Riyadh Khalaf explores casual racism in the LGBTQ+ community and discusses when preference becomes prejudice.
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I was pretty shocked to discover that up to 80% of black and ethnic
minority men have experienced some form of racism on the gay scene.
So is the LGBT community really racist?
-A lot of gay men, especially in the dating world,
will only go for white guys.
There's a big divide between
anybody who is of colour and the white gays.
It is an overarching theme across the whole community that it's
kind of, like, there's a hierarchy of race.
For a community that is meant to be so loving and supporting of
one another, we knock each other back.
This programme contains some strong language and some scenes of a sexual nature
The most visible place for this casual racism is on the online dating apps.
My good friend Abdul has experienced this first hand.
I wanted to bring you here because I know there are differences between
what you get online and what I get online.
Yeah, of course. Yeah, yeah.
Although I'm white, I'm Riyadh Khalaf.
People don't like that name...
Some people are like... They think I'm proper Middle Eastern and they
don't like it. They go, "Oh, hey, sand monkey, what's up?"
-Do you get that?
Yeah. Has someone ever turned you away because of your colour?
-Oh, my God, yeah.
Oh. You'd be writing, you know, you get to the whole...
You're looking through, "Oh, you're cute..."
-"Hey, how's it going?"
"Sorry, not into black guys."
The funny thing is, you've had it done to you so much, but I know,
being your mate, that you have a very specific type.
Of course. We all have a type.
I want to have a look at this
thing online. It's a list of the worst screenshots of Grindr.
This guy says, "To the tune of Head, Shoulders, Knees And Toes..."
I can't believe I'm about to...
# Dumb and blind and deaf and gay, blacks, pakis, gooks and nips. #
Imagine taking the time...
-..to compose that.
-I don't even find that funny.
Do you know what I would do?
Now, this is me being literally so childish, right?
I would write to him.
I think he's actually attractive, so I'd go, "Oh, OK. Hi."
-So you're going to try and flip him.
-Yeah. OK, next person.
Oh, my God.
-I would block that person.
-You were willing to talk to the other guy
-Yeah, because he said, "No offence, I'm not into blacks,"
so for me, that's a preference.
He's not saying he doesn't like them, to my understanding, reading it.
This isn't, "Like them, but no offence, I'm not interested,
-"that's not what I'm here looking for."
-What's the difference, then?
So, basically, this is definitely just prejudiced and just racist.
Like, blatantly racist.
-Would a guy like this ever say to you in person...?
-In person, right? Good question.
Doubt it. The app is giving you that platform to do that.
People who are racist can be more vocal on there,
people who have preferences can actually say, "Hey..."
And there's a fine line between the two.
I used to be shocked by the racism and the prejudice,
and now it's a normal thing.
Every second profile has some form of hatred, prejudice,
-It's like... I don't know. Anyway...
"Black man for white men only, and white men for black cock only."
They say that. Like, they say it.
Yeah, I've been purely rejected on being an Indian guy, which is bizarre.
It's overt casual racism, but it's OK,
because it's within the confines of our community,
and I don't accept that.
This morning I've travelled up to Birmingham to meet this young, gay,
Asian man called Manjinder.
He's experienced his own level of racism within the gay community,
and he's going to tell me exactly what that was like for him.
I was raised in Birmingham, in a Sikh family.
In Asian families, even before the child is conceived, the parents
think about their life and career and the marriage of their child.
I had a lot of pressure to be straight.
I never knew that you could be gay and south Asian.
It just didn't cross my mind.
I thought I was going to move to London, I was going to meet the man of my dreams straight away.
Every profile I looked at kept saying the same thing - "No fems,
"no fats, no Asians, no blacks."
And I just thought, "Oh, my God."
Like, the people who I thought would we would be accepting were blatantly
saying that they're not interested.
So I just thought, "What will become of me?"
Is this is where you grew up?
This is my local area, yeah.
-It's very Asian.
It is, isn't it? Look at the saris.
It's very colourful. What was it like growing up here?
Very heterosexual, very hetero-normative.
