June 8, 2023
Activist and beauty influencer Mattxiv (aka Matt Bernstein) joins Jameela this week to discuss how to be hopeful while so much anti-lgbtq+ legislation is being encouraged, how he became a social advocate, why you don’t have to be an influencer to have influence, his journey to understanding that his mental health wasn’t a checklist to be completed, beauty standards in the gay community, and more.
Follow Matt on Instagram & Twitter @mattxiv
You can find transcripts for this episode on the Earwolf website.
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166 — Mattxiv (Matt Bernstein)
[00:00:00] Jameela Hello and welcome to another episode of I Weigh with Jameela Jamil. I hope you enjoy today’s chat. It is with one of my favorite social media voices and presences, Matt Bernstein, who you’ll know is Matt XIV, perhaps. He is a fabulous, funny, smart, scarily young man who talks a lot specifically around gay rights, queer rights, the whole LGBTQIA plus community, and has an amazing knack for breaking things down, very complex and upsetting public circumstances down in a way that we can all digest and unpacking them in a way that is palatable and memorable and grabbing. And he’s been working on making that content that he makes, not only for those who agree and already care, but for those who might not care or understand. He’s very, very talented as a communicator, and I always look to his work whenever something terrible happens because what he says and how he talks about it really helps me guide how I feel or how to even make sense of something. And so I asked him to come on my podcast because I think that he’s fantastic. And he was he was a complete dream. We discussed in this episode how he became an influential voice in social media and why he believes you don’t have to be a public figure to have influence. We discussed his mental health journey and his realization that mental health isn’t merely a checklist to compete, and we discuss body image in the queer community, something I’ve been dying to discuss with someone and how quickly your identity can get wrapped up in how you look, regardless of how you look, regardless of whether or not you do or don’t feel like you fit in with the increasingly insane beauty standards and body standards within the gay community. And it’s a vital conversation to have so fucking needed. It is a body ideal image crisis that is starting to almost equal what we’re seeing amongst women and people are doing increasingly dangerous things to their bodies in order to achieve these false ideals. And so it was a lovely chat and I really, really, really like and rate Matt, and I’m excited to watch what he’s going to continue to do with this ever growing platform of his, because I think he is going to continue to be a much needed and very important voice in the fight we are seeing for LGBTQIA plus rights. So for now, if this is your first time meeting him, please enjoy the lovely Matt Bernstein. Matt Bernstein. Hello. Welcome to I Weigh. How are you?
[00:02:57] Matt Jameela Jamil Thank you so much for having me. I am great. I have waited, you know, all New York winter to be in the sun and it’s finally sunny and warm out. And I am doing this from my little my little shack at the beach. And I’m so happy to be talking with you.
[00:03:12] Jameela I’m so happy to be talking with you. I’m a huge, huge fan of yours. I have been for a while now and it is genuinely an honor to have you on the podcast. You are someone that there are just a few people on the Internet who I seek out when I’m not sure exactly what to think about something terrible has happened. You have this amazing way of just breaking down distressing content in a way that feels palatable and also possible to fix. You have quite a hopeful Instagram. It’s like you don’t pull any punches, but the work that you do within social justice motivates people. It galvanizes people like me. And so I appreciate you very much.
[00:03:56] Matt Well, thank you so much. And I think you do the same thing. And ultimately my goal is, you know, I think there’s a lot of space on the Internet that is just devoted to doom and gloom. And that’s not to the fault of anything except the state of the world. Like, we have to know what’s going on. And a lot of times what’s going on is shitty. But I like to I like to provide a place where it’s like, how do we move forward from that, you know?
[00:04:23] Jameela Well, it was, I think, just like yesterday maybe that you posted a reminder to young to to everyone, really, But especially, I think, to young queer people that things are not as dire as it seems like they are, that we are actually winning. Can you expand on that thought given like how how insane the news cycle is right now and how many laws? It just feels like we’re in the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds. Can you talk about that?
[00:04:48] Matt And we are. So we’re recording this on the second day of Pride Month. And so far this year there have been upwards of 400, I believe, anti LGBTQ bills that are some have been passed, some are moving through both state and federal governments across the United States. And, you know, beyond just the legal stuff, we see it in the news every day. I mean, there’s so much outrage about what company is selling, what rainbow merchandise and the drag queen propaganda and the propaganda about gay people being rumors and like all of the stuff. I think it is really easy to look at what’s going on and be like, wow, we are losing. We not even just being queer people, but we being like queer people, people who respect queer people, people who just want to leave queer people alone. It’s it’s pretty hard to look out into the world with any sort of optimism right now. But what I truly believe, not just as like an optimistic, like, let’s keep fighting, guys. Like, I really do believe that this intense wave of backlash we’re seeing is just that. It’s backlash to the inevitable rise and visibility and existence of, you know, queer and trans people across the country, across the world, in politics, in our schools, in media and movies. You know, we’re more here than we’ve ever been. And. You know, people are seeing systems of white supremacy, patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny. People are seeing these systems slowly, but maybe faster than ever, like kind of start to crumble. And I think they’re really scared of that. And this is a backlash to that. And I think they know deep down that, you know, like, we’re not going anywhere. And I don’t just say that as like an empowering anthem. I really mean it. We’re not going anywhere. They know that they’re having this Hail Mary of, you know, social propaganda, media propaganda, you know, all these bills. But like, we will outlast all of that stuff. And I really do believe that. And I want people to know that this is their reaction to us winning. It’s not us losing.
