by Mike Davidson
BBC Three's new series, Queer Britain, presented by YouTuber and journalist Riyadh Khalaf started yesterday on BBC Three's iPlayer and YouTube channels. Five more Episodes are to follow, weekly, each of which "aims to get under the skin of queer culture and shine a light on the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community".
There's no doubt that Riyadh – with a Middle Eastern and Irish heritage (and a pleasant lilt from the South of Ireland) – is engaging as he explores issues affecting young people who consider themselves 'LGBTQ+' across the UK. There's a sincerity in his style that seeks to explore the interface between faith and queer identity.
Riyadh Khalaf is horrified that people make momentous life-affecting decisions based on "a Book" and by that he lumps both the Bible and Koran together in an attempted critique of what some might call the 'received narrative' – the view that some human beings simply obey a book of rules, uncritically. I can't speak for the Muslim clients I work with, but I do think it's worth focusing on this view of scripture briefly, from a Christian perspective, since that's the worldview I work in and experience as the primary framework for the values of my work. I find the Bible a trustworthy tradition. At least Riyadh agrees that it's clear in its teaching: homosexual practice is sin. What he seems determined to hold onto is that 'homosexuality' as a category of being human, is a real entity that is unchangeable.
There is a common theme that those who oppose the kind of work I do don't seem willing to recognise. This is the view that self-realisation towards the 'LGBTQ+' (or 'Queer') identity should be encouraged, but the 'de-queering' drive is at all costs to be discouraged. BBC Three's raison d'etre no doubt is targeting all faith-based communities in Britain today in recognition that they are divided along the same fault-lines on the homosexual (and 'queer') issue between those who are 'inclusive' and those who are not. This series is presumably based on their hope that 'inclusivity' is going to eventually win the day.
Episode 1 considers the extreme positions of Westboro Baptist (of 'God hates Fags' infamy) before the 'name it and claim it' tradition is focused on. Jehovah's Witnesses and the tragic ex-communication of a young man disowned by his family follows – all in sharp contrast to Elijah's re-naming ceremony that Riyadh epitomises as the pinnacle of inclusivity under yet another Baptist, Steve Chalke.
My own brief contribution is sandwiched between these two extremes of 'exclusivity' and 'inclusivity' and the issue at stake is posited as the question of choice. This is one key issue episode 1 deals with and one which homosexual activists themselves historically have disagreed with. The UK's arch proponent of "no choice" of course is Patrick Strudwick, the multi award-winning undercover journalist who prides himself on exposing a psychotherapist and a psychiatrist for 'gay-cure' therapy (terms they never owned). This is probably the best-known example of 'fake news' in relation to same-sex issues in the UK. The psychotherapist was unfairly penalised on the grounds that Strudwick was a genuine client (he clearly wasn't) and the General Medical Council found no basis for Strudwick's complaint against the psychiatrist. But the damage was done. The insatiable media were determined to normalise homosexuality as a natural variant category of human sexual patterning.
The foundational issue that Episode 1 is looking at is really the notion of 'born gay'. Riyadh himself says it clearly – "I find it deeply, deeply insulting that anyone, even a therapist, would say that my sexuality is interchangeable". But I thought that fluidity was a given. BBC 3 researchers should know better. I'm grateful for the time I was given, but I didn't get an opportunity to challenge Riyadh's comeback that offering people help is ipso facto shame-based. "I'm sorry but if you are offering this service you are telling them that there is something lesser or something wrong with their sexual identity and their sexuality," he said. But there's no shame in exploring options and integrating internal convictions and external behaviours. The opportunity to move in another direction is what Core Issues Trust offers. And what would Riyadh say to a man married to a woman, the father of three children? Is his desire to change based on shame or on a higher motive?
I can't wait for the release of our new documentary movie Voices of the Silenced: Experts, Evidences and Ideology later this year. It's time to hear the voices of those who have found new ways of dealing with sexual insecurities with professional and counselling help. 'De-queering' is a process of dignity for many today and the old mantra that its harmful for those who don't like the idea has no substance except in the canons of homosexual activism.