Jordan Small: Full Interview
Interviewed by Rachel Larman
4th July 2018
JS: Hello. My name's Jordan Dean Small. I'm 37 years old so I was born on the 4th November 1980 which makes me a Scorpio. I'm born and bred in Leeds and I identify as gay.
RL: OK. So can you tell me about the Be...LGBTQ?
JS: Of course, yeah. Be LGBTQ was kinda born in 2016 and it was... it came about because I'd been going out on the scene, you know, on the gay scene and then on the straight scene as well with friends for about ten years. I've got a real passion for R&B music and I'd find that I'd either have to go to straight places like Norman's or Fruit Cupboard, which is now Back Room, or, you know, Revolution or wherever to be able to hear R&B music but not be able to flirt with guys, whereas if I went out with my gay friends I'd be able to go to Queens Court, Fibre, Mission, flirt with guys but then be a bit depressed about the music policy [laughs].
So I just decided let’s think of this brand; it’s called Be LGBTQ and the offshoot from that is R’n’B With Edges. The name came about simply because I tried to think of a title that could be soulful and try and describe that we want to play R’n’B with music at the focus and we want the edges to be rap, dancehall, house, and still have pop there, you know, from more traditional gay venues or LGBTQ venues but just make it so much more funk and soulful and passionate and all about the beats and the bass and the subwoofer, I love, like, I've got a passion for N.E.R.D. and Neptunes and Timbaland and Missy Elliott – all that kind of music I adore – and then obviously there's Beyonce, Chaka Kahn, Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, people like Bryson Tiller now. So I wanted a night that incorporated all that. It wasn't really about it being a black night, even though it's music of black origin. I'm a black man, a proud
black gay man, but it wasn't really about that from the impetus it was purely about getting people of all nationalities, all cultures in a room to hear some good music, that were LGBTQ and then weren't afraid about being to, being able to express, kind of, their desires or flirtations for people, but still hear great music as well and not have to compromise that on a night out instead of going home and being fed up and, you know, 'OK, let’s get drunk' or whatever cos you can't really dance because the music's not that great.
So, yeah, so R’n’B With Edges came about in 2016. I started it off at a small venue called Milo upstairs in a really small room and this is before their re-fit, so it was kind of quite dodgy [laughter] but I thought you've got to start somewhere. I kind of looked into places like the HiFi Club... and that, that kind of ilk but they were, you know, quite expensive and things like that, but I didn't know what the demand would be like so let’s start small and kinda work up; so I did that for a few months at Milo.
I think actually within those first few months a guy called Dwayne who runs and created the Bayard Project which is kind of a space for BME people to come and talk about their lives on a monthly basis and just like socialise, so yeah Dwayne got in contact via Facebook and was like: 'Oh I've heard about your night. It sounds really good!' He was actually one of the first people who did say to me 'Is it a black night? Is it just for black people?' Cos I do understand that we are under-represented, that we, you know, we need events and initiatives for, for our community so I do understand that. But I did tell him 'No it’s not just for black people; it’s for anyone who wants to hear this music'. He was like 'fine that's great' and then other people as well did chime in and say 'is it just a black night?' but no we kept to the remit that it’s just for people who love R’n’B that are LGBTQ. So yeah Dwayne and his friends came along; they had a really good time. And then it just started to grow and grow and then we moved from Milo to Queens Court and then in that time we also had a special admission for Pride and then we've continued to move until we're at our current home which is the very stylish Headrow House – that's the same guys that kind of run Belgravia and World Island, so they have people like Sampha, Mayo, Floating... Flying Lotus, sorry. So yeah, it’s been, it’s been really good sort of getting
this latest venue because I think this is our best venue so far and I think it we are at our most diverse parties to date [unclear; calling in the background] good cross range of people so that's all about Be LGBTQ.
RL: So do you attract a wide range of people then?
JS: Yeah we do! We do! We attract, you know, everyone from trans – men and women – non-binary, gay, and lesbian and bi-sexual so we do, in that sense we attracts a lot of people and I mean in terms of people of colour as well, you know. We attract people from South Asia... Jamaica, Barbados, Africa, you know and people that are born here as well, you know and – they're born here obviously – but, people, you know, white people as well who are born here too so... you get a lot of people and its lovely to, sort of, have people come up to you on the DJ booth and say 'We respect you were playing that song', or 'We didn't think we'd hear, hear that song at an LGBT event...’