[00:07:05] Jameela Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Well, you only try to destroy something that you’re afraid of. And so the power of the community, the unity of the community, I think, is quite threatening to these people. And what makes me so fucking angry, aside from the lack of humanity of the whole thing, is just the fact that there are so many really serious things going on that impact everyone. You know, just recently the Supreme Court voted to protect companies who want to sue unions. It was one particular company who wanted to be able to sue a union who had gone on strike to protect the workers rights to be able to is able to sue them because they are costing the company money. Now, I feel fairly confident that a large portion of those people will also be Republican, not only Democrats. And so their rights are being stripped away by the same Supreme Court that they think is on their side. And we are in this amazing moment of such successful diversion tactics in which we’re all fighting over fucking pronouns. And like both Trump and DeSantis have like, waged war on pronouns. Like, pronouns are not what’s going to tear this country apart. Pronouns are not going to lose you your basic workers rights. They’re not going to protect you from crazed mandates, etc. like it is. It is extremely distressing to see that in an age of information where we should know better by now about politics and media tactics, that we’re still fighting each other over the most meaningless nonsense when everything is being taken away from all of us, regardless of our political party.
[00:08:42] Matt Yeah, absolutely. And I wish that a lot of people would be more cynical about the way that politicians work. Like. I believe that a lot of the anti-trans backlash is from genuine hatred from a lot of people. But at the very top, from politicians, it’s a it’s political strategy. These people want to win elections and they need to find or create issues that they can stake out a position on that will help them win those elections.
[00:09:15] Jameela One thing I would push back against somewhat is the fact that it comes from a deep hatred. I don’t know if that’s actually true. I think a lot of it comes from fear rather than hatred. Fear of the unknown. And I think sometimes the the narrative that comes online, a few of those people are incredibly hateful, fucking terrible. And the way they talk is just disgusting online. But I do think those people are the minority, and I think the people who support them are those who have been fear mongered. And the reason I say that is not to be combative in any way, it’s just that I’ve met some of these people who just don’t know. And we saw the same thing with gay people and pre Will and Grace, because we haven’t seen a chance to see them humanized. And we, you know, again, those same sort of old that same old rhetoric was pushed out that, you know, gay people are groomers and this, that and the other. And so I do think that. That’s why what you do. Well, that’s why shows like Legendary or Pose and all the kind of different art that exists, all the media, all the social media influencers out there who who show the reality of being someone within the LGBTQ plus IA community showing that it’s not threatening, It’s just that because that was so successful over the last ten years in particular, and because the rise of social media has given so much of a more of a platform to that community. That’s what I think this backlash is against, because they know that people are being very quickly turned around to the idea that these people are not someone to fear or to hate. And I say that only just because I think that makes it a- I think it’s true. B- I think that it makes it feel more tangible that we can turn this shit around. It’s just about education and no longer allowing people to be silent the way that they are. Can you tell me how you got into the social advocacy space on social media?
[00:11:01] Matt So yeah, So I started kind of speaking my mind, as it were, on online when I was in school. I was in college in New York, and Trump was president. And when Trump was president in the US, the social media landscape, the political social media landscape was basically What did Trump say on Twitter today? And how are we all going to react to it? Like he was the perpetual main character. And that was like social media, which just basically it was all about Donald Trump and whether or not you agreed with him and to what extent you went in either direction. But it was also, I think he gave rise to a certain brand of, like, vitriolic hatred. On Twitter, on Instagram, on Facebook, everywhere, really. And I was feeling that a lot as I you know, I was 18, 19, and I was like, coming into myself as a queer person and as an adult. And I was living on my own for the first time. And so between like classes, I was just bored and I would start like posting things on the Internet, just like posting my thoughts or whatever. And I was doing a lot of also like make up stuff because this was like the heyday of the beauty influencer too. And I was like, really like, you know, this was before bi sister. So beauty, beauty Internet was still intact. But yeah, and people asked me sometimes if there was like a moment where things shifted and I just like became like a creator with a capital C, but that’s really not the case. It’s just been like a steady climb, you can say from the beginning, like four or five years ago. And, and the content has changed a lot. And the way that it looks has changed a lot and I’ve changed a lot and the way that I think has changed a lot. And that’s been frustrating at points because when everything you say is immortalized on the Internet, it leaves you very little space to grow, which like naturally between the ages of 19 and 24, I have grown. But that’s, you know, how it started. And somehow I’m on Jameela Jamil’s podcast.
[00:13:11] Jameela Can you tell me some of the ways in which maybe you’ve changed? Because it’s something that I talk about a lot on this podcast is the fact that we do change that is the entire point of life and it’s okay to grow and upon, you know, more knowledge. We have better opinions. Hopefully.
[00:13:27] Matt Totally. I mean, I think my opinions are better. I would probably think a lot of people think the opposite.
[00:13:32] Jameela Yeah. Who knows what we’ll think in ten years time, but yeah, for now.
[00:13:37] Matt Right. But one of the things is when I started posting online, like, I had a much more basic understanding of who I was as an individual, which was almost entirely informed by my being one of the few out gay people in the high school where I where I grew up in. And so when I graduated high school and then towards the beginning of college, I was just like, I am the gay person, you know? And then but you moved to a big city and over time you realize, okay, well, now I’m among a lot of other gay people, and so who am I beyond that? You know, and one of the big ways that I’ve changed is like interrogating who I actually am, what my beliefs are beyond, like I’m gay. And I think we should be nice to gay people. And I just feel as I’ve grown again from when I started this when I was 19, I have learned a lot. I’ve consumed a lot of other people’s content. I would like to think I’ve become smarter and more measured in the way that I like to think about political issues. I think I have I think I’ve gotten more persuasive in the way that I deliver, you know, my ideas, all these things. I look back at some of the things that I used to post, a lot of which is archived now, because, look, I know showing your growth is important, but sometimes, sometimes you have to cringe. Right? But, you know, I look at some of the stuff that I posted back when I was sort of starting creating content, which I didn’t think of it as that way at the time. I just started posting, you know, it’s not that it wasn’t that deep, but I’m like, Who was I convincing with this, you know? And I think maybe one of the biggest ways that I’ve changed, in my opinion, is at the beginning it felt like I was posting for people who, like, already agreed with me to a tee. And that was also just by virtue of, like, having a much smaller audience right where I was like, cool. Anyone who follows me agrees with me, and we’re just having fun and, like, being, you know, thinking the way that we think. And now not only is the audience so much bigger, but also I’m aware of how much my stuff gets shared around. And that it will potentially reach the family members, the community members, the whatever of people who don’t follow me and who might not agree with me. And I’m very cognizant of how I reach those people who might not think the way that I think. And I try to be persuasive because I’m no longer just posting for the people who are going who are going to like, see it and self-congratulation, you know, for for agreeing for if we all agree with each other.
