Preference or Prejudice? Queer Britain


Preference or Prejudice?

Riyadh Khalaf explores casual racism in the LGBTQ+ community and discusses when preference becomes prejudice.


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Transcript


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I was pretty shocked to discover that up to 80% of black and ethnic

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minority men have experienced some form of racism on the gay scene.

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So is the LGBT community really racist?

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-Absolutely.

-A lot of gay men, especially in the dating world,

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will only go for white guys.

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There's a big divide between

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anybody who is of colour and the white gays.

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It is an overarching theme across the whole community that it's

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kind of, like, there's a hierarchy of race.

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For a community that is meant to be so loving and supporting of

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one another, we knock each other back.

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This programme contains some strong language and some scenes of a sexual nature

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The most visible place for this casual racism is on the online dating apps.

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My good friend Abdul has experienced this first hand.

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I wanted to bring you here because I know there are differences between

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what you get online and what I get online.

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Yeah, of course. Yeah, yeah.

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Although I'm white, I'm Riyadh Khalaf.

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People don't like that name...

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Some people are like... They think I'm proper Middle Eastern and they

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don't like it. They go, "Oh, hey, sand monkey, what's up?"

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-Do you get that?

-Yeah!

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-Sand monkey?!

-Sand monkey.

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Yeah. Has someone ever turned you away because of your colour?

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-Oh, my God, yeah.

-Really?!

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Oh. You'd be writing, you know, you get to the whole...

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You're looking through, "Oh, you're cute..."

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-"Hey, how's it going?"

-Yeah.

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"Sorry, not into black guys."

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The funny thing is, you've had it done to you so much, but I know,

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being your mate, that you have a very specific type.

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Of course. We all have a type.

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I want to have a look at this

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thing online. It's a list of the worst screenshots of Grindr.

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This guy says, "To the tune of Head, Shoulders, Knees And Toes..."

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I can't believe I'm about to...

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# Dumb and blind and deaf and gay, blacks, pakis, gooks and nips. #

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-"White only."

-Let's see.

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Imagine taking the time...

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-..to compose that.

-I don't even find that funny.

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Read that...

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Do you know what I would do?

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Now, this is me being literally so childish, right?

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I would write to him.

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I think he's actually attractive, so I'd go, "Oh, OK. Hi."

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-So you're going to try and flip him.

-Yeah. OK, next person.

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Oh.

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Oh, my God.

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-I would block that person.

-You were willing to talk to the other guy

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-earlier.

-Yeah, because he said, "No offence, I'm not into blacks,"

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so for me, that's a preference.

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He's not saying he doesn't like them, to my understanding, reading it.

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This isn't, "Like them, but no offence, I'm not interested,

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-"that's not what I'm here looking for."

-What's the difference, then?

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So, basically, this is definitely just prejudiced and just racist.

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Like, blatantly racist.

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-Completely.

-OK.

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-Would a guy like this ever say to you in person...?

-In person, right? Good question.

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Doubt it. The app is giving you that platform to do that.

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People who are racist can be more vocal on there,

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people who have preferences can actually say, "Hey..."

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And there's a fine line between the two.

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I used to be shocked by the racism and the prejudice,

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and now it's a normal thing.

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Every second profile has some form of hatred, prejudice,

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or preference.

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-"Preference."

-It's like... I don't know. Anyway...

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"Black man for white men only, and white men for black cock only."

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They say that. Like, they say it.

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Yeah, I've been purely rejected on being an Indian guy, which is bizarre.

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It's overt casual racism, but it's OK,

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because it's within the confines of our community,

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and I don't accept that.

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This morning I've travelled up to Birmingham to meet this young, gay,

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Asian man called Manjinder.

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He's experienced his own level of racism within the gay community,

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and he's going to tell me exactly what that was like for him.

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I was raised in Birmingham, in a Sikh family.

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In Asian families, even before the child is conceived, the parents

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think about their life and career and the marriage of their child.

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I had a lot of pressure to be straight.

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I never knew that you could be gay and south Asian.

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It just didn't cross my mind.

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I thought I was going to move to London, I was going to meet the man of my dreams straight away.

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Every profile I looked at kept saying the same thing - "No fems,

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"no fats, no Asians, no blacks."

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And I just thought, "Oh, my God."

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Like, the people who I thought would we would be accepting were blatantly

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saying that they're not interested.

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So I just thought, "What will become of me?"

