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YouTube star Riyadh Kha­laf dis­cusses his ex­pe­ri­ences of grow­ing up gay in Ire­land, his views on Milo Yiannopou­los, and his upcoming BBC Three se­ries, Bri­tain. Queer Also, Ir­ish di­rec­tor Niall McCann talks about his Chemikal Un­der­ground doc­u­men­tary Lost In France, which has been ac­claimed as one of the best mu­sic films of the year. Plus McCann and the Hog.

YouTube ac­tivist Riyadh Kha­laf has watched the rise of alt.right prova­ca­teur Milo Yiannopou­los with a mix of horror and dis­be­lief. Yiannopou­los re­cently gen­er­ated huge con­tro­versy with re­marks that were in­ter­preted as con­don­ing ped­erasty– that is sex­ual ac­tiv­ity between young boys and grown men.

“When I see him and when I hear him – it’s an oxy­moron, but I see a very in­tel­li­gent im­be­cile,” Kha­laf, a na­tive of Bray, Co. Wick­low says.

“Milo says dis­gust­ing things about pretty much ev­ery mi­nor­ity in the world. I look at him and what I see is an op­por­tunis­tic, money hun­gry, at­ten­tion hun­gry, very lit­er­ate, very in­tel­li­gent young man with ab­so­lutely no morals.”


Al­most inevitably, Yiannopou­los cho­sen tar­gets in­clude fem­i­nists (he has called fem­i­nism a ‘can­cer’), im­mi­grants (he en­cour­aged stu­dents at his univer­sity talks to turn in any of their un­doc­u­mented peers), and, of course, trans peo­ple. He took par­tic­u­lar de­light in out­ing a trans stu­dent at a talk at the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin, Mil­wau­kee.

The right em­braced Yiannopou­los and used the fact he is gay as a cloak to hide their big­otry. It was a vari­a­tion on the clas­sic ‘I have a black friend’ de­fence.

Re­cently, how­ever, Yiannopou­los fi­nally crossed the line. A video sur­faced of him de­fend­ing in­ti­macy between young boys and grown men, claim­ing such ex­pe­ri­ences could be a ‘com­ing of age’ and ‘ben­e­fi­cial’.

“The views that he was talk­ing about – young men be­ing helped by older men through a rite-of-pas­sage to fig­ure them­selves out and to cre­ate a bond – well, it’s BULL­SHIT,” says Kha­laf, whose YouTube channel has more than 250,000 sub­scribers.

“There have been sit­u­a­tions where I, as a gay man who clearly looks gay, have been sit­ting on a train, where there’s been a child op­po­site me. I’d be wav­ing at them and talk­ing to them. And I can see the par­ents get­ting un­com­fort­able,” Riyadh says, “I’ve seen par­ents turn their chil­dren away, and that’s hurt­ful – it’s a non­ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion. They’re think­ing there’s a preda­tor or they’re think­ing: that man fan­cies my child. Would they do that if I was a 26 yearold fe­male? Milo’s views and Milo’s mes­sage re­in­forces that.”

Yiannopou­los’ com­ments have cost him dearly. He lost his job at alt.right web­site Bre­it­bart; his CPAC con­ser­va­tive talk was can­celled; and he lost a $250,000 book deal with Si­mon & Schuster. The high cost notwith­stand­ing, Riyadh feels that Yiannopou­los sees this con­tro­versy as an­other op­por­tu­nity. “I can guar­an­tee,” he ob­serves,

“that right now, wher­ever he is in the world, he’s sit­ting there rub­bing his hands smil­ing, look­ing at all of the head­lines he’s ap­peared in.”


For his part, Riyadh is ready to take his ad­vo­cacy of LGBTQ rights to new heights with his forth­com­ing BBC 3 se­ries, Queer Bri­tain,

The name, it turns out, was the sub­ject of con­sid­er­able be­hind-the-scenes de­bate. “It was was go­ing to be called Gay In The UK. Then my ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer threw Queer Bri­tain into the mix. I had an ab­so­lutely al­ler­gic, an­gry re­ac­tion, I said: ‘Lizzie this is highly of­fen­sive, no way it’s not hap­pen­ing!’ And then she said, ‘Well that re­ac­tion says it all... that’s the name of the show’.

