Celebrity Masterchef UK winner Riyad Khalaf is best friends with his father now, but the Irish-Iraqi influencer, author, and activist told the BBC that years earlier he feared his father might kill him for being gay.
“I didn’t know if I was going to be kicked out and made homeless, or if my dad would try to honor-kill me,” Khalaf revealed during an episode of the Women’s Hour Podcast.
The pair had been best friends for the first 15 years of Riyadh's childhood in Ireland and called themselves the “two musketeers” according to the Guardian. Things changed when the teen realized he was gay, and he soon became fearful of how his “outrageously heterosexual” father would react to the news.
He came out first to his mother after she discovered gay pornography on the family computer. She kept his secret and became his closest confidante. He came out to his father nine months later at age 16 with a note passed during an otherwise ordinary dinner that read “I’m gay.”
The news sent his father’s head “spinning like a washing machine” and as a result, he reached out to his family he had not seen since fleeing Iraq during the Iraq-Iran War. They told him he should “change” his son, and suggested sending him to Syria where they now lived so Riyadh could undergo conversion therapy.
It took a mother’s touch to show Sam, Riyad's father, the errors of his ways. She connected him with a neighbor who had two gay sons of his own. Sam’s real family was in Ireland, the man told him, and to forget what his distant relatives thought. It was just the sort of rational advice the father needed to reconnect with his son.
The pair are back to being close again, even appearing together on television and at Pride events. Both parents co-authored a chapter on being parents of LGBTQ+ children in Riyadh’s book, Yay! You’re Gay! Now What?: A Boy’s Guide to Life.