The former fiance of a Muslim doctor who took his own life because his family could not accept his sexuality is urging support for a petition to criminalise those who offer gay conversion therapy.
Matt Mahmood-Ogston opened up about his harrowing ordeal, following the suicide of his partner Naz Mahmood, at an LGBT event in the House of Lords organised by charity Jeena International on Monday (20).
Matt, who proposed to the Harley Street doctor on their 10-year anniversary three years before he died, said 34-year-old Naz had kept his sexuality a secret from his traditional parents.
After being confronted by his mother, he eventually told her about his plans to marry Matt during a trip home to Birmingham over Eid.
“His mother’s response was to say you need to go to a psychiatrist,” Matt said.
Naz jumped to his death from the balcony of the couple’s north London flat in 2014, just two days after the incident.
“There was a belief by his family that being gay can be cured. We’re backing a petition to make it a criminal offence to support gay cure therapy. I can’t sit back and let this happen to anyone else ever again, so I urge you to go to the petition and share it,” Matt said.
Conversion therapy is counselling or training which attempts to “reverse” a person’s homosexual identity. It often includes electric shocks, counsellors encouraging suicide and ideology linking LGBT identities to sexual abuse from family members in early years. It is scientifically proven that conversion therapy does not work. So far, 22,550 people have supported the petition.
Following the suicide, Matt set up the Naz & Matt Foundation to tackle homophobia due to cultural and religious views.
Although the couple were engaged for three years, they had not yet married because Naz wanted his mother to attend the wedding.
“He wanted unconditional love from his mother,” Matt explained.
At the inquest into his death, coroner Mary Hassell said: “It seems incredible that a young man with so much going for him could have taken his own life. But what I’ve heard is that he had one great sadness, which was the difficulty his family had in accepting his sexuality.”
Speaking about their relationship, Matt said: “In 2001, I met Naz and my whole life changed forever. Neither of us were out. Just to get by we had to look over our shoulders in fear of what might happen… particularly because Naz’s parents were religious in their views.
“Our relationship was so close, sometimes we would just call each other and listen to each other breathing because we wanted to be connected to each other.”
The pair moved from Birmingham to London in 2004 to start a new life together and escape from their families. Matt was working as a web designer and Naz ran three London clinics.
Four months before his death, they moved into their dream home in the capital on the top floor of a mansion block.
Even after Naz took his life, his family shunned Matt and “did the unthinkable” by burying him before Matt arrived.
“I can never describe the hurt that the deliberate act caused. What I am seeing is a commonality between mine and many other stories.
“The words shame and honour are always used. Our mission is to never let the unconditional love come between any parent and child.”