“We’re try­ing to un­cover the is­sues that ex­ist in the LGBTQ com­mu­nity that aren’t spo­ken

“The views that he was talk­ing about – young men be­ing helped by older men through a rite-of-pas­sage to fig­ure them­selves out and to cre­ate a bond – well, it’s BULL­SHIT,”

about,” he con­tin­ues. “We’ve got six in­di­vid­ual doc­u­men­taries and through them we ex­plore LGBTQ home­less­ness; racism, faith and sex­u­al­ity; the word ‘queer’ and how peo­ple are now iden­ti­fy­ing as queer be­fore they iden­tify as LGB or T; queer porn, and body im­age.”

Com­ing out to your par­ents can be the most nerve-wrack­ing event in a young LGBT per­son’s life. This dif­fi­cult ex­pe­ri­ence was mov­ingly ad­dressed by Kha­laf in a video, in which he and his par­ents re­called the day he made the an­nounce­ment at home. His fa­ther con­fessed to con­sid­er­ing suicide. Not only was his son gay – he wor­ried as to how his own con­ser­va­tive fam­ily might re­act.

“It’s never easy to hear a loved one tell you that they were con­tem­plat­ing suicide,” Kha­laf says. Com­ing out videos are a sta­ple of LGBTQ YouTu­bers: they serve an im­por­tant func­tion, by show­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of young LGBTQ peo­ple that ex­it­ing the closet can be a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It was a tough video to make and thank­fully it had a pos­i­tive out­come,” he says now. “The emails that we re­ceive even still, over a year later, are in­cred­i­bly mov­ing. Kids that have watched this have been moved to not self harm or to not take their own life – but in­stead to have the courage to come out to their par­ents. They see that even when things are that bad they can still be turned around and there’s al­ways hope.”


Ac­cept­ing your queer­ness can be a slow process. “It took me about four years,” says Riyadh, “of ask­ing my­self: are you re­ally this way? That’s four years of ask­ing your­self can you change it? Four years of ask­ing your­self when you’re ly­ing in bed at night, ‘If I think about breasts and vagi­nas enough maybe, just maybe I’ll turn my­self straight and ev­ery­thing will be fine’. Now, be­ing queer is some­thing I iden­tify with. I am queer. And I love my queer­ness.”

The bat­tle for wider LGBTQ ac­cep­tance rum­bles on. In Amer­ica, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump re­cently re­scinded Obama’s pro­tec­tions that al­low trans­gen­der stu­dents to use the re­stroom cor­re­spond­ing with the gender they iden­tify as.

“If you look at hu­man his­tory and hu­man na­ture,” Riyadh ob­serves, “we’re ac­tu­ally em­bar­rass­ingly pre­dictable. As a race we go in these cir­cles and these waves. For ex­am­ple: at one point in his­tory it was okay to be bla­tantly racist. At one point in his­tory it was okay to be bla­tantly ho­mo­pho­bic. At this point in his­tory it’s okay to be bla­tantly trans­pho­bic. And this is where we’re at now.”

Riyadh has no truck what­so­ever with the re­li­gious views that so of­ten un­der­pin prej­u­dice.

“I have ab­so­lutely no re­li­gion,” he states. “I’d go as far as to say I am athe­ist. That’s been a jour­ney for me, of get­ting over the fear that’s in­stilled in you that if you don’t be­lieve you will burn for eter­nity. I am a spir­i­tual per­son, but it is more hu­man to hu­man. When it comes to or­gan­ised re­li­gion in­doc­tri­nat­ing young peo­ple with scrip­ture and fear, I am 100% against it.”

Queer Bri­tain will be broad­cast on BBC3 later

this year

Ir­ish LGBT vlog­ger, Riyadh Kha­laf is a com­ing phe­nom­e­non. Here, he chal­lenges the dan­ger­ous lies ped­dled by far-right ac­tivist Milo Yiannopou­los and dis­cusses his forth­com­ing BBC3 se­ries, Queer Bri­tain. By Kyle Mul­hol­land

At the lap­top of his game: Riyadh in Dublin and (in­set) at a YouTube fes­ti­val.

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