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Is this is where you grew up?

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This is my local area, yeah.

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-Is it?

-It's very Asian.

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It is, isn't it? Look at the saris.

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It's very colourful. What was it like growing up here?

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Very heterosexual, very hetero-normative.

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I never ever saw anyone who was gay.

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So what was it like being, essentially, the only gay in the village?

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-It was horrifying.

-Really?

-I felt like no-one would understand.

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I felt like, if I didn't break free and run away from here,

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I'd just be sucked into that lifestyle that was imagined for me

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before I was born.

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-So you did come out? What happened?

-Yeah, I just thought, what's the point of being gay?

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I might as well be straight. And then it took me a lot of depression

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and suicidal thoughts that made me SMS my parents.

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-I just texted them.

-A text?

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Yes. And they're immigrants and they don't even speak English,

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and my poor sister had to read it out and explain it to them.

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In the morning I woke up and I was going to work,

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and I'd received all these text messages and e-mails, missed calls,

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and my sister wrote, "Don't worry,

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"they love you and accept you as you are. It's OK."

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-What a beautiful moment.

-And then my mum phoned, but the thing is,

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their education was so less that they thought I was going to become

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a woman, they thought I was being transgender.

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"Do you still have a penis? Are you going to wear saris now?"

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All these questions. Then they took me to the doctor.

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He was lovely. He said, "It's natural, you can't change it, it's fine."

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-Wow.

-And this was a Sikh person telling my Sikh parents.

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Wonderful. Then they took me to the local temple over there.

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Why did they not take his guidance?

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-They wanted...

-They still wanted to see if there was a chance, right?

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So they took me to the local Sikh temple.

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The main guy at that temple is very liberal-minded, and he said,

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"God created him like this, and you can't change him, and that's fine."

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And that gave my mum all the reassurance she needed.

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But they were afraid of what other people were going to say,

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and they even suggested that I have a sham marriage.

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They said that, "Marry someone from India, a woman,

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"and basically pretend.

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"Have the baby, but still do your thing on the side."

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And I refused.

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You then found yourself as a gay man out there in this big gay world.

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-How did it greet you?

-I used to be the only Asian person in

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the gay clubs in central London. I felt like an outsider.

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For the first time, I felt like, you know what, I'm different.

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You know? Growing up here, you can tell, you know, I look like everyone else.

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Different to what you expected, then?

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Yeah, I thought the gay community, because you had been marginalised already,

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you'll be more accepting to all people, but it wasn't like that.

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And then someone told me to go on a dating app site,

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and I went on there and I searched.

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Every profile, one after the other, said...

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"Sorry, this is not my racism, it's just preference."

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Over and over again. I tallied them up, there was like thousands of them,

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and they just made me feel really, really unwanted,

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and just, like, worthless.

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Just made me feel like I wasn't good enough at all.

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And there was something wrong with me, something that I couldn't change.

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Cos, obviously, you can't change your skin colour.

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It just made me feel that life was pointless.

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Manjinder has experienced first-hand rejection simply down to the colour

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of his skin from an anonymous, but all the same,

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very, very vocal online gay community.

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I mean, everyone knows this is going on.

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So why isn't it being called out?

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So I've just come across this guy online, Alexander.

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I'm about to speak to him. He's the author a book called

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The True Confessions Of A Potato Queen.

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Now, I don't know what that means.

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Does it mean he's in love with Irish guys, perhaps?

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I've heard of rice queens, curry queens, but a potato queen?

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SKYPE RINGS

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-Alexander?

-Hello.

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-Lovely to meet you.

-Lovely meeting you, too.

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Boy, you are gorgeous.

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Oh, thank you very much!

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Do you know what, Alexander? That leads me on to my first question.

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-Yeah.

-What's a potato queen?

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A potato queen is actually a gay,

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Asian male who will only date white guys, so that's me,

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and I'm a big one, actually.

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What is it about white men in particular

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that you think is so incredible?

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I believe that the white race is the superior one,

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and I love being with a white guy primarily because of that.

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And also because he's got a powerful, big cock that I love.

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Once you go white, nothing else seems right.

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Some people would call that a little bit racist.

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No. It's not me.

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It's a preference, actually.

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At what point does it turn from a preference to a prejudice?

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Is there a change point?

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I would say a preference and a prejudice is actually a very thin line.

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It becomes a prejudice when you actually become rude to somebody.

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What do you think about listing out the preferences on a dating app?