[00:16:20] Jameela I feel the same way. I feel the same. I get pushback for it sometimes because my behavior seems to be tolerant because I would like to examine the reason for, again, like it’s my it’s my, you know, theory that a lot of what we see as hatred is probably just fear masked as hatred. But, you know, I’m very obsessed with trying to find a way for us to communicate, cause I don’t think the punishment method is working. I don’t think the counseling is working. I think we’re just ostracizing our own. What’s been the reaction to the fact that you feel more persuasive? I mean, your followings growing massively and I. So many people I know now follow you. But have you received pushback?
[00:17:00] Matt You followed me for a long time. No. Famously, I’ve never gone pushback ever. No, I’m kidding I’ve got I’ve gotten pushback. I’ve gotten pushback. And I’ve gotten pushback from every direction, you know, because. That’s just I feel, a consequence of talking about things in the political realm publicly. I do think there are a lot of people who work publicly and express their ideas publicly who are very cut out for not caring what other people have to say. I’m not one of those people, and I never have been. And I don’t think I ever will be like, I’m super fucking sensitive. And I you know, so when I read something about myself where I’m like, they just don’t they don’t know me. They’re misunderstanding me. Like, I wish I could sit down and talk with this random Twitter user. ABC one, two, three, X, Y, Z. And like, explain to them, like, you know, my humanity and like, the way that they’re judging me is wrong. But the reality is, you can’t do that with everyone and you have to accept pretty early on that like some people are going to make it their mission to to not understand you and you need to just cut your losses and and stay the course.
[00:18:18] Jameela I think that’s really important because I think a lot of people are becoming increasingly afraid to express any of their opinions in case they become less likable or in case people start to talk shit about them. Or, you know, as I’ve experienced spreading nonsense rumors about them. I it’s it’s a scary territory. And so what advice would you have maybe to some young people out there who are just starting to really use their voice, especially as we’re coming up to this next election?
[00:18:41] Matt First of all, I would say that the only way that… that that being a creator or being super public or amassing an audience is not the only way to have influence on the people around you. And it’s not for everyone. And I don’t even know if I would necessarily recommend it. But, you know, if I’m being honest. I. You know, I’m really grateful
[00:19:09] Jameela No it is really hard. I really appreciate that because it is really hard. Like, I I’m one of those people who doesn’t get as impacted sometimes. Occasionally I do, but they have to really take it really far before I do. I’m not very sensitive person, but I often think about how an almost unsurvivable it can be if you are a sensitive person. And so that makes me all the more amazed by you and all the more hopeful for other people out there who are also sensitive, who want to dabble in this, you know, want to get to a million followers like Matt, I think it gets much more stressful. But generally, just knowing that it’s okay for people to disagree with you, that that’s not your entire purpose in life. And I think minorities especially experienced this, women especially and minorities in particular, like it’s it’s this kind of feeling of, you know, we aren’t given the grace to make mistakes or to piss people off. And we are. And we just have to take that for ourselves. And so know that, that, you know, the path to progress is incredibly rough and you’re going to tumble and that’s okay. And you’re going to get back up and you will find your people. And I think continuing to refine the way that you communicate is only going to help you and others around you. And so take that criticism, however fair or unfair it may be, and just try to use that as a learning tool. That’s what I’ve done in order to try and stay sane.
[00:20:29] Matt Totally. And I think too that and the reason why I said, you know, being a public figure, influencer, whatever you want to call it is not the only way to effectively influence the people around you is because like and I know it’s it’s been said a million times and this isn’t a new idea but like talking to your family at the dinner table can be really effective. Talking to your friends can be really effective, like keeping an open mind that and this is what I believe is the truth, that there are a lot more people in the middle, in the middle, quote unquote, than I think we like to believe. I think especially
[00:21:04] Jameela Do you mean centrists or the middle of the country?
[00:21:08] Matt Centrist, centrist, but not even centrist, because I feel like centrist is like a position that people stake out. I mean, they’re they’re just a lot more people who don’t really know what they believe than we like to think. And I think if you are listening to this podcast, I think if you’re engaging with like the vague part of the Internet that Jameela and I occupy, then you probably have at least somewhat strongly held beliefs, which is great. And also a lot of people just don’t and a lot of people are reachable if they’re given a space to to learn and understand and think differently. And I think. And from the queer experience, I can speak to this. I think queer people on the whole have experienced a lot of pain from a really early age, and it makes us want to we don’t want to explain ourselves and we see any request or demands to have us explain ourselves as an attack. And I think there’s a real reason that people believe that, and I think it’s valid. I really do. And, you know, as it were, like, I don’t believe that all queer people are responsible for like constantly explaining and justifying themselves to everyone around them just for the sake of like straight people to get it. On the other hand, I think if you have the capacity to try to do that, at least, you know, with people maybe in your family or friends who are just like not quite getting that you’re non-binary or whatever it is, or who are like who don’t think bisexuality is real. But like, never knew a bisexual person. Like, I think if you have the bandwidth to educate these people in a non-judgmental way. I think far more of them are way more reachable than we like to admit. So.