I never ever saw anyone who was gay.
So what was it like being, essentially, the only gay in the village?
-It was horrifying.
-I felt like no-one would understand.
I felt like, if I didn't break free and run away from here,
I'd just be sucked into that lifestyle that was imagined for me
before I was born.
-So you did come out? What happened?
-Yeah, I just thought, what's the point of being gay?
I might as well be straight. And then it took me a lot of depression
and suicidal thoughts that made me SMS my parents.
-I just texted them.
Yes. And they're immigrants and they don't even speak English,
and my poor sister had to read it out and explain it to them.
In the morning I woke up and I was going to work,
and I'd received all these text messages and e-mails, missed calls,
and my sister wrote, "Don't worry,
"they love you and accept you as you are. It's OK."
-What a beautiful moment.
-And then my mum phoned, but the thing is,
their education was so less that they thought I was going to become
a woman, they thought I was being transgender.
"Do you still have a penis? Are you going to wear saris now?"
All these questions. Then they took me to the doctor.
He was lovely. He said, "It's natural, you can't change it, it's fine."
-And this was a Sikh person telling my Sikh parents.
Wonderful. Then they took me to the local temple over there.
Why did they not take his guidance?
-They still wanted to see if there was a chance, right?
So they took me to the local Sikh temple.
The main guy at that temple is very liberal-minded, and he said,
"God created him like this, and you can't change him, and that's fine."
And that gave my mum all the reassurance she needed.
But they were afraid of what other people were going to say,
and they even suggested that I have a sham marriage.
They said that, "Marry someone from India, a woman,
"and basically pretend.
"Have the baby, but still do your thing on the side."
And I refused.
You then found yourself as a gay man out there in this big gay world.
-How did it greet you?
-I used to be the only Asian person in
the gay clubs in central London. I felt like an outsider.
For the first time, I felt like, you know what, I'm different.
You know? Growing up here, you can tell, you know, I look like everyone else.
Different to what you expected, then?
Yeah, I thought the gay community, because you had been marginalised already,
you'll be more accepting to all people, but it wasn't like that.
And then someone told me to go on a dating app site,
and I went on there and I searched.
Every profile, one after the other, said...
"Sorry, this is not my racism, it's just preference."
Over and over again. I tallied them up, there was like thousands of them,
and they just made me feel really, really unwanted,
and just, like, worthless.
Just made me feel like I wasn't good enough at all.
And there was something wrong with me, something that I couldn't change.
Cos, obviously, you can't change your skin colour.
It just made me feel that life was pointless.
Manjinder has experienced first-hand rejection simply down to the colour
of his skin from an anonymous, but all the same,
very, very vocal online gay community.
I mean, everyone knows this is going on.
So why isn't it being called out?
So I've just come across this guy online, Alexander.
I'm about to speak to him. He's the author a book called
The True Confessions Of A Potato Queen.
Now, I don't know what that means.
Does it mean he's in love with Irish guys, perhaps?
I've heard of rice queens, curry queens, but a potato queen?
-Lovely to meet you.
-Lovely meeting you, too.
Boy, you are gorgeous.
Oh, thank you very much!
Do you know what, Alexander? That leads me on to my first question.
-What's a potato queen?
A potato queen is actually a gay,
Asian male who will only date white guys, so that's me,
and I'm a big one, actually.
What is it about white men in particular
that you think is so incredible?
I believe that the white race is the superior one,
and I love being with a white guy primarily because of that.
And also because he's got a powerful, big cock that I love.
Once you go white, nothing else seems right.
Some people would call that a little bit racist.
No. It's not me.
It's a preference, actually.
At what point does it turn from a preference to a prejudice?
Is there a change point?
I would say a preference and a prejudice is actually a very thin line.
It becomes a prejudice when you actually become rude to somebody.
What do you think about listing out the preferences on a dating app?
Is that hurtful or is that helpful?
In my opinion, I think that's really helpful,
because you are just being honest.
You know, like, you can tell me
what you really want and who you are and what your preferences are.
