What Happened When This Gay YouTube Star Confronted His Childhood Bully

September 30th 2015

Laura Donovan

Gay, Irish YouTube star Riyadh Khalaf just had powerful closure with a childhood bully who frequently made fun of his feminine tendencies in school. Khalaf, who has more than 75,000 YouTube subscribers, posted a video of his phone conversation with the bully, who apologizes for hurting his feelings back in the day and swears he meant no harm.

With the new school year in full swing, Khalaf thought now would be the perfect time to address the issue of school bullying and how it affected his life as a gay student.

"I had some degree of bullying pretty much the whole way through [school]," he says. "I hated every minute of [school]. All I wanted to do was be this age right now. After time passes, your bullies end up just being normal people. They're not evil. It's not some scar that should remain there forever."

Shaking, Khalaf calls one of his biggest childhood bullies on camera but does not share the name of this person with viewers. He tracked down the bully's number through a mutual connection and decided to ask this guy why he was so mean to him in the past.

"I was really afraid of you," Khalaf tells the bully. "I just wanted to put a bit of closure on that for me. I remember being at the locker, and you and a few of the lads would walk by together, and I would hear stuff said about me. The usual names, 'faggot', 'you're queer,' 'you're poof.' I think I just laughed it off and walked away."

Khalaf explains that he grew into the class clown as a coping mechanism for the bullying. After hearing this, the bully says he never wanted to crush Khalaf's spirits even if it seemed that way at the time.

“I don’t think we intentionally made a point of slagging you," the bully says over the phone. "I don’t think there was ever a conscious thing. I'm really sorry, I obviously didn’t know that was happening in secondary school, and feel kind of bad about it now for sure."

Khalaf says the anti-gay slurs were particularly damaging and ultimately caused him to remain in the closet.

“It was laughing about something that was so central to who I was and who I was becoming," Khalaf says. "I stayed in the closet for four years beyond when I realized what I was because I was afraid of reactions from you, the boys and a few others.”

The bully says he probably would have stopped his mean behavior had Khalaf asked him to lay off, adding that he understands in hindsight why the bullying was so painful to Khalaf as a quietly gay individual.

“If someone said to me, like, ‘Oh you’re gay,' it wouldn’t have been a second thought to me, whereas it was more relevant to you," the bully says. "That was obviously a lot harder."

Khalaf feels very happy about the way the conversation went and tells his fans at the end of the video, “I don’t think that could have gone better than it did. He genuinely was sorry, and I don’t think he even realized the affect that it had on me, and still has on me now. But it’s very cathartic.”

What happens to bullied kids when they grow up?

During the spring, ATTN: wrote about a study that found childhood bullying has long-term negative impacts on victims and that kids who are bullied are at a high risk of experiencing mental health problems later in life.

Study author Dr. Dieter Wolke told ATTN: at the time that these findings and previous research he has conducted on bullying show bullying victims face confidence issues as an adult.

"It really does knock your self-esteem and how you approach people," Dr. Wolke told ATTN:. "If you get bullied for a long time, you don't trust other people. We also found in a different study that you're less likely to [be able to] work in teams, to find a partner, to trust others, [and more likely to] leave a job sooner because you don't like the conflict."