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Is that hurtful or is that helpful?

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In my opinion, I think that's really helpful,

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because you are just being honest.

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You know, like, you can tell me

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what you really want and who you are and what your preferences are.

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And don't waste my time.

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A lot of times,

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people consistently are being held back because they are afraid

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of other people's opinions.

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Well, listen up, guys...

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If that person does not feed you,

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if they do not fuck you or finance you,

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their opinions does not matter to you.

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What's wrong with you? Just live your life.

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Alexander, it been an absolute pleasure chatting to you.

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Thank you. I feel exactly the same.

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-Thank you for...

-You're a real character. Bye. Bye.

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You're discounting a whole race of people based on the colour of their skin.

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Sometimes it's passed off as preferences, like,

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"Oh, this is my preference."

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But actually, if you're being offensive, then that's just wrong.

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People who say, "This is my preference,"

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I'm sorry, but you're a victim of our society's racial prejudices.

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Black man, big cock.

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There's more to me than that, you know.

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You're black, so you're only good in bed,

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but you're not actually good to be in a relationship with.

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Black people have to be thugs or, like, big muscular men,

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and Asians are meant to be all loose and feminine,

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and all that kind of thing.

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You were saying that you've got these stereotypes in your head...

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-Yeah.

-..to do with each different race.

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You know, black men with the big willies, and Asian men with

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little willies and being submissive and stuff.

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Do guys just presume that you are going to have a massive dick?

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Mm-hmm. I get asked that all the time.

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So, I just want to see, does it come from porn, these stereotypes?

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The title is Tight Asian Boy Hole.

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So the Asian guy is very, very skinny, and you've got this big, muscly,

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Adonis-looking older white guy.

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-He's putting it in!

-Oh.

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He is in pain.

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Aggressive. Someone's going to go to hospital.

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-Are they going to flip?

-If they do, that's going to be...

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No.

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OK. I'm done with that one.

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Asian Twinkie Getting Fucked Bareback Style.

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So we have this Asian guy touching himself.

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And now this older, white guy...

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-What did I say to you, again?

-Yeah. It always an older white guy and a younger Asian fella.

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-Mm-hmm.

-Every single one, the Asian guy is the submissive.

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-Yeah.

-What do you think a young gay is going to get when they

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watch this for the first time?

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If you watch this, you think that is what it is,

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so Asians are supposed to be submissive.

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That's what you are brainwashed to believe.

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Let's move on to your boys.

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-I'm scared.

-That can't be real.

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-It is.

-That's like a trunk off an elephant.

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So we've got this incredibly tall, superhuman man, and he's black.

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Like, every part of him is huge.

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His penis is inhuman.

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HE GASPS

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-See, that makes me feel shit.

-What is that?

-That makes me feel shit, cos I'm like, shit,

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I want to look like that now.

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You want to look like that or you think you're supposed to look like that?

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When you watch these things over and over again, at that time,

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it stays in your head,

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so over time you have to live up to what you've watched.

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-Yeah...

-We are learning.

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Sex education all in one!

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But this is the shit they don't teach you in school.

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There is no gay sex taught,

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but then also there's not the complexities taught of,

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oh, you know, these are the hurdles you're going to have to jump over

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simply because you've got pigmentation in your skin.

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It's true that representations of racial stereotypes can be damaging,

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but what's the impact of finding no representation at all?

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I grew up in Walthamstow, which is a town in north London.

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I came out as a lesbian aged 19.

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When I came out and I first went out on the scene, I'm not going to lie,

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I was very scared.

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There wasn't really any lesbians that looked like me.

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I realised that not only did I have to focus on my race,

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I also had to look after my sexuality as well.

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As a black lesbian woman, I do feel like I am a triple minority.

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Casual racism on the gay scene is very obvious,

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and it favours being a gay white male.

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But I want to know if the same is felt within the lesbian community.

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-Hi! Nice to meet you.

-Nice to meet you, come in.

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Thanks for having me.

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From an outsider's perspective,

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it might look like the LGBT community is super-inclusive, super-liberal,

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would you agree or disagree with that?

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It's inclusive to a point.

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I got out there and I was like, "Lesbians, oh, my God, lesbians."

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-A kid in the playground!

-Exactly, like some sort of

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Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, "Lesbians, lesbians, lesbians."

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And I was like, "Oh, my God, they are all so beautiful."

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OK.