And don't waste my time.
A lot of times,
people consistently are being held back because they are afraid
of other people's opinions.
Well, listen up, guys...
If that person does not feed you,
if they do not fuck you or finance you,
their opinions does not matter to you.
What's wrong with you? Just live your life.
Alexander, it been an absolute pleasure chatting to you.
Thank you. I feel exactly the same.
-Thank you for...
-You're a real character. Bye. Bye.
You're discounting a whole race of people based on the colour of their skin.
Sometimes it's passed off as preferences, like,
"Oh, this is my preference."
But actually, if you're being offensive, then that's just wrong.
People who say, "This is my preference,"
I'm sorry, but you're a victim of our society's racial prejudices.
Black man, big cock.
There's more to me than that, you know.
You're black, so you're only good in bed,
but you're not actually good to be in a relationship with.
Black people have to be thugs or, like, big muscular men,
and Asians are meant to be all loose and feminine,
and all that kind of thing.
You were saying that you've got these stereotypes in your head...
-..to do with each different race.
You know, black men with the big willies, and Asian men with
little willies and being submissive and stuff.
Do guys just presume that you are going to have a massive dick?
Mm-hmm. I get asked that all the time.
So, I just want to see, does it come from porn, these stereotypes?
The title is Tight Asian Boy Hole.
So the Asian guy is very, very skinny, and you've got this big, muscly,
Adonis-looking older white guy.
-He's putting it in!
He is in pain.
Aggressive. Someone's going to go to hospital.
-Are they going to flip?
-If they do, that's going to be...
OK. I'm done with that one.
Asian Twinkie Getting Fucked Bareback Style.
So we have this Asian guy touching himself.
And now this older, white guy...
-What did I say to you, again?
-Yeah. It always an older white guy and a younger Asian fella.
-Every single one, the Asian guy is the submissive.
-What do you think a young gay is going to get when they
watch this for the first time?
If you watch this, you think that is what it is,
so Asians are supposed to be submissive.
That's what you are brainwashed to believe.
Let's move on to your boys.
-That can't be real.
-That's like a trunk off an elephant.
So we've got this incredibly tall, superhuman man, and he's black.
Like, every part of him is huge.
His penis is inhuman.
-See, that makes me feel shit.
-What is that?
-That makes me feel shit, cos I'm like, shit,
I want to look like that now.
You want to look like that or you think you're supposed to look like that?
When you watch these things over and over again, at that time,
it stays in your head,
so over time you have to live up to what you've watched.
-We are learning.
Sex education all in one!
But this is the shit they don't teach you in school.
There is no gay sex taught,
but then also there's not the complexities taught of,
oh, you know, these are the hurdles you're going to have to jump over
simply because you've got pigmentation in your skin.
It's true that representations of racial stereotypes can be damaging,
but what's the impact of finding no representation at all?
I grew up in Walthamstow, which is a town in north London.
I came out as a lesbian aged 19.
When I came out and I first went out on the scene, I'm not going to lie,
I was very scared.
There wasn't really any lesbians that looked like me.
I realised that not only did I have to focus on my race,
I also had to look after my sexuality as well.
As a black lesbian woman, I do feel like I am a triple minority.
Casual racism on the gay scene is very obvious,
and it favours being a gay white male.
But I want to know if the same is felt within the lesbian community.
-Hi! Nice to meet you.
-Nice to meet you, come in.
Thanks for having me.
From an outsider's perspective,
it might look like the LGBT community is super-inclusive, super-liberal,
would you agree or disagree with that?
It's inclusive to a point.
I got out there and I was like, "Lesbians, oh, my God, lesbians."
-A kid in the playground!
-Exactly, like some sort of
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, "Lesbians, lesbians, lesbians."
And I was like, "Oh, my God, they are all so beautiful."
"Try and act normal, try and act like a lesbian, dancing, whatever."
And you don't realise it at first but afterwards,
when you go out a lot and then you can see the segregation.
