On 30 July 2014, my (real life) friend Matt lost his partner of 13 years, Naz, to suicide. Two days earlier Naz had emotionally “admitted he was gay” to his family. Naz had felt unable to tell them before that because of their religious beliefs.
Matt was determined to make some good come of this tragedy, and has campaigned tirelessly since then to raise awareness of the devastating human impact caused by religion-based homophobia. He set up the Naz & Matt Foundation, now a registered charity, to provide free support to LGBTQI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Intersex) individuals, their friends and family, to help resolve challenges linked to sexuality or gender identity, particularly where a religion is directing the situation.
Matt is a peaceful campaigner, he is not looking to spread hate, just understanding, love, and acceptance. Matt has appeared on both BBC news and Sky news to talk about the Naz and Matt Foundation, and Naz and Matt’s story was published in The Guardian last Saturday. The least I could do was to give him a platform here to talk about their latest project.
Matt, over to you…
Thank you Vanessa. To highlight the issues to the wider public, and encourage them to take action, we are planning a 130 mile, 8 day sponsored journey from London to Birmingham in April this year. “The Journey to Find Acceptance”, will carry a message of love and acceptance as we travel through each town along the way. The majority of the journey will be walked. We will be filming the journey as we engage with religious communities in each town that we walk through – to gauge public opinion and explore individual attitudes towards acceptance if their own children were to come out as being gay.
Matt trying out his film equipment for the walk
Do you have a plan for the journey Matt?
We have a rough plan, it may change as we finalise the details:
Friday 17th April (evening) – London
Opening Party at Club Kali
Saturday 18th April (meet 10am, 11am start) – London
Start of walk – from West Hampstead Cemetery
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, 19th-23nd April
The main journey, travelling through Hendon, Watford, Luton, Milton Keynes, Milton Manor (Northamptonshire), Rugby and Coventry
Friday 24th April (evening) – Birmingahm
Closing party at Saathi Night (@Nightingales)
Saturday 25th April (approx 10.30am) – Birmingham
Final walking leg of walk, from the Nightingale Club to Handsworth Cemetery
We will celebrate all the beautiful people who have struggled, and continue to struggle, to find acceptance from their families and the communities they live in. And to remember the life and soul of Naz (Dr Nazim Mahmood) who spent his whole life helping other people.
That sounds like quite a journey Matt. How can people help?
There are a few ways people can help:
1) They can join us for any part of the journey, particularly the start in London on 18th April. Please dress fabulous or in drag to make a statement! Like our Facebook page to keep updated on plans for the journey.
2) They can sponsor the journey through JustGiving – follow the ‘Donate’ link on the Naz & Matt Foundation site.
3) They can help spread the word in any way they choose.
Thank you for coming by to tell us about this Matt. I knew Naz to be an incredibly kind, generous, warm-hearted man, and it’s a truly wonderful thing you’re doing here in his memory. I wish you all the luck in the world.
Thank you Vanessa, and thank you for having us here.