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"Try and act normal, try and act like a lesbian, dancing, whatever."

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And you don't realise it at first but afterwards,

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when you go out a lot and then you can see the segregation.

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As soon as you walk in, if you look on one side and you see, I don't know,

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a group of black lesbians being there and then you go on to another side

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and you see a mixed group of lesbians and then another side,

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you see a white group of lesbians and then you've got other lesbians

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on the side, the Jessie J lesbians, the waistcoat lesbians.

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What's a waistcoat lesbian?

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A waistcoat lesbian is a lesbian who wears a waistcoat.

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Oh, that makes sense, yes!

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LAUGHTER

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Would you call them more butch?

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Oh, yeah. But most lesbian kind of things are more leaning towards,

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I don't know, normal white women.

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I came out at 19,

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there was no whatsoever black lesbian woman I could look at

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and be like, "Yeah, she's on TV, I want to be like her."

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You look to people who you can, I don't know,

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relate to and I think personally for me,

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until I went to uni or was in secondary school I didn't realise

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about the fact that, you know,

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there isn't a representation of race for certain things,

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and one of them definitely is the representation of a black lesbian.

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With no role models to look up to,

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I was intrigued to see how Sherelle's identity developed.

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-It's so steep!

-I know, I'm sorry!

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Got friends that we sleep with.

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I was looking around for a couple of other lesbians,

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you're talking about these!

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These are my lesbians!

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They're very cute.

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How does your race affect how you dress?

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Unfortunately, with being black, there is some sort of hyper-sensitivity

0:17:130:17:18

around us. I don't want to come across too,

0:17:180:17:21

you know, kind of unapproachable.

0:17:210:17:23

Can I have a little look inside your wardrobe?

0:17:230:17:25

Yeah, so this, I used to wear this a lot and brought it back recently.

0:17:250:17:31

-What does it say?

-Jackson's Tour, 1984.

0:17:310:17:36

I might try this on, is that OK?

0:17:360:17:37

Yes, you can, of course!

0:17:370:17:40

I really love bomber jackets.

0:17:400:17:41

-It's cute.

-It's got shiny stuff on it.

0:17:410:17:43

That's one of my favourites, I used to wear that a lot.

0:17:430:17:45

It's cute on you. It's really cute.

0:17:450:17:48

Oh, you look lovely!

0:17:480:17:49

To know what is really funny, like looking in your wardrobe...

0:17:490:17:53

It really looks like my wardrobe.

0:17:540:17:55

I bet it does!

0:17:550:17:56

Is there a bit of crossover here between white gay and black lesbian?

0:17:560:17:59

Do you know what, that doesn't surprise me.

0:17:590:18:02

I've got like five of these.

0:18:020:18:04

Oh, yes, that's not even all of them, hon, honestly.

0:18:040:18:06

I've got one I think exactly like this.

0:18:060:18:08

People look at me and go, "Boy or girl, boy or girl?

0:18:080:18:11

"Boy or girl?

0:18:110:18:12

"Girl."

0:18:120:18:14

Would you say the image of the lesbian that you are kind of

0:18:150:18:18

modelling yourself on was more a white lesbian woman?

0:18:180:18:21

Yeah, of course. I had really, really straightened hair.

0:18:210:18:25

I had medium-length hair with a fringe and I cut this aspect off...

0:18:250:18:30

I'd love to see pictures of that.

0:18:300:18:31

Oh, of course. I've got a whole evolution.

0:18:310:18:34

This is the archetypal straight-hair Sherelle.

0:18:350:18:40

Kind of One Direction.

0:18:400:18:41

-Oh, don't.

-I'm sorry.

0:18:410:18:43

Union J, much better!

0:18:430:18:46

-I think you look cute.

-Yeah, it is cute, but it wasn't me...

0:18:460:18:49

-It wasn't you, no.

-Yeah.

0:18:490:18:51

Why did you feel the need to straighten your hair?

0:18:510:18:53

It was one of those hairstyles that could make me more approachable

0:18:530:18:56

because a white lesbian over there had it.

0:18:560:18:59

My fashion sense was literally bouncing in and out between

0:18:590:19:04

from gay men all the way to, like, a butch, lesbian black woman.

0:19:040:19:09

The masculinity kind of brings me back into normality.

0:19:090:19:13

But then you shaved it all off.

0:19:130:19:15

The moment you put the razor down and it was all gone, how did you feel?

