Looking for a documentary on the realities of life in the LGBTQ+ community, made with sensitivity and humour? You’ve found it.
Presented by Riyadh Khalaf for BBC Three, Queer Britain explores what it means to be LGBTQ+ in the UK today. Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2014, but there are still many issues faced by the community, and during the series Riyadh will be talking to various members to uncover some of the problems they encounter in their everyday lives.
1. The basics
The six-part documentary series will tackle a range of issues including homelessness, body-shaming, racism, porn, and faith, and how these are experienced by members of the LGBTQ+ community. Alongside these difficult topics, more lighthearted aspects of sexuality will also be explored.
The first episode, Does God Hate Queers?, looks at how religion and sexuality may sometimes clash, but how the two can also live in harmony as religious bodies become more progressive.
2. It tackles the Q in LGBTQ+
The word “queer” has a long history as a slur used against the LGBTQ+ community, and for many – including Riyadh – its reclamation has been a long process; a struggle between old taunts and a new-found pride.
Speaking to TenEighty, he says: “I had an internal battle with the word for many years, after it was used as an insult to me in the playground. But filming a full episode on the word, its past and present meaning, who identifies as it, and what good has come from it, has completely changed my perspective.
“For people who are still not sure, I believe we truly legitimise its reclamation in the series.”
In Episode Six, Queer and Proud, Riyadh will be exploring the origins of the once-pejorative label; reclaimed by academics and activists in the eighties, it has now become an all-encompassing identity.
3. It covers important issues
The series explores the vulnerability of LGBTQ+ youth to homelessness, racism within the community, and how sexuality and faith can intersect. Frequently, these issues have been sidelined, but Riyadh’s aim with this show was to bring them into the spotlight.
“As a team, we spent a lot of time making sure the main topics covered in the series hadn’t been done before,” he tells us. “We wanted to shine a light on the lesser-known problems which seem to have been overlooked in the past. Our aim was not just to investigate these issues but to go face-to-face with the people in the LGBTQ+ community who are most affected.”
4. It’s about individual stories outside YouTube
Don’t expect a parade of familiar faces from the online or offline worlds – the series showcases individual stories from ordinary members of the LGBTQ+ community living in the UK today.
“We wanted to give as much time, respect, and attention [as possible] to the complex stories of our contributors,” Riyadh tells us. “This meant using every minute available, and in some cases extending the length of episodes, in order to do them justice. You relate to the lives and struggles of these people. Although you may not know the faces of our brave contributors, you will fall in love with them by the end of each documentary as they become stars in their own right.”
5. You should prepare for an emotional rollercoaster
— Pádraig Prendergast (@prendergast) May 7, 2017
Grab a full box of tissues before you watch the first episode, because the stories told are both heart-wrenching and full to the brim with joy and hope, an apt reflection of the lives of people in the LGBTQ+ community. Riyadh affirms that he loves the series because of “the rainbow of feelings you have when watching. In the 30- to 40-minute runtime of each episode, you will laugh, feel enraged, cry, and feel inspired.”
Although it was tough on a personal level, Riyadh also found it “incredibly enriching and rewarding. It can be hard to hear the struggles of your queer brothers and sisters, the discrimination and the faults in society which allow this to happen, but giving these people a platform to tell their stories in a raw way gave them confidence and perspective.
“I’m also hoping it will be inspiring to viewers who may be going through a similar struggle.”
6. It celebrates the diversity of the community
The LGBTQ+ community is made up of all kinds of people, and the show is a celebration of that. The first episode looks at sexuality and religion and features experiences of people growing us as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims.
This episode explores whether you really can “pray the gay away” and, on a happier note, the love and acceptance offered by a progressive Christian church.
7. The series will be tackling body positivity, something Riyadh’s no stranger to
We’ve already chatted to Riyadh about his naked photoshoot for Gay Times – he was the first YouTuber to headline the magazine’s annual naked photoshoot. The shoot was filmed and will be shown as part of Episode Two of the series, The Search For The Perfect Body, which discusses body-shaming and the idealisation of body types in both the media and the LGBTQ+ community.
8. There’ll be an appearance from Riyadh’s parents
Fans of the Khalaf household? (Of course you are!) Fortunately, Sam and Lorraine Khalaf will be making an appearance in the series. We first fell in love with them while watching Riyadh’s coming out story, and we’re super stoked to see them again in Queer Britain!
9. It started life as #ProjectRainbow
A man howled "f*cking faggot" at our interviewee while filming my documentary 2day. Upsetting, but makes #ProjectRainbow even more important
— Riyadh Khalaf (@RiyadhK) November 15, 2016
Before the official title was released, fans were encouraged to tweet topic suggestions and messages with the hashtag #ProjectRainbow, which led to a huge outpouring of positivity and support.
— stannie (@therealstannie) November 14, 2016
— liv💡 (@fIat7up) November 14, 2016
10. Although this is Riyadh’s first documentary, hopefully it won’t be the last…
I'm pitching new documentary ideas soon! If there's an issue, group of people, place or thing you'd like to see me explore then let me know!
— Riyadh Khalaf (@RiyadhK) March 26, 2017
“The journey I’ve been on while making Queer Britain has given me the documentary bug (if I didn’t have it before!),” shares Riyadh, “and I’m hoping to shoot more films on issues close to my heart that inspire me. I’ll have to keep my ideas close to my chest for now though!”
Excited? So are we!
Queer Britain is an exciting and fresh depiction of LGBTQ+ life in 2017 and we can’t wait to see more! The first episode is available to watch on BBC Three through iPlayer and YouTube, and a new episode will be uploaded weekly.
Riyadh’s not the only YouTuber to make the leap into other media! Why not check out Ten Things You Need To Know About Jack & Dean of All Trades Series Two, or Ten Things You Need To Know About Cold by Emily Diana Ruth. Alternatively, see the results of our favourite YouTubers testing out FaceApp!