:270:21:29

It's a great thing. I think you're being called away.

0:21:290:21:32

We're about to start, so I don't want to hold you,

0:21:320:21:34

-but I'm looking forward to the ceremony.

-Thank you.

0:21:340:21:36

-Thank you, Steve. Cheers.

-God bless you.

0:21:360:21:38

# Lay down your love

0:21:380:21:40

# Lay down your heart... #

0:21:400:21:43

Welcome, everyone. It's great to see you here at Oasis Church, Waterloo.

0:21:490:21:53

We have this wonderful opportunity this morning

0:21:530:21:57

of worshipping God together.

0:21:570:21:59

I'm going to ask Elijah to come to the front.

0:21:590:22:02

Elijah is going to be named.

0:22:020:22:05

So, Elijah, there you are. Welcome.

0:22:060:22:09

Elijah is, obviously, a little bit nervous, I guess,

0:22:090:22:11

standing up in front of people.

0:22:110:22:13

But Elijah will explain to you why he has come to this point

0:22:130:22:17

and why this moment is a sacred and holy and special moment for us all.

0:22:170:22:23

APPLAUSE

0:22:230:22:26

I came out as female-to-male transgender over two years ago.

0:22:270:22:31

Whilst the process of accepting and showing my gender identity

0:22:310:22:36

was freeing on so many levels, it has also proven to be

0:22:360:22:40

the hardest and most challenging experience of my entire life.

0:22:400:22:44

But I found that the more that I shared my new name

0:22:440:22:47

with people around me,

0:22:470:22:48

the more I also started learning to apologise for who I was.

0:22:480:22:54

I apologised for my voice being too high,

0:22:540:22:57

for my body being too feminine,

0:22:570:22:59

for my interests being too stereotypically female.

0:22:590:23:03

Because the world around me didn't seem to accept me,

0:23:030:23:06

I stopped accepting myself.

0:23:060:23:08

I lived in fear of having to explain my gender identity

0:23:080:23:11

because how do you explain a part of yourself that you've learnt to hate?

0:23:110:23:15

This act of allowing myself to be seen and heard reminds me

0:23:150:23:19

that today is about letting go of my shame, my fear and my self-doubt.

0:23:190:23:24

And today I can honestly say that I am proud to be Elijah,

0:23:240:23:27

and I am grateful to be able to share my story with you

0:23:270:23:30

in a space that I know to be safe and encouraging.

0:23:300:23:33

Thank you.

0:23:330:23:34

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:23:340:23:37

Whoo!

0:23:390:23:41

So, will you, the congregation of this church,

0:23:470:23:51

commit yourselves to Elijah, to play your part in supporting him

0:23:510:23:56

through your love and active, ongoing care and prayer?

0:23:560:24:01

-ALL:

-We do.

0:24:010:24:03

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:24:030:24:07

-Do you feel like you've been reborn?

-Yes.

-You do?

-I do, yes.

0:24:130:24:17

-That's incredible.

-Yes.

-Do you feel like a new person?

-Yeah.

0:24:170:24:20

I feel stronger now because it's out there,

0:24:200:24:23

there's nothing left to be scared of.

0:24:230:24:25

-Take it or leave it - I'm Elijah.

-Yes, exactly.

0:24:250:24:28

-And I think they took it.

-Well, everyone has said, "We do."

0:24:280:24:31

-Then you lost it.

-You're going to make me cry again.

0:24:330:24:36

-Congratulations.

-Thank you.

-How was that? Was that OK?

0:24:370:24:39

-It was...

-Was that OK?

-Yeah, it was good.

0:24:390:24:42

This is like nothing I've ever seen before,

0:24:420:24:44

you know, growing up in a very different religious set-up.

0:24:440:24:48

There is so much love in this room.

0:24:480:24:51

Well done. I'm so proud of you. Well done.

0:24:510:24:54

There are churches, there are religious groups like this

0:24:540:24:57

that accept everyone.

0:24:570:24:59

-Oh, you were so good!

-Thank you. I appreciate that.

0:24:590:25:03

Does it affect how you are outside of this building,

0:25:030:25:06

what happened today?

0:25:060:25:07

I'm going to remember everyone standing up and just accepting me

0:25:070:25:11

-and think fuck it.

-THEY LAUGH

0:25:110:25:14

I've got a community so it doesn't matter

0:25:140:25:16

what people think of me any more outside of this community.

0:25:160:25:18

And I feel better in my own skin.

0:25:180:25:21

-Well done.

-Thank you.

0:25:210:25:22

-And thanks for coming.

-My pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

0:25:220:25:25

-What a special day to be part of.

-Yeah.

0:25:250:25:28

I claim a faith, yeah.

0:25:310:25:33

I tend to shy away from the word religious

0:25:330:25:35

because I think it has a lot of negative connotations.

0:25:350:25:38

I've identified as Christian in the past, but not any more.

0:25:380:25:43

I don't really feel like it has a place in my life.

0:25:430:25:47

No, I'm spiritual

0:25:470:25:48

because religion has caused many problems in the world.