0:19:150:19:18

Like it was the best thing I had ever done.

0:19:180:19:20

I had got rid of this person that wasn't me, who was making me very,

0:19:230:19:28

very sad. It's a very strong thing from a black woman's perspective

0:19:280:19:33

to have no hair, because it's like, "This is me."

0:19:330:19:36

I wanted to find out about Sherelle's experience of being in a

0:19:380:19:41

relationship with her white girlfriend.

0:19:410:19:44

So how long have you two been dating?

0:19:480:19:50

Um, two years.

0:19:500:19:52

In lesbian years, that's a week, isn't it?

0:19:520:19:54

Well, yes.

0:19:540:19:56

Do you often walk holding hands like this?

0:19:580:20:01

I'm always worried about holding hands.

0:20:010:20:04

We live near Peckham and I think sometimes I get worried about

0:20:040:20:07

holding her hand in Peckham because, obviously,

0:20:070:20:09

it's quite a large black community and I don't want to offend them.

0:20:090:20:12

When you started your relationship, it's an interracial relationship,

0:20:120:20:16

were there things that started to happen that you didn't expect would

0:20:160:20:19

-happen?

-Some people don't agree with interracial relationships in the

0:20:190:20:22

first place. Some people don't agree with us being gay.

0:20:220:20:24

We do get a lot of comments based on how we look together.

0:20:240:20:28

"Oh, my God, you guys are so cute together," and stuff like that.

0:20:280:20:32

-Cute interracial couple.

-Cute interracial couple?

0:20:320:20:36

-They say it like that?!

-They do, we've had someone who's just been,..

0:20:360:20:38

"You're the cutest interracial couple I've ever seen," or something like that.

0:20:380:20:41

-I'm like, "Thanks!"

-Instead of just a cute couple.

0:20:410:20:44

-Yeah.

-Interracial couples do go through the fact that people are

0:20:440:20:48

constantly judging them based on race, based on sexuality,

0:20:480:20:52

based on how they dress, what they pass for.

0:20:520:20:55

-It's just bizarre.

-Will it ever change? Will it get better?

-Yeah.

0:20:550:20:59

I think it will definitely get better, just with time,

0:20:590:21:02

with people breaking down those barriers of, you know,

0:21:020:21:05

what it means to be, I don't know,

0:21:050:21:06

a black lesbian or what it means to be in an interracial relationship.

0:21:060:21:10

So for people of colour in the LGBT community,

0:21:160:21:19

it's representation that's the issue.

0:21:190:21:22

And that could mean anything from the negative stereotypes that appear

0:21:220:21:25

in porn to how they are overlooked and absent in the media.

0:21:250:21:29

What we need is black role models, black, gay role models.

0:21:290:21:32

I think I've picked up Diva magazine once...

0:21:320:21:35

..and I probably saw about three black people in the whole magazine.

0:21:370:21:40

Where is the sexy Asian man?

0:21:400:21:42

That's what I need to start seeing, that's what I want to see.

0:21:420:21:45

Cos I don't feel like I'm represented in the mainstream media.

0:21:450:21:49

Definitely I'm not represented in LGBT media.

0:21:490:21:51

So I've come to lovely Camden to meet a lady called Sadie.

0:21:550:21:58

She runs a black and ethnic minority cabaret night called Cocoa Butter

0:21:580:22:01

and it's going to be interesting for me to be the minority

0:22:010:22:06

at a club night for the first time. I'm excited.

0:22:060:22:08

I am in love with this place already.

0:22:110:22:13

I just walked in and there is a pile of glitter that's been swept up.

0:22:130:22:17

It can only mean fun!

0:22:170:22:19

My kind of place!

0:22:190:22:21

Wow!

0:22:240:22:26

-Are you Sadie?

-Yes.

0:22:260:22:27

Hi, I'm Riyadh.

0:22:270:22:30

Why are BAME nights so important?

0:22:300:22:34

They allow us to see each other and because we're so few and far between

0:22:340:22:39

in the gay community, when we have these spaces they feel very safe,

0:22:390:22:43

they feel like home.

0:22:430:22:44

And I'm really hoping tonight,

0:22:460:22:48

you will see first-hand how the Cocoa Butter club, it's a movement,

0:22:480:22:52

it's a church, a religion,

0:22:520:22:54

because we're celebrating ourselves and that's what you should do.