As soon as you walk in, if you look on one side and you see, I don't know,
a group of black lesbians being there and then you go on to another side
and you see a mixed group of lesbians and then another side,
you see a white group of lesbians and then you've got other lesbians
on the side, the Jessie J lesbians, the waistcoat lesbians.
What's a waistcoat lesbian?
A waistcoat lesbian is a lesbian who wears a waistcoat.
Oh, that makes sense, yes!
Would you call them more butch?
Oh, yeah. But most lesbian kind of things are more leaning towards,
I don't know, normal white women.
I came out at 19,
there was no whatsoever black lesbian woman I could look at
and be like, "Yeah, she's on TV, I want to be like her."
You look to people who you can, I don't know,
relate to and I think personally for me,
until I went to uni or was in secondary school I didn't realise
about the fact that, you know,
there isn't a representation of race for certain things,
and one of them definitely is the representation of a black lesbian.
With no role models to look up to,
I was intrigued to see how Sherelle's identity developed.
-It's so steep!
-I know, I'm sorry!
Got friends that we sleep with.
I was looking around for a couple of other lesbians,
you're talking about these!
These are my lesbians!
They're very cute.
How does your race affect how you dress?
Unfortunately, with being black, there is some sort of hyper-sensitivity
around us. I don't want to come across too,
you know, kind of unapproachable.
Can I have a little look inside your wardrobe?
Yeah, so this, I used to wear this a lot and brought it back recently.
-What does it say?
-Jackson's Tour, 1984.
I might try this on, is that OK?
Yes, you can, of course!
I really love bomber jackets.
-It's got shiny stuff on it.
That's one of my favourites, I used to wear that a lot.
It's cute on you. It's really cute.
Oh, you look lovely!
To know what is really funny, like looking in your wardrobe...
It really looks like my wardrobe.
I bet it does!
Is there a bit of crossover here between white gay and black lesbian?
Do you know what, that doesn't surprise me.
I've got like five of these.
Oh, yes, that's not even all of them, hon, honestly.
I've got one I think exactly like this.
People look at me and go, "Boy or girl, boy or girl?
"Boy or girl?
Would you say the image of the lesbian that you are kind of
modelling yourself on was more a white lesbian woman?
Yeah, of course. I had really, really straightened hair.
I had medium-length hair with a fringe and I cut this aspect off...
I'd love to see pictures of that.
Oh, of course. I've got a whole evolution.
This is the archetypal straight-hair Sherelle.
Kind of One Direction.
Union J, much better!
-I think you look cute.
-Yeah, it is cute, but it wasn't me...
-It wasn't you, no.
Why did you feel the need to straighten your hair?
It was one of those hairstyles that could make me more approachable
because a white lesbian over there had it.
My fashion sense was literally bouncing in and out between
from gay men all the way to, like, a butch, lesbian black woman.
The masculinity kind of brings me back into normality.
But then you shaved it all off.
The moment you put the razor down and it was all gone, how did you feel?
Like it was the best thing I had ever done.
I had got rid of this person that wasn't me, who was making me very,
very sad. It's a very strong thing from a black woman's perspective
to have no hair, because it's like, "This is me."
I wanted to find out about Sherelle's experience of being in a
relationship with her white girlfriend.
So how long have you two been dating?
Um, two years.
In lesbian years, that's a week, isn't it?
Do you often walk holding hands like this?
I'm always worried about holding hands.
We live near Peckham and I think sometimes I get worried about
holding her hand in Peckham because, obviously,
it's quite a large black community and I don't want to offend them.
When you started your relationship, it's an interracial relationship,
were there things that started to happen that you didn't expect would
-Some people don't agree with interracial relationships in the
first place. Some people don't agree with us being gay.
We do get a lot of comments based on how we look together.
"Oh, my God, you guys are so cute together," and stuff like that.
-Cute interracial couple.
-Cute interracial couple?
-They say it like that?!
-They do, we've had someone who's just been,..
"You're the cutest interracial couple I've ever seen," or something like that.
-I'm like, "Thanks!"
-Instead of just a cute couple.