[00:22:54] Jameela I hundred percent agree. I 100%. I think this is so much more realistic. I think we’re deliberately being made to feel like it’s hopeless so that we won’t try. And I think that’s an effective tactic, to if when you can disempower people, demotivate them because you make it feel as though they’re climbing a mountain, as it were, not on this so many of us, this is totally this is totally dependent now on the ways in which we communicate in the next year and a half as to what it is that we can achieve politically. It is a key part for us to look at the way that we have communicated in the past and check ourselves a little bit. Think about the way that we speak to one another, never mind the opposition, and and recalibrate whether or not we feel as though we are a welcoming space to that majority who are in the middle. And, you know, kind of maybe politically nonbinary. I’ve heard some people refer to themselves as.
[00:23:41] Matt Politically nonbinary. That’s incredible.
[00:23:44] Jameela And so I think that that’s I think that’s a really important thing for us to keep in mind, is that however much rage you have, if you let that spell out into communication, think about how many times you have received information well and openly when you’re being screamed at, however much that person has the right to maybe scream at you, how do you learn your best? It’s normally through a little bit of empathy and a little bit of patience. I can only speak for myself, I guess, but generally, you know, I feel like that’s the that’s how we learn at school. It’s how our parents are encouraged to teach us. And I think that we kind of need to apply that better if we’re going to move towards progress at speed. And, you know, we have a little catching up to do because of the last few years of absolute fucking demonic chaos. Can I ask you what the impact has been of this journey on your mental health? What’s your mental health journey been like generally.
[00:24:43] Matt Yeah, Well, a journey it has been. I you know what? I have to say, through high school, I was like pretty sound on my mental health despite like, you know, coming out when I was 15 and being one of the very few openly queer people in my high school. There was you know, no shortage of bullying. But interestingly, like, I’ve really held it together. And then it was my freshman year of college where that just totally fell apart. I developed really, really I it was November of my freshman year, so it was a couple of months into my freshman year. I just developed really rough anxiety that was nonstop. It prevented me from wanting to get out of bed. I was crying all day. I mean, it sounds really dramatic, but it was really what it was. It felt so dire. And then as a result, I developed depression, which, you know, they often go hand in hand because when when your brain is making everything impossible to do, that’s depressing. As a result of my anxiety, I was I was dealing with a lot of like spouts of something that’s called like depersonalization, depersonalization and derealization. It’s kind of a tongue twister, but it’s basically when you feel this sort of profound detachment from like who you are like. Like it can make you be and. And from the world around you. So that’s the depersonalization and the derealization to where you know, it can be really jarring to look in the mirror and it can be really jarring to feel like you exist in your own body because it doesn’t feel like you do. It sounds really like existential, and that’s because that’s the way that it feels. It’s it’s and it’s a symptom of really severe anxiety. And it’s what I was dealing with for like six months. And I don’t remember a lot of fine details from the six months, if I’m being totally honest. It was it was a rough time.
[00:26:50] Jameela You were living sort of almost outside of your body in a way. So it’s hard to connect with and remember that time. And I kind of think it’s great when you don’t have a firm memory of something that’s that traumatic. I feel as though my brain has been deliberately protecting me from some of my darkest days so that I can’t remember them so that I don’t feel that pain anymore.
[00:27:09] Matt Yeah, absolutely. And and one memory I do really have of that time was. I viewed mental health as something that if I had the right calculation, that I could beat it. You know, I stopped drinking, which as a college freshman in New York City, was definitely a choice. I you know, I stopped going out. I tried switching out this for that and this for that. Like I viewed mental health as like a checklist where if I swapped this and I crossed out this and I, you know, whatever, then I would wake up one morning and, like, be cured of the condition that is having a brain. And evidently, like, none of those things worked and the way that I eventually started to recenter myself, I suppose, was towards the end of that freshman school year. It was in like March or April. I started hanging out with different people because I learned that the first people you meet when you move to a big city might not be the friends that you have forever and might not be the best people for you. I started seeing a therapist, cognitive behavioral therapy to be specific, which I really needed because all I was doing every morning when I woke up was catastrophizing. I was like, I am not going to be able to get out of bed and I’m not going to be able to get out of bed so I won’t get to class. And my grades are going to slip in and I’ll never get a job. And then I’m going to have to move back in with my parents. And da da da da da, you know, the spiral. So I needed cognitive behavioral therapy to help me stop doing that, because if you don’t know what cognitive behavioral therapy is, it’s it’s basically ways to change your pathways of thinking, like it’s ways to interrupt your thought process to stop going down the path that you’ve become so accustomed to. And that was really helpful. And then I started taking meds, which I was resistant to for a long time, because like so many people, I grew up with the idea that it’s like, you know, and I’m going to use like off color language here, but basically that meds are for crazy people and I’m not crazy. I’m not like them, you know, whoever them is, I’m not like that. It’s not that bad. But I’m like, Matt, it is that bad. You’re sitting in the stairwell of your college dorm crying over nothing like all the time, and it was that bad. And so, yeah, so I started on Prozac first, and that wasn’t great for me. And so I ended up on Lexapro and I still take it five years later. I
[00:29:56] Jameela That’s great.
[00:29:57] Matt And it was that combination of like chemical changes, therapy changes, life changes that I was like, okay, like I’m a human being and I don’t want to die, honestly.
[00:30:06] Jameela Fucking hell. So with all of that going on, you entered into the world of public social justice. I mean, I did the I did the same. I did the same. What’s wrong with us? Do we think.
[00:30:20] Matt I mean, I just felt passionate about it. I never thought about it.
[00:30:23] Jameela I was going to say. Do you think it’s the fact that we suffered so much that made us want to stop other people from suffering? Because I think that might have been some part of me, as I’ve always said, that I think I wanted to recycle my old pain and use it to like, turn it into something good, something helpful. And I think that that helps me heal what I went through, because then I didn’t go through it for nothing. Not to say that, you know, you’ve gone through it for nothing if you don’t become like a fuckin public, you know, social justice person. But you know what I mean? Like, I just needed to whoever you help, be it one person or a million. It it does honestly, I think start to help soothe you quicker?
