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Queer Britain

'We're racist to each other. We body shame each other': Irish Youtuber on the LGBT community

Riyadh Khalaf is hosting the new BBC documentary Queer Britain. / YouTube

AN IRISH YOUTUBE vlogger is shining a light on issues of racism, body shaming and homelessness within the LGBT community in his new BBC documentary, Queer Britain.

Dublin born Riyadh Khalaf uses his own experience of being a queer Youtuber to explore issues affecting LGBT people across Britain.

The six-part series sees Khalaf come face-to-face with people who sleep rough on the streets as a result of their sexuality; others who have been excommunicated from their faiths; and men and women who have suffered racial abuse from fellow LGBT peers.

Khalaf told that, even as a gay man, he wasn’t aware of the severity of the issues.

“When you grow up in a city like Dublin or you live in a city like I am now in London, as a white gay male, you sort of live in this bubble of acceptance,” he said.

“When you peel back the layers and look into the community itself you realise that wow, we have issues within ourselves that we need to work on.

We’re racist to each other. We’re body shaming each other. We should be the most accepting community in the world but at times we can be super judgmental and super self-segregating.

Khalaf grew up in Ireland and made the move to London just two years ago to further his career in the creative industry.

Before making the move, Khalaf had already edged his way into the media industry. Having studied radio broadcasting in college, he secured a job at the Dublin radio station Spin 1038. He also worked as an entertainment reporter on RTÉ 2′s Two Tube.

Experiencing both the Irish and British culture, he told that the issues tackled in the documentary are almost a first-hand account of what happens in Ireland too.

The issues that we explored in Queer Britain are directly applicable to Ireland.

“It’s maybe on a smaller scale because our community is smaller. It’s a little bit less diverse because Ireland has less black and Asian people than there would be here… but from my experience living in both places the issues are the same for sure,” he said.

The series zones in on the severe ridicule and judgement members of the LGBT community face from each other.

Khalaf speaks to people who suffer from eating disorders as a result of body shaming and people who have been racially attacked on gay dating apps.

He takes a hands on approach to researching each issue.

Viewers see him strip down to nothing for a nude photo shoot in episode two – ‘The search for the perfect body – in his bid to promote body positivity.

He also sits in on a live gay pornography recording.

“Some people say the series paints a bad picture of the community but that’s not what we’re trying to do, we’re just trying to tell a truthful perspective of what’s actually happening,” he said.

“If you turn a blind eye to what’s happening it’s just going to get worse.”

Youtube career

The opportunity for Khalaf to present Queer Britain didn’t come from nowhere.

As well as his work with Spin 1038, he began creating vlogs and entertainment videos for his Youtube channel about two years ago and since there has grown to gain more than 300,000 subscribers.

What began as a hobby soon grew into a viable career.

Now, he’s one of the Ireland’s most successful Youtube personalities.

“I realised that it could be a career when I saw other Irish Youtube creators go full-time and the idea of that was just blowing my mind. I didn’t really understand how they could do it,” he said.

The first 100 [subscribers], the first 1,000 are the hardest to get but if you have a good concept or if something goes viral and you’re lucky then you’re going to grow pretty quickly. / YouTube

“The beauty of Youtube is that.. you can literally do it from anywhere on the planet as long as you have a personality, a camera and an internet connection you’re flying.”

When Khalaf moved to London a year and a half ago he signed with a talent agent, who made the decision to approach the BBC with Riyadh and pitch documentary ideas.

From there, the BBC asked Riyadh to host Queer Britain.

“They had seen what I had done before on my own channel and I think saw that I would be a good storyteller for that series.”

The main reason I chose to do a show like Queer Britain and do the videos that I do on Youtube is because visibility is key to acceptance and normalising the queer community.
The more we’re see as everyday people who just happen to like the same-sex then the more I think society will chill out and just be ok with us.

Queer Britain is currently available to stream on BBC Three’s Youtube page

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