-Interracial couples do go through the fact that people are
constantly judging them based on race, based on sexuality,
based on how they dress, what they pass for.
-It's just bizarre.
-Will it ever change? Will it get better?
I think it will definitely get better, just with time,
with people breaking down those barriers of, you know,
what it means to be, I don't know,
a black lesbian or what it means to be in an interracial relationship.
So for people of colour in the LGBT community,
it's representation that's the issue.
And that could mean anything from the negative stereotypes that appear
in porn to how they are overlooked and absent in the media.
What we need is black role models, black, gay role models.
I think I've picked up Diva magazine once...
..and I probably saw about three black people in the whole magazine.
Where is the sexy Asian man?
That's what I need to start seeing, that's what I want to see.
Cos I don't feel like I'm represented in the mainstream media.
Definitely I'm not represented in LGBT media.
So I've come to lovely Camden to meet a lady called Sadie.
She runs a black and ethnic minority cabaret night called Cocoa Butter
and it's going to be interesting for me to be the minority
at a club night for the first time. I'm excited.
I am in love with this place already.
I just walked in and there is a pile of glitter that's been swept up.
It can only mean fun!
My kind of place!
-Are you Sadie?
Hi, I'm Riyadh.
Why are BAME nights so important?
They allow us to see each other and because we're so few and far between
in the gay community, when we have these spaces they feel very safe,
they feel like home.
And I'm really hoping tonight,
you will see first-hand how the Cocoa Butter club, it's a movement,
it's a church, a religion,
because we're celebrating ourselves and that's what you should do.
What kind of stuff am I going to see here tonight that I wouldn't see
in a mainstream cabaret night?
Some unapologetic black performances,
unapologetic Asian performances where we're not concerned about
biting our tongues so that we don't offend.
So I might be a little bit offended, is that what you're saying?
Yeah, it might be a bit like, "What, why was that like that?"
Yo, vanilla face!
-It's just like there might be some home truths which you
might not be aware of, and may definitely not have been ready to hear.
We'll leave it there. I don't want to ruin it for myself.
I am ready for this. Are you going to get all glammed up?
Oh, you wait!
Welcome to the Cocoa Butter club.
I wanted to start the show with everyone just having a good old laugh.
Give me a good old giggle because life is tough, trust me.
I'm black, I'm a woman and I'm queer, I really know that life is tough.
Life is really freaking hard, OK.
Welcome to the stage, My Auntie!
Hello, my darlings!
Does anybody in this room know what is an auntie?
You know an auntie?
African auntie, my mum's friends.
An auntie is a woman who is over 40
and is willing to beat a child!
Do you normally jump up on stage that easily?
I just love dancing and the energy of the evening was so beautiful,
I just wanted to feel it, feel it through.
People were unapologetic about their performances and just super
uninhibited and just really owning their identities fully and completely,
just gave me so much courage to just feel really good tonight
and actually be part of it.
Have you ever experienced racism yourself?
-In what sense?
I think that there's a weird sense of like racial hierarchy that comes
from beauty standards that are defined by Eurocentrism and that
I think I have personally experienced.
What can we do as a community to kind of stamp out or try and lessen
that everyday racism that seems to exist?
We need to, like, start actively having conversations about why
things are the way they are and understanding that there is no shame
on the individual level but it's like this collective historical dynamic that needs
to be talked about and addressed and I think that this night is just a
perfect example of those things happening in a way that is fresh
and free and open.
-Do you think I'm welcome?
-You are if you're not racist, yes!
Great, I don't think I am!
-Love for everyone!
# What is the pain?
# So what, I do the same... #
Through this entire process I have met some incredible people who have
all experienced some form of racism from within the LGBT community,
adding another layer of separation in a community that should be coming
together with the common goal of acceptance and equality.
Change is absolutely possible,
but it's got to start with all of us.
# Oh, I wanna dance with somebody
# I wanna feel the heat with somebody
# Yeah, I wanna dance with somebody
# With somebody who loves me... #
This is a celebration of yourself.
Thank you. Thank you.
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.