[00:31:04] Matt Yeah. Honestly, it didn’t even feel I wasn’t very strategic or linear with the way that I went into it. For me, I just, like, needed something to do, and it was a fun creative outlet for me, which I still feel that way. It’s creatively fulfilling. It’s. You know, sometimes intellectually, if I feel like it’s fun to to make stuff and to connect people and and to to bring community together on the Internet, I find it fun. I just I wanted something to do. And once I did start doing it and people started to come along for the ride. It really did aid in my kind of mental health management and recovery journey because it gave me something to look forward to every day. You know, like I was in college and I did fine in college, but I didn’t feel passionately about it, and I didn’t know what I was going to do for work and all of this stuff. And then this became something where I was like, Oh yeah, this like this lights my soul on fire like this. I can sink my teeth into, you know, just, just being on the Internet. And it proved really helpful. And I still feel a lot of those things about it.
[00:32:18] Jameela Is it is an amazing also community to be a part of. And you make a lot of friends doing it and you learn so much and you feel like you grow so much, but also fucking hell, what a distressing time to be a queer creator where it feels like there’s a lot of emergencies. Like how do you handle the amount of emergency that’s kind of rolling in that I think a lot of people feel very pressured by it, like, Fuck, where do I even look with this much shit rolling in? How do we stay not necessarily positive. It’s hard to stay positive, although I think you do a really great job. But how do we stay focused and and how do you straddle that many different things rolling in? All at the same time.
[00:33:04] Matt I mean, like I said at the beginning, I think having some dose of optimism is really important. Seeing all of this stuff as. Seeing all the things that are going on with the backlash to the right as the Hail Mary that it is that will eventually, you know, fail like I like. I think fundamental to continuing going is the belief that we will win, you know? But also like for practical matters, like I log off often, I, you know, I sounds so like I hate to come off like super like Los Angeles woo woo, like Gwyneth Paltrow, but I like I really like to work out. It helps me a lot with with my mental health and with, you know.
[00:33:56] Jameela Do you then drink some bone broth as your dinner?
[00:33:58] Matt And then I drink bone broth and then I.
[00:34:01] Jameela You light your vagina candle?
[00:34:03] Matt Yes, exactly. And then I go to the sauna that’s in my in my house. But no, I mean, I, I like to take distractions from the Internet, turn my phone off. But, you know, the thing is with. The rate of things right now is then you are in real life where it’s just all still happening. But I think, being surrounded by people who love you, whether honestly, whether that’s in real life or if you can’t have that in real life for whatever reason online, you know, reminding yourself that you have people in your corner and and finding those people and finding your community or chosen family or whatever, like that is all really sustaining.
[00:34:47] Jameela 100%. I think that’s I think it is very important to remember that even someone who is so frequent in their output gives themself the grace to take a step back for a second to replenish is vitally important. It’s something that I’m always trying to remind people, but I think we can’t again, like going back to what I was saying earlier about, you know, strikers that that kind of precedent case that the Supreme Court in which the workers are going to have their rights taken away. There’s something incredibly tragic about the fact that a lot of these people who think they’re fighting for something noble by fighting against the queer community. They’re just going to lose everything. They’re going to lose the health care. They’re going to lose all these different things. And they won’t know because they were looking at glittery drag queens while all of their human rights and safeties are being taken away. And I think there’s going to be like a huge and like sad reckoning when in, you know, a year and a half time, if the wrong party, the party who doesn’t vote in the interests of the people who aren’t the top 1%. If those people win I think we’re going to see a huge like wave like tsunami of regret that people took their eye off the ball, that really mattered, regardless of your political ideology for all this nonsense, that was never going to impact in any way.
[00:36:10] Matt I hope so. I hope you’re right. But, you know. And both parties do this. You know, they’ll move the goalpost. They’ll find another way to distract you from the fact that, like, they’re they’re they’re incapable of really doing anything to benefit your life in any material way. And while I keep saying this both party stuff? Because I do think there are deep flaws in both parties in the two party system in general. Like, I do want to be clear, like, you know, vote Democrat.
[00:36:41] Jameela Yeah. You’re not saying there are bad people on both sides. I’m well aware of what you’re saying. I’m very I’m I’m very critical of, you know, the things that we need to do better. But it’s always non-negotiable that there is one party that consistently keep taking people’s basic freedoms away. The party that claim to fight for freedom are the ones who seem to be the most restrictive on free speech on freedoms outside of, you know, guns.
[00:37:04] Matt Right. Like my my basic, you know, voting ideology. And this, you know, this is mine is that we should vote for Democrats and then like, continue to criticize them, you know, for what they don’t do well enough.
[00:37:16] Jameela 100%.
[00:37:17] Matt For what they don’t do well enough because, like, I think, you know, what’s so interesting is I see people I see right wing people, Republicans on Twitter sharing things like, you know, I’ve never seen Joe Biden’s rallies as full as Trump’s or like, I never saw anyone with a Joe Biden hat. And it’s like, yeah, because people who are voting for Joe Biden know that this is a politician, not like a celebrity, that they should worship. What? What? Trump. I mean, there’s there’s not even a proper place to begin with him. But what’s interesting is, like he for a lot of his base has turned the politician into like a super celebrity where it’s like hero worship. It’s it’s cult personality. It’s all of these things. And they’re like, well, why don’t you know, Joe Biden’s clearly unpopular. Like, why aren’t people behaving that way towards him? And it’s like Joe Biden is unpopular for a lot of very legitimate reasons. But him not being cool enough is not one of them. You know what I mean? Like, I don’t and this is I don’t know if, you know, ContraPoints Natalie Wynn.
[00:38:25] Jameela Yes, she’s been on the podcast twice.
[00:38:28] Matt So so she has this really great line in one of her videos where she was telling people to vote and she was like, I don’t think anyone should stand Joe Biden. And that’s exactly how I feel, like I think we should vote for whoever the Democrat is. I don’t think we should stand them ever.