0:22:540:22:58

What kind of stuff am I going to see here tonight that I wouldn't see

0:22:580:23:01

in a mainstream cabaret night?

0:23:010:23:03

Some unapologetic black performances,

0:23:030:23:06

unapologetic Asian performances where we're not concerned about

0:23:060:23:10

biting our tongues so that we don't offend.

0:23:100:23:14

So I might be a little bit offended, is that what you're saying?

0:23:140:23:16

Yeah, it might be a bit like, "What, why was that like that?"

0:23:160:23:20

Yo, vanilla face!

0:23:200:23:21

-Yo, Snowflake!

-It's just like there might be some home truths which you

0:23:230:23:29

might not be aware of, and may definitely not have been ready to hear.

0:23:290:23:33

Aha.

0:23:330:23:35

Full stop.

0:23:350:23:37

We'll leave it there. I don't want to ruin it for myself.

0:23:370:23:39

I am ready for this. Are you going to get all glammed up?

0:23:390:23:42

Oh, you wait!

0:23:420:23:43

CHEERING

0:23:590:24:01

Welcome to the Cocoa Butter club.

0:24:030:24:05

I wanted to start the show with everyone just having a good old laugh.

0:24:050:24:09

Give me a good old giggle because life is tough, trust me.

0:24:090:24:13

I'm black, I'm a woman and I'm queer, I really know that life is tough.

0:24:130:24:18

Life is really freaking hard, OK.

0:24:180:24:22

Welcome to the stage, My Auntie!

0:24:220:24:26

Hello, my darlings!

0:24:260:24:28

Does anybody in this room know what is an auntie?

0:24:300:24:32

You know an auntie?

0:24:320:24:34

African auntie, my mum's friends.

0:24:340:24:37

An auntie is a woman who is over 40

0:24:400:24:44

and is willing to beat a child!

0:24:440:24:47

Do you normally jump up on stage that easily?

0:25:080:25:10

I just love dancing and the energy of the evening was so beautiful,

0:25:100:25:13

I just wanted to feel it, feel it through.

0:25:130:25:15

People were unapologetic about their performances and just super

0:25:150:25:18

uninhibited and just really owning their identities fully and completely,

0:25:180:25:23

just gave me so much courage to just feel really good tonight

0:25:230:25:27

and actually be part of it.

0:25:270:25:29

Have you ever experienced racism yourself?

0:25:310:25:33

-Definitely, yes.

-In what sense?

0:25:330:25:36

I think that there's a weird sense of like racial hierarchy that comes

0:25:360:25:40

from beauty standards that are defined by Eurocentrism and that

0:25:400:25:44

I think I have personally experienced.

0:25:440:25:46

What can we do as a community to kind of stamp out or try and lessen

0:25:460:25:51

that everyday racism that seems to exist?

0:25:510:25:54

We need to, like, start actively having conversations about why

0:25:540:25:58

things are the way they are and understanding that there is no shame

0:25:580:26:01

on the individual level but it's like this collective historical dynamic that needs

0:26:010:26:06

to be talked about and addressed and I think that this night is just a

0:26:060:26:10

perfect example of those things happening in a way that is fresh

0:26:100:26:13

and free and open.

0:26:130:26:14

-Do you think I'm welcome?

-You are if you're not racist, yes!

0:26:140:26:18

Great, I don't think I am!

0:26:180:26:19

-Yay!

-Love for everyone!

0:26:190:26:23

# What is the pain?

0:26:230:26:25

# So what, I do the same... #

0:26:250:26:27

Through this entire process I have met some incredible people who have

0:26:270:26:31

all experienced some form of racism from within the LGBT community,

0:26:310:26:36

adding another layer of separation in a community that should be coming

0:26:360:26:40

together with the common goal of acceptance and equality.

0:26:400:26:43

Change is absolutely possible,

0:26:430:26:46

but it's got to start with all of us.

0:26:460:26:48

# Oh, I wanna dance with somebody

0:26:500:26:54

# I wanna feel the heat with somebody

0:26:540:26:58

# Yeah, I wanna dance with somebody

0:26:580:27:03

# With somebody who loves me... #

0:27:030:27:06

This is a celebration of yourself.

0:27:090:27:12

Thank you. Thank you.

0:27:140:27:17

From a mixed-race household with Middle Eastern and Irish heritage, Riyadh knows first-hand how judgemental the gay community online can be. He explores casual racism in the LGBTQ+ community and discusses when preference becomes prejudice.