RL: Oh, OK
JS: ...and things like that so that... it makes you really kind of emotional just through music and connecting with people through music irrespective of race and culture and background and all the stress that we have on a daily basis it's really nice to sort of have an event where people come, they wanna dance. You know, they don't want trouble, they just want to have a good time
JS: So yeah, it's, it's very reward... it's a lot more rewarding than what I thought it would be 'cause I knew I would enjoy doing it, but it was, as I say, it was from kind of necessity of just being so fed up of going out for ten years and thinking 'Well, why has no-one else created an initiative like this? And an event like this? Why isn't it here?' so I thought 'Well, I can either keep complaining or I can do it myself'. [laughs]
RL: [laughing] So you did it yourself. You mentioned Dwayne and the Bayard Project as well. Could you say a little more about that?
JS: Yeah, of course. As I was saying the Bayard Project is a brilliant initiative to bring together BAME people – that's Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people – on a monthly basis so it, it runs currently the fourth Saturday of every month and we just wanna, you know, have socialising, have events where we come together; we can talk about any stresses that we've gone through, any racism issues, just any life issues that are taking place; we've, you know, potentially got some picnics and things planned for the summer before Pride as well. So it's, it's a really exciting initiative and kind of Dwayne started the Bayard Project at a similar time to Be LGBTQ and he ran it for about a year or so and it... I think he's found it difficult in some ways – and I found my club night difficult in some ways 'cause numbers of people can fluctuate – so he kind of, you know, put it to bed for a little bit and then he re-launched it again for this year, for 2018 and it seems to be going from strength to strength and we're really positive about the future, about what it can hold. Because I think Dwayne in a similar way to me was thinking 'Well, why is there no... kind of, collective event for BAME people that are LGBTQ? Why does it not exist?' and I think it was born from his own frustration similar to mine that if no-one else is going to do this then I need to do this; I need to do something. It's, it benefits us but it's, it's bigger than that, it benefits our communities and the Leeds community as a whole hopefully. Hopefully it makes it more diverse.
RL: Yeah. OK. So how would you describe the current climate in the LGBTQ scene?
JS: Of course. It may be a little controversial but I do feel that there seems to be a continual anger at issues that seem to me quite minute, you know, like lettering on a logo, or, for instance, when we did... I did an event last year for Pride called Be Outspoken, which is an off-shoot of Be LGBTQ. Be Outspoken is a spoken word event where people can come and, again, talk about their life stories through poetry, through song or just start a conversation.
So we had a gentleman who came, who was actually, you know, a very successful doctor and identifies as BAME LGBTQ and even though it wasn't directly related to Be Outspoken I did mention the club night R’n’B With Edges and he was like: 'Just because we're people of colour doesn't mean we like R’n’B! Why can't you do something else?'. And I was like 'Whoah! Ok that's fine. Well this is what I've created and if you've checked my promotional materials you'd see that anybody can request songs, so if you want World music, if you want Indian music, Bhangra, if you want Soca, Bossa Nova, whatever you want, I will try and fit it into the mix' and I did add to that and I said also 'if you really want a particular night, if you want a Bhangra night, then why don't you start a Bhangra night? The same way I started this you can start that; you have the power to do it.' I know we all lead busy lives and everything but if we really want to do something we should just commit to it and give it a go. Even if it's not a success just give it a go. So... I kinda met that anger with a broader answer because he was quite angry that he said 'well not all black people like R’n’B; it's a fallacy to even assume that'.
JS: So that was one issue with the anger and then another issue was actually a more current one and a member of my team who we're working with to do Pride for this year – the event I've got at Headrow House – they have an issue with Security and whether Security at Headrow House will check trans men and women to see if they are who they appear to be by checking their photographic ID and it seems to be a bugbear that keeps coming up and up and I've already tried to clarify that we will brief the Security to ensure that they – you know, if someone's underage then yes that's illegal – but due to the Equality Act they cannot turn someone away because they look different from what their photo ID, but this person seems to continually agitate the situation and be like 'no it's an issue, it's an issue, an issue', and I'm aware it's an issue, but we're handling it and ...
So that's kind of two example of anger where it's, there isn't really an issue or there hasn't, there hasn't been an issue yet and we've got safeguards in place to ensure
that there isn't one, but just talking about the wider picture I just, I do feel that people – I don't know if it's Brexit or if it's Trump or if it took place prior to these incidents – but I do feel that people from the LGBT community, whether it is BAME or white, there seems to be either a stalemate where they won't communicate or if they do communicate it is tension to say 'well, you don't understand me' or 'you don't understand me'. I feel that kind of, without being all lofty on the soapbox, like our forefathers and foremothers in their '80s, in the '60s etcetera that had to march and petition and... You know we have seen so much negativity and abuse, was spat upon and things. We don't have that now, thank God we don't have that now; thank God we're better people and we have legislation in place that means that those things don't happen and I think we need to appreciate that more. We need to appreciate the legacy that they have left us and you know to somehow kind of, our lives aren't perfect and I don't think our lives will ever be perfect but our lives are so much better than they were and we need to stop fighting and focusing on the small things... and kind of move forward collectively a bit more. I feel... there are people – and, you know, I'm trying not to be pessimistic – there are people... and a lot of us do run along together and we do put initiatives together and we make them successful but I do feel there's quite a lot of nit... unnecessary nit-picking.