[00:38:44] Jameela 100%. And I think that’s I think that’s becoming like an it is like a kind of part of our culture where religion for a long time got kind of replaced by celebrity. And so people have become obsessed with liking their political candidates, finding them charismatic, finding them attractive in some way. Right. That seems to become important. And again, like across parties, we see this we see ourselves being super hard on someone for things that aren’t actually anything to do with policy. And I think that that’s really weird and unhelpful because what we are is supposed to pick people who are at least open to fulfilling their promises to all of the people, not just the top 1%.
[00:39:26] Matt Exactly. And like, look, I think charisma is great. I think having, you know, being a strong speaker and having good rhetorical strategies is important for a leader, but it’s ultimately not what we should be voting on. And that’s something that I find kind of scary about Ron DeSantis is that for a lot of liberals, the worst thing about Donald Trump was that he tweeted weird things and I’m like, That is not the thing that we should be most scared of. Yeah, Like his presence on Twitter, as I’ve mentioned previously, had disastrous effects on like the way we discuss politics on social media. Like, I think we feel the ripples of that still and probably will for a long time.
[00:40:07] Jameela Yeah. It’s a shit slanging match. Yeah.
[00:40:09] Matt But, it’s absolutely and still is. But like seeing Ron DeSantis as the levelheaded alternative just because he’s like not insane on the Internet, arguably is not the path that we should be taking. Ron DeSantis And by the way, like I don’t think Ron DeSantis stands even a chance of winning. So I don’t think I need to go on this tangent for very long. But like. Sometimes people’s politics are abhorrent and evil and deranged. And if all you’re looking at is like, well, how does he carry himself and how is he online and how does he speak when he makes public appearances? You’re not going to know that. And I was explaining to members of my family who are like, you know, they’re like, because my family is mostly liberal but not super politically involved. And they were like, you know, Ron DeSantis, his politics are probably bad, but at least he’s not Trump. And I’m like, Yeah, I think he’s worse. And part of part of what makes it worse and scarier is that he has this facade of being just like, he could just be a dad in the neighborhood. He’s that’s like he wants to, like, annihilate trans people, you know? So I think we have to be a little more.
[00:41:25] Jameela And abortion rights and education and history there’s all kinds of things that he’s gunning for that feel within the realm of authoritarian behavior. When you start denying health care to one particular group or multiple different groups, you enter into the field of fascism.
[00:41:44] Matt Absolutely. And he is playing in that field and. I think a lot of people are distracted by the fact that he, like, holds himself to a socially more formal degree than Trump does. And I’m like, You have to be more cynical than that.
[00:41:59] Jameela Yeah, Yeah. Our standards, the bar is in hell right now.
[00:42:02] Matt Hell.
[00:42:02] Jameela And I think we just need to continue to just educate ourselves and not get fatigued as we come to the final round of this shithole that we’ve been stuck in. This sort of emotional, psychological and social shithole that we have all been party to creating. We all just have to keep just keep going for this final stretch in this next year. And I know that I feel incredibly motivated. I know you do too. And I hope that we can invigorate the people who are listening to know that like it’s not over yet. And we can still very much though when. One thing I just want to be able to discuss with you before you go is body image. That’s a big part of I Weigh. It’s not all of what I Weigh is, but I know that as a young gay man who’s currently at Fire Island.
[00:42:57] Matt Yes.
[00:42:57] Jameela It’s not without its it’s not without its pressures. And so I wondered if that’s something that you feel any sort of way about.
[00:43:07] Matt No, I have no feelings at all about this. I have a perfect relationship with my body.
[00:43:13] Jameela Well done.
[00:43:13] Matt This has been. And this has been great. Thanks for having me Jameela.
[00:43:15] Jameela Yeah. Bye bye.
[00:43:18] Matt No I was. You know, I figured that we were going to talk about body image, and there was. I was laughing before before I got on the call with you because I was like, What better place to talk about body image from than Fire Island, which, if you don’t know, is it’s at least the Fire Island Pines, which is the part that I am in, is is sort of beach community that is 95% gay. And it’s a lot of I mean, it’s a magical place. It’s truly a magical place. But there is definitely, you know, if you’re going to be on a gay beach community, then there’s a good amount of, you know, the insecurities about about your own body will definitely come out. And they and they do for sure. Oh, man. Body image in the gay community is is something that I think is discussed heavily within the community and not thought about that much outside of it. I think a lot of straight people view gay men, and, you know, these are the ones that are think favorably of gay men. But I think think of them in this way that’s very informed by, you know, shows like Queer Eye and I love Queer Eye, but there’s this very, like, fairy godfather, sort of like he has it all figured out and he has a lot of money. And as they have a perfect body and you know how to dress.
[00:44:40] Jameela And he’s confident. Yeah yeah.
[00:44:42] Matt Yes. And he can cook and he can design beautiful homes and like and he’s confidant and he, you know, the pastel sweaters and whatever. And. I think that’s at odds with the experience of like the vast majority of gay men. There’s a pretty wild body standard for gay men, and I think people are basically aware of that. You know, that the muscular, like very low body fat, all of this stuff that has been like triggering to me from the jump and that also like. I am not like I don’t exist outside of that standard. And I mean, I’ve been on my own journey since the time I came out when I was 15, about like, where does my body fall into the gay community? You we have all these labels in the gay community that are sort of applied in sexual circumstances, but they’re basically like micro identity labels like Twink and Hunk and Jock and Otter
[00:45:53] Jameela Bear.
[00:45:53] Matt and Bear
[00:45:55] Jameela Wait what’s otter? What’s otter?
[00:45:55] Matt So an otter is like a thin, hairy man.
[00:46:03] Jameela Oh, nice.
[00:46:03] Matt So whereas bears are like bigger, hairy guys an otter, I mean, you know, an Otter is like a small hairy.
[00:46:10] Jameela I think it’s excellently named.
