By Elisângela Mendonça
In the month of the 50th anniversary of LGBTQ activism, Tom Payne, a 26-year-old restaurant host, decided it was time to keep the debate on the queer community’s issues out of the closet.
Payne is one of the hosts of “Queer Conversations”, a web series launched this month on Youtube.
Payne and his co-host, Tyler, invite LGBTQ people on every week to have 20-minute conversations about topics that affect the community, but are not very widely discussed, such as hate crime, LGBTQ education, media representation and the gender spectrum, among other topics.
“We discuss both personal and general subjects within the LGBTQ+ community and hopefully spark some guidance and knowledge in our viewers,” he said.
Payne believes the lack of information on diversity is the main source of prejudice. He is a victim of a homophobic attack himself, which took place eight months ago in London. He was left with a severe black eye while his friend was badly beaten by two men, left bloody and unconscious in the street.
He recorded a video right after the attack to denounce the situation and got thousands of views and comments, most of them of support. “I experienced first-hand something that you only hear about. Now it’s something that I am aware we still have here in the UK,” he said.
“People who speak out of anger don’t have a full understanding or knowledge. I would like to do my best to educate somebody, to help them.”
In his channel, launched in June last year, Payne already had another successful series called “Coming Out Stories” to share people’s experiences telling their families and the world they are gay. “For teenagers it’s such a hard time. I think it’s important we talk about it,” he said.
The launch coincides on purpose with LGBTQ Pride Month. Every year, in the month of June, the community honours the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City. Today, LGBTQ Pride Month celebrations include pride parades, picnics, parties, workshops, symposia and concerts, attracting millions of participants around the world.
But it can’t be only celebrations, Payne says. There’s still a long way to go. “We have come so far, but we still have a fight that we need to go over. Homophobia is still hard to get.” Despite his personal experience, he thinks the UK has a privilege of not being as violent as it is in other places in the world.
“We still have to fight for our brothers and sisters. The trans community is being completely pushed to the side and this is exactly why we have Pride. Because we still need it,” he said.