RL: I think that is very interesting. Do you think a lot of that takes place online or is it more...
JS: Good question.
RL: ...real world or both?
JS: I think it’s... weirdly I think it’s more real world from what I've found that people when we have meetings etcetera that they will kind of vent their frustrations more. You almost have to get a bit ready for what's gonna be thrown back at you. You hope, you [laughs], you kinda go into the situation like: 'It'll be fine. It'll be fine. Just stop being so pessimistic' and then something is thrown and you think 'Ok, well how do I come back at that?' I just feel there is as though there's a lot of that at the
moment like what we are already doing is difficult enough as it is without these little, kinda – I don't know – micro angers, micro anger – I don't know how to describe it – but these anger that're taking place. I think it makes the job even harder that we're all trying to get done. You know I'm not just saying if there isn't a problem someone shouldn't vocalise it and say but if there isn't a problem and it hasn't... the problem hasn't come into effect even though people have experienced it elsewhere but they haven't experienced it in this particular situation – as long as we ensure that people are safe, taking care up and we are doing the best that we can do, what more do people want? [laughs]
RL: Did you want to say anything about the umm... you mentioned some incidents that happened to you? So there were some racist incidents that took place in Leeds, what happened there?
JS: Definitely, I mean... I suppose the racist incidents can be separated into two things. On the whole throughout my 37 years I've had very little racism. But, as I said, sort of thinking about five years ago, or in the past five years, I've had two incidents within Leeds – central Leeds – where two cars with white men – I'm assuming straight but I don't know – said 'Nigga'? and it hurt! Do you know it resonates? It hurt. Because you think back to... you think all kinds of different things... you think back to slavery times; you think back to, you know, my family – my family's from Jamaica. So you think back to ... I think back... especially my great grandma, you know, walking through the market in Leeds when she came; she came on a plane as well she didn't come on a boat; she had money! Cos you get... [laughing]. She came on a plane! And she received abuse walking through the street, while, you know, market as well, buying her fruit and veg. I think [laughs]. There was a funny incident where she had to... she didn't lift her underskirt but the bus driver said something derogatory and she just showed her underskirt as to 'kiss my arse!' kind of thing. [long laughter]. And this is going back to like the late '50s I think. So yeah; so it kind of... when the racist incident to me happened I wished I
could have done something like that maybe. But yeah, I was... Obviously I was upset being called the 'N' word. And I was like: Why? Why me? Why would you single out someone just because of their race? You don't know a person; they haven't done anything to you? So it kind of... it brings up all those issues in your head so that's one side of the racism, which I suppose it's two incidents, it's still two incidents and then the other side which – are we going to talk about the dating just a little bit?
RL: Yeah, yeah.
JS: Yeah. So the other side is kind of about in terms of dating. I've not had direct race... I don't feel its direct racism, but I suppose it is where a guy – especially white guys or guys from other races are out specifically looking for black guy or they're like 'you're just my type because you're a black guy' etc etc, and the whole thing about sexual prowess and all that kind of thing. But it, well, I wouldn't... I don't know, it's not a regular occurring issue with me I would say. It's there and that, I wouldn't say that bothers me a huge amount because I'm like: 'Yeah!' [claps] you know 'I'm great' [laughs] 'but you're not getting it because you aren't... your statement was too basic so you're not getting anything!' [laughing]. So yeah... I wouldn't... we can talk about the dating, sort of – shall we elaborate on the dating more?
RL: Yeah we can carry on talking about that. OK. Tell me about dating.
JS: [laughing] Thank you. Alright, dating: taking it away from racism, I feel that dating has become... how can I put it? There's a lack of intimacy with dating? I think especially, because I can only speak from a gay male perspective, but especially with gay men I find that they instantaneously want sex before, probably even getting to know your name properly, you know? And I would've... that's one thing that I would have thought would have changed from the '60s, '70s, '80s... '90s to now in 2018 I would have thought, kind of, because we've got legislation in place so we can, you know, live in relative peace in the UK and be fine, that psychologically all the psychological issues would kind of slowly work their way out.