[00:46:12] Matt It is and like you, it is like, objectively kind of funny how these categories we’ve created. It’s like otter and like, you know, but like, there is definitely something to be said for.
[00:46:26] Jameela Well, it turns your body shape into like a part of your identity in that that they were being identified. And I think that that’s incredibly problematic because it holds you to a certain standard. It also means, like no one likes feeling perceived. I mean, some people like feeling perceived, maybe some very confident people, but generally, like I don’t really want to feel like anyone was looking at my body and making any kind of a judgment at it whatsoever. Like, I really just want to be me like you want someone or like least one person that you’re interested in or whatever to be attracted to or multiple people. But yeah, I don’t like feeling like I’m being categorized based on my body. And, and I think that there is a natural, less lesser sympathy towards men, even if they’re gay men, as to what’s their beauty standard is. And we don’t realize that actually some people put themselves through a lot of really dangerous things to achieve these archetypes of the perfect gay male body. I’ve also got a lot of gay friends who are very depressed because they don’t fit into that standard, these are like hilarious, gorgeous, charismatic, amazing men who feel like shit because they don’t have the Brad Pitt Fight Club body.
[00:47:32] Matt Absolutely. The fact that we’ve created this like index of identities within the subculture that are basically just based on your weight and how much hair you have. It’s it’s very esthetic. It’s very shallow. I know it puts a lot of pressure on people to try to fit into a certain mold of like, you know, where do I fit in? And like, how does going to the gym or going on a diet or eating more, eating less, or doing this or doing that, like how will that make me better fit in socially? And I think that sucks. But, you know, again, I don’t I don’t exist outside of this. Even if I might be able to, like, talk about it with a level head, that doesn’t mean. I don’t experience internally just as much as everyone else. And what’s interesting is when I did start going to the gym a lot more like I’d say a year and a half ago. I. I go to the gym because I enjoy it, because I find it really beneficial for my mental health. As you know, as is the case with so many people. But there is an aspect of, you know, I don’t post a lot of pictures of my body online. It’s people don’t follow me for it. And I’m grateful for that. But every now and then, you know who among us hasn’t posted a thirst trap? And like, getting valid, getting validation is sort of a sick thing because it then feeds into the thing of like, well, if I go back to the gym a little bit more, then I’ll get a little more validation and that feels good. And, you know, I wish I could stand up on a hill, have my chest out and be like, I have beaten the body dysmorphia allegations, but like, decidedly I have not. I’m 24. I’m still navigating this and and trying to talk about it intelligently while I ultimately, like, also don’t know what the fuck is going on.
[00:49:35] Jameela I think that’s fair. And I also think I was probably in a very similar place at 24, although far less advanced at talking about some of these things than you are. I was really kind of caught in the middle of a lot of it, and I don’t think people know exactly what measures people are taking to fulfill these body ideals. Like I was fighting for a bill a few years ago. It was pre-pandemic it’s been pushed back because the pandemic obviously caused such political chaos. But, you know, we talk about the fact that these weight loss products for women come with a lot of dangers, especially those like laxative teas and appetite suppressants, etc.. And they put laxatives and sometimes amphetamine in women’s traditionally women’s weight loss products. Obviously, those are used by people who aren’t just women, but also in the muscle gain products because, you know, some people don’t want to be skinny, especially when you’re gay. It’s like you want to be very, very like ripped or toned. And, you know, a lot of people have to gain a lot of muscle. And that’s sometimes really hard to do, especially when you’re young because you have such a fast metabolism and it might not be your natural body state. So then they use these protein powders that they can buy for cheap on the Internet in order to bulk up at speed, which is never healthy, never a good idea to make any changes to go big or little at speed. But what we found was in a lot of these products were heavy metals, like toxic heavy metals, which are incredibly detrimental to your brain health, your blood health, your organs, your kidney, your liver, but also Viagra. These are the things these are some that some of the substances that are in these products, these protein products, these weight gain products that are sold on the Internet predominantly to boys. And they they tend to be especially within the gay community. That there is a
[00:51:21] Matt Absolutely.
[00:51:22] Jameela rush from such a young age. And so you’re putting Viagra and heavy metals in your system, in your teens, and ending up in the emergency room.
[00:51:29] Matt Well and something I also can’t have this conversation without mentioning briefly. And this blew my mind when I was 20 and I went to L.A. for one of the first times and I was hiking with my friend, who is a gay guy, a little bit older than me, and where we were hiking at Runyon Canyon and first of all, hiking at Runyon Canyon. What a scene. But, you know, there are all of these, like enormously muscular, ripped, gorgeous, Hercules looking gay guys. And I’m like, where the hell do all of these people who, like, ostensibly work 9 to 5 jobs have the time to, like, chisele their body from stone? And he was like, Matt like just know they’re all on steroids. And that is something that, like, blew my mind because I was like, oh, my God, the only person who has ever taken steroids is like Arnold Schwarzenegger, maybe. And as it turns out, that’s not the case. The bulk of and I don’t want anyone to get mad at me if you’re not taking steroids, I believe you. And that’s great. But the bulk of like these like very muscular fitness influencers, male fitness influencers that you see on Instagram or TikTok or wherever, especially when they’re really young and it’s like seems impossible to have that much muscle mass at such a young age in your early twenties. They’re taking steroids, they’re taking testosterone, they’re taking human growth hormone. They’re taking these things that are illegal. And in the quantities that they’re being consumed often are really dangerous and with long term implications for your health. And so if you’re looking at someone and I say this because, you know, I think at this point, there’s been a lot of great conversation around the measures that famously beautiful women take to achieve their bodies, like the Victoria’s Secret Angels And like we’ve we’ve had these conversations and we should continue to. But I do think we’re just finally starting to talk about the things that men do to achieve their bodies. And it is an and in a lot of cases. First of all, also an eating disorder just in a different direction and equally unhealthy. It’s a lot of chemicals. It’s a lot of things that should not be in your body at these quantities, if at all.
