Before being crowned, Riyadh Khalaf struggled through some dark times with his sexuality and the fear of being honour-killed for being gay.
When Riyadh – Irish-Iraqi TV broadcaster and YouTuber – came out to his family at the age of 16, he had to face a really family rift, with his Irish-Catholic being supportive and his father appalled to face the reality of his soon being gay. “I was scared my father would honour-kill me”, Riyadh said.
I BLOODY WON!! ???? Thank you @JohnTorode1 & @GreggAWallace for your endless encouragement and contagious passion for food. @SamanthaQuek & @matthewcpinsent, it was an honour to cook alongside you both. Superstars! ❤️❤️? @MasterChefUK #CelebrityMasterChef pic.twitter.com/XDbmDjlrzd
— Riyadh Khalaf (@RiyadhK) July 30, 2020
His mum found that he was gay after she found some gay porn material on the family computer.
He is the winner of this edition of Masterchef Celebrity and in an interview with the BBC he said:
“My parents were right at the bottom of the pile for who to come out to. It was self-preservation. I didn’t know if I was going to be kicked out and made homeless, or if my dad would try to honour-kill me. It sounds silly but you go to the worst-case scenario. My mum was great – confused but great – but my dad took it very hard.”
He took 9 whole months, after he came out to his mother, to tell his father he was gay, and to do so he simply left his dad a note saying “I am gay”. At first his father, “outrageously heterosexual” told him “we will fix this”, and of course Riyadh’s mind went to a possible “conversion-therapy” scenario. But luckily enough, after some time, him and his father are now able to talk about his homosexuality and have a fantastic relationship again.
His father’s family was not very supportive at first.
In another interview, to The Guardian, Sam – Riyadh’s father, said “I thought of family, which is really stupid” and added that his relatives reinforced his intolerance by urging him to send his son to Syria.
They asked, me :‘How come your son is like this? You should change him.’ They said they could help Riyadh: Bring him to Syria and treat him there with conversion therapy. […] Thankfully that never came to fruition. […] We never actually did that, but we battled through the next few months. Eventually through a lot of tears and a lot of anguish, my dad learnt to put love above his shame, learnt that actually my identity was a gift, not something that he should be afraid of,” Riyadh added.
His Father his now a bit LGBT+ ally and supportive person, walking any Pride Parade with his son.
Sam had to cut any relations with his own family, but as he says, it is not something he regrets. “There is no relationship now. Because of Riyadh I have lost family members, but it is fine with me, honestly. Once my two boys, my wife and I are happy in our home, I don’t care what is going to happen out on the street.”
A real example to many other fathers struggling with their children’s sexuality and gender identity.