Doctor Who’s Ncuti Gatwa on ‘toxicity’ of being ‘fetishised’ as a Black man on the gay scene

Ncuti Gatwa gets candid about negative experience on Glasgow gay scene.

Doctor Who star Ncuti Gatwa has spoken candidly about his experience of navigating the “white gay environment” of Glasgow’s gay scene while working as as a shot boy and go-go dancer.

Gatwa said goodbye to his breakout role as gay Black teen Eric Effiong in hit Netflix series Sex Education in September. But he’s not staying idle for long as he prepares to take over the controls of the Tardis in the British sci-fi series Doctor Who in December.

Given his high-profile year, he has been under the spotlight more than ever, and earlier this summer confirmed he was part of the LGBTQ+ community after casually referring to his identity as queer man publicly for the first time, during an interview with Elle.

Gatwa, whose family moved from Rwanda to Scotland in 1994, spoke at the time about his empowering encounter with a queer Rwandan woman at Manchester Pride a few years ago.

“I had never met another queer Rwandan person before. I thought I was the only one in the world,” he said at the time.

Now, in an interview with GQ magazine, Gatwa has opened up finding his place as a queer Black man while studying at The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, in Glasgow. For a time, he handed out flyers outside the city’s LGBTQ+ club, The Polo Lounge, before taking a job as a shot boy and go-go dancer at its sister establishment, Club X.

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Ncuti Gatwa in a black and white shirt and black and yellow neck tie.
Ncuti Gatwa felt sexualised by the white gay club-goers. (Getty/ Raimonda Kulikauskiene)

“It was very weird going from high school, where being the queer, Black kid you were nobody’s pick of the bunch, to getting thrown into the Glasgow gay scene,” he said.

When he moved to Glasgow, he was left feeling “fetishised” and “deeply sexualised” on the gay scene.

“I will never forget my first night out,” he continued. “I was in a white gay environment [and] as a Black man, I was deeply, deeply sexualised. I couldn’t quite understand the toxicity of that. I couldn’t understand that I was being fetishised.

“I wasn’t able to walk through this club without every bit of me being grabbed.”

He tried to remain upbeat about his time though, adding: “It was weird, but fun. Very fun!”

‘It became a situation that run away from me. I thought my participation was a statement. I literally got naked’

Elsewhere in the interview, Gatwa reflected on the discourse around his queer identity. The actor faced a backlash from some fans in June when he appeared in Vogue’s Pride issue where he spoke about “fighting for his privacy” when it came to his sexuality.

“It became a situation that kind of ran away from me. I kind of thought that my participation in [the Pride issue] was a statement,” he said. “I couldn’t be louder about this. I literally got naked.”

He added that talking about his queerness in the Elle interview “felt right in the moment” but he still maintains his decision to not put an explicit “label” on his identity.

Ncuti Gatwa as Eric Effiong in Sex Education season four.
Ncuti Gatwa played Eric Effiong in Sex Education. (Netflix)

“What is the point of putting a label on anything? I’m not going to do that for people I don’t know,” he added. “I remember seeing stuff like: ‘You’ve taken up space from an openly queer person’.

“If you think it’s that easy, I’m happy for you. That’s a very privileged position to be in. To think that sexuality is easy, and talking about sexuality easy and existing with one’s sexuality is easy. I’m so glad that you think it’s that easy, because the world isn’t like that.”

As Gatwa works through the “internalised hate” he’s built around the intersection between his race, religion, culture and sexuality in therapy he ends on an optimistic note.

“We’ve just got to live our life and make the decisions that you feel are the healthiest and best for you,” he advised.

Ncuti Gatwa starts his run in Doctor Who on 25 December on BBC One and BBC iPlayer. The episode will stream globally on Disney+.

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