[00:53:46] Jameela It’s not enough. It’s not enough sleep. It’s too much exercise. It’s anxiety. It’s neurosis.
[00:53:52] Matt Absolutely. And if you’re looking at on Instagram, at someone’s body, a male person’s body, and you’re thinking. How is it possible to achieve that on any diet and with any amount in the gym? It’s probably not possible. And there probably, you know, there’s some supplements in there that you should not be taking.
[00:54:10] Jameela And please don’t try these supplements because they are so unbelievably dangerous. Look, look into these things. Look at the abundance of data and research there is into why these things are banned, into why these things are discouraged, especially when you’re young, especially when you have a young growing body. Look at the dangers of the human growth hormone. Work out why that can be explosive. If you have a health condition like, you know, pre-cancer, etc., like look at just look into all of it. Do not touch the shirt. Nothing. And I promise you, as someone who has destroyed their health probably permanently because of my eating disorder, nothing is fucking worth it. All I feel is immense regret. Not a single day on the red carpet or a photo of me which I have the right arms has ever made me feel like this was worth it. Like this was enough. It is the regret of my life and why I go on and on and on and on and fucking on about how slippery the slope is. Because I am at the bottom of the slope and I’m. I’m covered in regret. And poop. Not poop. That was too far. That was too far. I apologize. I panicked. But I wanted to paint a bleak image. And I think I did.
[00:55:23] Matt Yeah. And for if you’re listening and you’re a young, a young gay guy, a young queer person, and you’re like, I, you know, because I know that a lot of pressure for how we have to you know, we think we have to make our bodies look it’s for sexual reason and to make people attracted to us, to make us seem fuckable. Someone will want to fuck you. Actually, probably lots. There are.
[00:55:49] Jameela You’ll have more energy to do it. And then you’ll need to get an erection if you’re not fucking around with your chemicals.
[00:55:55] Matt Absolutely. And. This is a slippery slope, too, because I don’t want to seem judgmental of people who are already going down certain paths because
[00:56:06] Jameela No it’s a disease.
[00:56:06] Matt You know, it’s a disease. And whether it’s working out and binge eating and taking steroids or whether it’s starving yourself, there are eating disorders and it comes from, you know, all sorts of things. And a distorted view of beauty is one of them. And so I’m not blaming anyone who’s doing this, but if you’re thinking about it and you’re thinking this is going to make guys want to fuck me more, someone.
[00:56:27] Jameela Abort.
[00:56:29] Matt Loads. Loads of people already want to fuck you. And like, without sounding cheesy, like, you look great. You already look great. Please don’t permanently damage your body over. Over a fleeting feeling that you’re having in your twenties.
[00:56:42] Jameela I wish there was a way given. Like how much women know where this goes. I kind of feel as though the gay community is in its underwear right now, and it’s hearing a sound in the basement, and it is the beating drum of diet culture. And they’re going down into the basement to check out the sound. And women like me are like, No, no, don’t do it. Were screaming at the TV and I guess maybe it’s on me to figure out how we do a better job of warning people to stay away from the basement of diet culture.
[00:57:15] Matt Yeah. Don’t go down there. It’s nothing good. It’s nothing worth your time.
[00:57:18] Jameela No. And it makes you infinitely a more boring person. I can say that from my own personal experience. It’s taken me like eight years to develop a personality because my entire personality was just calories. What a depressing time. Matt, you’ve been a joy and a dream. Thank you for your amazing work online. Thank you for coming here today to share some of your thoughts. It’s incredibly fun to watch you grow in this area and I appreciate you for being so open and I appreciate that you protect yourself and your peace and may you continue to have a lovely time doing the work that you do before you go. You tell me, what do you weigh?
[00:57:58] Matt Oh, God. Before I go, I weigh. I think I weigh my sensitivity. As we said, I weigh my curiosity. I weigh a lot of nails. A lot. A lot of nails. [taps nails] My ASMR nail sound. I weigh the love that I have for for people around me and honestly, for people that I don’t even know. I have a lot of love. And I weigh being queer as fuck.
[00:58:35] Jameela That’s great.
[00:58:36] Matt And owning that.
[00:58:38] Jameela Yeah, from a very young age.
[00:58:40] Matt From a very young age.
[00:58:42] Jameela I appreciate you, and I’m sure I’ll speak to you soon. Have fun on Fire Island.
[00:58:47] Matt Thank you so much for having me. And before before I go, I am going to have you on on my show very shortly. My shameless plug, my my podcast, which is called A Bit Fruity a ;ittle innuendo. A Bit Fruity with Matt Bernstein is coming out shortly and Jameela was going to be on it as well as a bunch of other cool people will be having conversations kind of like this about current events, politics, culture, you know, and intelligent and funny and and and hopefully informative ways. So I can’t wait for to talk to you again. And and thank you so much for having me.
[00:59:29] Jameela Likewise. Lots of love. Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode. I Weigh with Jameela Jamil is produced and research by myself, Jameela Jamil, Erin Finnegan and Kimmie Gregory. It is edited by Andrew Carson. And the beautiful music you are hearing now is made by my boyfriend, James Blake. If you haven’t already, please rate review and subscribe to the show. It’s a great way to show your support. We also have a bonus series exclusively on Stitcher Premium called Ask Jameela Anything. Check it out. You can get a free month, the Stitcher Premium by going to Stitcher.com/premium and using the promo code I Weigh. Lastly, over at I Weigh, we would love to hear from you and share what you weigh at the end of this podcast. You can leave us a voicemail at 18186605543 or email us what you weigh at IWeighpodcast@gmail.com. And now we would love to pass the mic to one of our fabulous listeners.
[01:00:25] Listener I Weigh being talented. I Weigh being intelligent and curious and trying to learn more and more about different things every day. I weigh a lot. I weigh a lot of good things.
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