“As a young boy I dreamt of changing the world but I was made to believe it was impossible. After tragically losing my soulmate, the love of my life, I have no option left but to change it.”
I grew up in a deeply homophobic area of South Birmingham (UK) and studied photography and filmmaking after leaving school. Struggling for years to accept my own sexuality, at the age of twenty three I finally ‘came out’ to myself. In other words I finally felt strong enough to accept who I really was, and how I was born.
Soon after I met my darling Naz, my soulmate, in a nightclub in Birmingham. Naz was 21. We quickly fell intensely in love. But we had no option other than to ran away to London to be ourselves and escape the intense pressures of not being out to our families. We grew tired of keeping our relationship a secret, fearing what might happen if we were found out by Naz’s deeply religious parents.
After 13 years together and engaged to be married, Naz, a successful and much loved GP, sadly took his own life two days after being confronted by his family about his sexuality. It was the first time they had been faced with the truth that their son was gay, in a long term relationship with another man and planning to get married.
One of their solutions was to tell Naz that he needed to be ‘cured’ for being gay. They did not want ‘shame’ brought upon their family. Two days later he took their advice and was gone, forever.
Less than twenty four hours after Naz passed away I was told by his family that he was living in ‘sin’ because of their religious beliefs. In the same breath I was also told that I was living in ‘sin’ because of ‘my religion’. They told me not to tell anyone that Naz ‘liked men’ as it would bring ‘shame’ on their family.
They emotionally blackmailed me into hiding the truth.
Out of respect I followed their wishes, until it reached a point and I decided I could not sit back and let this happen to anyone else ever again.
A legacy that will change the world
In memory of my soulmate Naz, I went on to start ‘Naz and Matt Foundation‘ – a now multi award-winning charity that tackles religious and cultural homophobia in schools, colleges, universities, families and communities. Our charity’s mission is to “Never let religion, any religion, come in the way of the unconditional love between parents and their children“.
As Spokesperson and Chair, I speak frequently at public events, conferences and in the local, national and international press about the dangers of homophobia triggered by conservative religious and cultural beliefs.
I have dedicated my life to preventing what happened to my fiancé Naz happening to anyone else, ever again.
As a frequently requested Keynote Speaker my aim is to captivate and inspire audiences to take positive action that is bigger than oneself. I speak from the heart about unconditional love, acceptance and the power of never, ever, giving up.
Channeling my love for Naz, and honouring the stories of the hundreds of individuals who have now contacted me through Naz and Matt Foundation, my new film – My God, I’m Queer – is now available on Film4 and Channel4.
My God, I’m Queer
A documentary that beautifully explores the lives of an inspirational group of Queer Muslims as they go about their daily lives. The film is helping to create a positive, uplifting message that will inspire the audience to be themselves, find greater acceptance and ultimately prevent another tragedy from happening again. Distributed by Channel4/Film4.
Our personal story, and sadly what happened to my darling Naz, inspired a ground-breaking storyline in one of the most watched TV programmes in Britain – Coronation Street.
Be the Man – Love Story of Naz & Matt
Our love story has been turned into the globally recognised folk song “Be the Man”, released by The Young’Uns and performed at Glastonbury. It was later shortlisted for a BBC Folk Award and released in the charts. The album it features on, Strangers, won Best Folk Album of 2018.
Matt’s work has contributed to him being awarded the Attitude Pride Award for ‘building bridges between religious and LGBTQI communities’, the “Top 10 Outstanding Contribution to LGBT Life” by the British LGBT+ Awards, and the JCI ‘Ten Outstanding Young Persons Award for cultural achievement’.
The Independent on Sunday voted Matt as the 6th most influential LGBTI person in Britain as part of their high profile Rainbow List.