But, I don't know, especially with joining because I went... I'd been dating and stuff and I kind of came out of a relationship, gave myself a break, and went back online in terms of dating and I found that the dating is no different – I think it's even worse than it was online dating when I was 24? And that was kind of fruition of the internet and stuff. It’s kind of the same men, but there's just more men, they just want sex, that are very explicit in what they're saying, very explicit in pictures that they want, that they send, very explicit in asking for pictures. I don't think I have met a guy online that has not asked for a picture and I'm like 'you've got three face pictures of me on my profile, what more do you want? ' [laughs] 'what more do you want?' If we click in person then obvious... yeah, you know, we're adults and that, consenting adults, then that can go down a different route, but?
So, yeah, I'm a bit dismayed with dating and I think, you know, it's – the name that we dare not mention – but I think things like Love Island: there was a discussion about whether it should be shown in schools – and I think obviously they should edit it and show clips of it, but I think it is a good way of showing young teens how not to behave in terms of relationships and in terms of how you communicate with people because people really do behave like that in the dating world in 2018 in Leeds, in London – it's just a bigger pond – they really do behave in that kind of flippant 'oh well I like you now but I've changed my mind because there's somebody potentially better there' or 'I'll like you if you give me all this sex or give me what I want' and then when you don't 'I'm going to go off'. It's...
I would have thought people would have been so much more advanced in terms of what they wanted and in terms of intimacy physical intimacy is one thing but mental intimacy is so much deeper when you get to know someone. That is where true intimacy begins and I feel that especially gay men – I can't speak for the other people in my community but especially with gay men – I feel that it's a real epidemic and that feeds into the mental health issues and a lot of the different things that we are kind of battling with within gay men, like suicide rates are the highest for young men, I think in their twenties and things. You can see why. Because there are a lot of
gay men that are just thinking that things have to be physical; there's a lot of gay men who are not out, who have girlfriends or dating women and things, but are still seeing men on the side and I I thought all that kind of thing would be so much more reduced now, but it's, it's – I don't know I think it's really bad. I think sorting out the BAME issue and making sure that we have equality and diversity is a lot easier than sorting out the relationship issues.
RL: Yeah, OK. And when you say about men hiding in marriages sort of still today, are you talking about particular communities, or?
JS: Yeah, I mean oh! I didn't know I'd go down this route but without mentioning names but talking from personal experience, one of... a person that I know their family member tried to have sex with me and I – it was quite a few years ago – and I was really shocked by the incident. I'm quite a laid back person as you can maybe tell by now, but I was genuinely [laughs] very shocked at this person approaching me and this person trying to have sex with me. It came out of the blue. I didn't expect it. And, you know with the whole kind of #MeToo campaigns and things like that it really made... that gave a resonance because back then and it's about... it was more than ten years ago, but back then it was like I felt like 'Did I have too many buttons undone?' 'Did I do anything to provoke him?' 'Did I do anything?' He didn't actually touch me, but it was the things that he said and what he wanted to do and the plans that he had for us which blew my mind because I had no clue whatsoever. I was always respectful around this person. I was always trying to be on my best behaviour, not say anything too extra around this person so it was quite –you know really with the #MeToo situation if someone is going through that it really gave a resonance to me in terms of that and... So that was, that was within the Asian community. I know there can be a lot of oppression there, which I understand to an extent but still it, you know, it was just wrong; it was just wrong, but I do understand there is a lot of oppression there.
And then in terms of men online as well, there's... going back online after, you know, dating after a while there's a lot of men on there – white men, Asian men, Black men
– who say they are seeking women on their profile but then they are messaging you and you're a bit like 'what's going on here?' and again they... the messages from men seeking women are as explicit – if not more – than gay men seeking gay men. So I think it's a real, I think we really need to deal with the issue and... I'm not sure where it is; maybe there are a lot more gay men out there than we think but I think also it’s not just about there being gay men but I think psychologically a lot of things need sorting out in the community.
There's a book called Straightjacket; there's also a book called Velvet Rage which deals with these issues, talking about because we're brought up in a straight society – even if our parents are wonderful – we can act out negatively because society shows us one thing and we are another thing so we can be quite negative. So, kind of, I think the Velvet Rage came out first and that book says, you know, you can either be bitchy, or spend too much money, or have too much sex, or take too many drugs. And then Straightjacket kind of makes that – the Velvet Rage book is an American book – and Straightjacket kind of UK-ifies that. I do think we are dealing with, I think there is like an epidemic of relationship psychological issues that really need tackling, you know, irrespective of colour or race that are especially affecting gay men that we are not dealing with and that it could be a bit of a time-bomb really so that's, that's my only grey [laughs] issue that I'm discussing [unclear]
RL: So shall we end it there?
JS: Thank you.
RL: Thank you very much.