A father, an activist, a refugee, an interpreter, a lover, a setter… get to know Yusef.
Full Name: Yusef Gojikian
Position: Setter aka bottom lol
Number of Years Playing: 1
Been with the Spikers since: 2018
Bonjour Yusef. Tell us a bit about where you're from, where you grew up, and how you ended up in London?
I have lived all over the world. From the Middle East to America. I came to the UK as a Refugee as coming out to my family when I was 15 was very difficult. I am mixed race. I grew up in South America and the Middle East as a child. Both countries reflect who I am in terms of my heritage.
Question Number 2: tell us how you pay the bills (or not).
So I have two main jobs. I work as a Senior Child Protection social worker and also as an interpreter. The social work can be intense as it is emotionally stressful. The interpreting is the fun part of my work as I get to travel all around the work depending on which out of my 12 languages I am using.
I hear you are heavily involved in PRIDE London as well as PRIDE NYC. Tell us what you do.
So I have been involved with UK Black Pride since the conception of it. My role in UK Black Pride is the disability access co-ordinator as well as in house interpreter. In NYC I went to Harlem Pride to interpret and also I set up 400 Deaf people from around the world to attend the 50 year commemoration celebration. As the lead coordinator I had ensure they had full access.
With the 50th anniversary of Stonewall this year, the Trump administration curtailing gay civil rights (among others) and all the shit going on in the world right now, it seems the global gay community have really come together and taken PRIDE a bit more seriously this year. It's not just a foam party, but also a time of reflection and action in solidarity. Am I imagining this—I've had 3 glasses of wine—or do you feel this while working in the trenches this year?
LGBTQ rights have vastly improved for a lot of our countries that we all come from. As the community is now becoming more in tune with the rise of the fascist right and the increasing xenophobic underbelly showing its head, we are starting to wake up.I also remind myself that the first Pride was a riot. As much as I believe that we should have pride everyday in every aspect of our lives we still need Pride to be a political statement. As in Martha P Johnson words "you never completely have your rights, one person, until you have all your rights". This is my belief to the core of my being. Until we as minorities experience complete equality then we have to keep Pride as a political based march.
What are some the real struggles you see in the London LGBTX community that we as a community need to work on together?
As a person of colour I see many struggles in the LGBTX community. The key ones I feel that there is still a significant amount of racism in the community. We see this on apps and it is left unchallenged. It weights heavily on my shoulders as I feel all of us have a responsibility to challenge and call it out. We continue to see stereotyping of gay men based upon their skin colour, that has become an epidemic that needs to be stamped out. In more recent years drugs or Chem sex have flooded out communities. Grindr had taken this to another level where we are seeing increasing sexual assaults because of the combination of drugs and sex.I see that men who are lacking intimacy are becoming increasingly drawn to this life style and struggle to then get out. Finally, I would like to see this Masc for Masc shit cut.. Omg I can not explain how much this is a really bug bear for me. I feel that men that promote this really lack insight into themselves and the harm this does to the community.
So you speak 12 languages... that just made my head explode typing that. I've met polyglots, but 12 languages is really taking it to an extreme. Do you have a computer chip implanted in your brain? Tell us what languages you speak, how you mastered them and what advice you can give to others struggling to learn another language (namely Americans)?
OK, I was originally a science project for Apple Mac, the original artificial intelligence robot program. Lol. Here are the languages: English, French, Arabic, Greek, Spanish, Armenian, Kurdish Sorani, Swahili, British Sign language, American Sign language, international Sign Language, Colombian Sign Langauge
As an interpreter, does your brain ever just get like "ok stop I need a f**king reset button?"
Hahahah, my brain has a bitch please button. Trust me, sometimes you are put in situations or meeting people who are discussing policies and the effects on the LGBTX community and I think, why is a white middle age man who has never been on all fours trying to give guidance to another country that he had no understanding about. So the answer is I have my resting bitch face that I tend to use a lot when thing piss me off and the speaker soon gets it.
Tell us about your two beautiful daughters... many of us in this club do not anticipate raising kids so we have to live vicariously through our straight friends and family (and you).
Well my two beautiful girls are big girls who drive me up the wall. Some background to my family… I was married to my ex husband for 10 years. We met when I was 19/20 and got civil partnered soon after. I was very traditional. I bet some of the readers would be wetting themselves thinking that I am a traditionalist. Anyways, my partner at the time and I became foster carers and we would foster hard to place children as they had many different reasons their previous cares could not care for them. Then my youngest Najad who is of Somali and Yemeni heritage was placed with us. Then we got Ronna who is of Polish heritage. We fell in love with them and I never looked back since.
Let's get to volleyball... how did you hear about the London Spikers Club,what prompted you to join and did you have a volleyball background previously?
Well, sisters it was not easy trying to join Spikers. I had been emailing for years. I suddenly got an email out of the blue and then joined. My main reason to join volleyball was to meet other gay men who were doing some positive stuff away from the scene. I wanted to make new friends that in essence go back to the days when gay men looked out for each other. I have played volleyball as a child but nothing to the structure and level I have now.
What have you learned from playing in an organised sports team? Anything you can apply to your non-volleyball life?
Well, playing volleyball has given me back some sense of community. There is a great disparity in the community currently so that is the key element I have gained. I guess that I use skills from negotiating difficult issues with lots of gay men around who have big personalities including me.
In your past year in the club, share with us your top 3 memories or highlights of being a Spiker? They can be from training, from social events or in any other context really...
I have to say the first volleyball tournament. The Christmas party as well as the social gatherings are great. The underlying thread for all of this is the amazing friends that I have made.
Almost 600 plant species have become extinct in the last 250 years... what are your thoughts on that?
I think we as humans are very inwardly focused. I would like to see us make small changes to look after the environment. It was beautiful to watch one of my fellow team mates in the sewing bee bring this to forefront.
Oh you mean Riccardo? Bleh! Outside of volleyball, raising your girls, working 9-5 and being very active in the global LBTQX community, what else do you in your free time if you have free time?
Well I do alot of mentoring for young people and run a Latino integration support group. I also interpret in Church every 3 weeks for a group that needs access to sign language. I also enjoy doing research on the experiences of LGBT Refugee and volunteer with supporting them through the asylum process. I write expert witness reports on the intersection between religion and sexuality. Looking at the coming out process through the lense of country of origin reports.
Anything else we should know about you that we don't know?
Hmmm what don't you know about me. My dream was to be a dancer and my favorite desert is Chocolate mouse made in France.