0:25:480:25:51

But the truth of the matter is the Bible says God is love.

0:25:510:25:55

I identify as a spiritual person

0:25:550:25:57

who appreciates lots of different religions.

0:25:570:26:01

I know what I believe in,

0:26:010:26:03

I know who I believe in,

0:26:030:26:05

and I try and do right by that.

0:26:050:26:07

Everything that I've prayed for, I've got.

0:26:070:26:11

I caught up with former Jehovah's Witness Josh

0:26:130:26:16

in his new life.

0:26:160:26:17

I'm here in his new home, his new habitat, if you like,

0:26:170:26:21

to see what he's like as a young, open, free, gay man

0:26:210:26:25

in the middle of East London.

0:26:250:26:27

And of course I've brought some beverages.

0:26:270:26:29

I've always been told by my mother,

0:26:290:26:31

"Never arrive to a party with swinging hands."

0:26:310:26:34

-Hey!

-Hi!

-How you doing?

-How you doing?

0:26:410:26:43

-Good to see you again. You OK?

-Oh, my God, look at your flat!

0:26:430:26:45

-I know, can you believe it?

-It's gorgeous.

0:26:450:26:47

-It's actually clean for once.

-Can I move in?

-Sure.

0:26:470:26:51

I love your interior design. Sorry, that's the gay in me coming out.

0:26:510:26:54

THEY LAUGH

0:26:540:26:55

-So, you know what we're doing tonight?

-I'm actually not sure.

0:26:550:26:59

-I've never been, like, "out" out in East London.

-OK.

0:26:590:27:03

What am I going to have to...?

0:27:030:27:04

So, we're going to this bar called The Glory tonight.

0:27:040:27:07

It's a gay bar and it's quite unique.

0:27:070:27:11

I've found people here now that have become my new family,

0:27:110:27:15

that have taken me under their wing,

0:27:150:27:16

that have kind of made friends with me and said, "Look, Josh,

0:27:160:27:19

"if you need us at any time, we're here for you."

0:27:190:27:22

And I think that's really important, like, in the ongoing process.

0:27:220:27:27

Because it's not ended yet for me.

0:27:270:27:29

You know, there's still a process

0:27:290:27:32

that I need to go through continually

0:27:320:27:35

to carry on figuring myself out,

0:27:350:27:37

and, I guess, figuring what is going on in my head.

0:27:370:27:42

-BOTH:

-Cheers.

-God, you're really pulling out all the stops.

0:27:420:27:44

Look into the eyes when you "cheers"

0:27:440:27:46

-otherwise it's...

-BOTH:

-Seven years of bad sex.

0:27:460:27:48

THEY LAUGH Look at me here!

0:27:480:27:50

-Oh, yeah!

-Yeah, that's good.

-That's good.

-That's really good.

0:27:500:27:53

Time for Josh to show me what his new life has to offer.

0:27:550:27:59

MUSIC: Comfortably Numb by Scissor Sisters

0:27:590:28:01

# Gotta keep it going through the show

0:28:010:28:03

# C'mon, it's time to go

0:28:030:28:04

# Gotta keep it going through the show

0:28:040:28:07

# C'mon, it's time to go

0:28:070:28:08

# Gotta keep it going through the show

0:28:080:28:10

-# C'mon, it's time to go

-CHEERING

0:28:100:28:13

# Gotta keep it going through the show

0:28:130:28:15

# C'mon, it's time to go... #

0:28:150:28:17

The environment that I was raised as a Jonas Jehovah's Witness,

0:28:170:28:20

it was very controlled.

0:28:200:28:22

You know, you're expected to be the person that they wanted you to be.

0:28:220:28:26

I can be myself here.

0:28:260:28:28

In my hometown, I felt trapped, I felt lost.

0:28:280:28:32

# Ah-ha

0:28:320:28:34

# OK

0:28:340:28:35

# It's just a little pin prick... #

0:28:370:28:39

Is it possible to be both a gay man and devout to your religion?

0:28:390:28:45

Whatever that religion may be, can you have both in the same world?

0:28:450:28:48

For my particular religion, I don't think it's possible.

0:28:480:28:52

I think it is possible, however, to be gay and take religious values

0:28:520:28:58

from the Bible and to apply them in your life.

0:28:580:29:01

But for a particular religion like Jehovah's Witnesses...

0:29:010:29:06

..I think it's impossible to lead two lives at the same time.

0:29:070:29:11

# Ah-ha, ah-ha... #

0:29:130:29:15

Look, of course an LGBT person can have faith,

0:29:150:29:18

but how they choose to live in that faith and practise it

0:29:180:29:21

is an extremely personal thing.

0:29:210:29:24

Does God really hate queers?

0:29:240:29:26

I don't think so.

0:29:270:29:29

# Comfortably numb. #

0:29:290:29:31

YouTuber and journalist Riyadh Khalaf gets under the skin of queer culture and shines a light on the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community.

Riyadh meets a disfellowed Jehovah's Witness, a Muslim woman seeking a marriage of convenience and transmasculine Christian Elijah as he is renamed in church.