Amir Yass joins Jonathan and Britt for an illuminating conversation about spirituality, embodied empowerment, white saviorism, religious biases, and queer confidence. But most importantly they discuss all sorts of ways we can practice loving kindness in the face of cognitive dissonance, bigotry, and bias.
Join us on this wild ride, as we delve into the tough stuff and plumb the depths of our souls. You won’t want to miss it!
JOIN THE NOT GOING QUIETLY COMMUNITY:
Subscribe to the Not Going Quietly newsletter for behind the scenes, updates, sneak peeks of new episodes, and positive queer content: https://insights.notgoingquietly.today/
FOLLOW OUR GUESTS:
Jonathan [00:00:02] Welcome to Not Going Quietly the podcast where we inspire growth, beat down biases and get into all sorts of good trouble with co-hosts Jonathan Beale and Britt East.
Britt [00:00:11] No topic is off limits as we explore ways to help everyone leap into life with a greater sense of clarity, passion, purpose and joy.
Jonathan [00:00:19] So get ready to join us in courageous conversation because Not Going Quietly starts right now.
Britt [00:00:30] Hey, everyone, and welcome to Not Going Quietly, the podcast for outraged optimists and heartbroken healers all over the world where we surface life searing truth in the name of radical togetherness. I'm your host, Britt East, with my fantabulous co-host, Jonathan Beale. Jonathan, how the hell are you today?
Jonathan [00:00:49] Good. Yeah, it's a little colder since we last week started off with the weather, so it's a little cold, but good. You know, we're in the midst of our country falling apart politically, which is always a joy. And we seem to be careening for a cliff edge, which we have been since 2016. So with that, how are you?
Britt [00:01:15] Well, I'm glad we're not going to, you know, kind of avoid the elephant in the living room, The head of lettuce, that is your new prime minister. I have never seen anything quite like it. Well, the departure of your finance minister in the UK that I think your home secretary just left too, it's something else. It's like you're trying to. You're trying to make the US look good. You're doing everything you can to make the ships of the United States look a little less shitty, I think.
Jonathan [00:01:44] Yeah. At least I always like something positive happening. I know that there's the ongoing threat of Donald Trump, but we we seem to just be digging deeper and deeper every every time and people keep voting for it. So here we are, you know.
Britt [00:02:01] Yay, democracy! woohoo!
Jonathan [00:02:10] And apathetic liberal voters gotta love it!
Britt [00:02:16] Well, we're lucky today because we have someone who is going to save us from all of these shenanigans and help us figure out what in the heck is going on with the world. We're so fortunate to have Amir Yass on the show with us as our featured guest. Amir is an LGBTQ activist battling against racism, transphobia and body shaming in the queer community. Creating safe spaces is very important to Amir, and he does that on his Instagram and TikTok accounts, which you guys have to check out. They're absolutely incredible and of course will put all that in the show notes. Amir is a queer Muslim unicorn who won't shy away from any conversation. We'll see about that, Amir! Comedy is at the center of everything he does. Chatting with Amir is like chatting with an old friend with a lot more sass from TikTok. Amir is always trying to educate the folks through comedy. Amir, welcome. Thank you so much for joining us today. How are you?
Amir [00:03:13] I'm great. Thank you for having me. I mean, and also you pronounce my name so beautifully. Most people say Ameeeeeeeeeeer, so I love that you said it.
Britt [00:03:20] Ameeeeeeeeeer.
Amir [00:03:29] I appreciate it. I really do appreciate it. My name being pronounced correctly. So my dad always said, if people can say Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, they can say your name as well.
Britt [00:03:39] Yeah. Well, you know, people can't pronounce my name either. So I try my darndest, you know, you know, to get it right. So I'm glad I'm in the ballpark at least. You know, one of the things I've been thinking about this week is the amazing women of Iran. And in all seriousness, I have just been so I've been an emotional wreck thinking about them and watching events unfold on there and feeling so unworthy of like my, you know, of democracy and my little life that I'm running and the unreal display of courage that, you know, some of them are girls, some of them are women are doing in like throwing off their hijabs and, you know, giving a middle finger to the regime. And, you know, and then when you take the opposite of that and you look at what has been going on in France for the last few years where people like, no, you're not allowed to wear the hijab, it's modesty culture, it's intrinsically evil and stuff. I just keep thinking like, why are we so obsessed with policing female bodies? Why is it just so appealing to me? It's like we can never get enough of it. Like I have got some opinion about some female bodies somewhere in the world.
Amir [00:04:57] Absolutely. Isn't that. And it's so funny because I get I got a lot of DMS when it started, people saying I wish I could save all the Persian women and take off all their hijab. And that's not what people are looking for because my mom wears a headscarf. It's a lot of people. It's actually power. You know, wearing it is like a power. So I think that when you say stuff like that, it comes from I get it, it comes from a place of not knowing. But, you know, there are a couple of Netflix movies where the woman will fall in love and then take off her hijab for the man. This kind of storyline is not good. It's not positive. And I'm someone listen, I'm not very religious, but I am Muslim. And so when people say, like, you know, this religion, they don't know anything about it because Islam is actually one of the most beautiful religions. Women were the first to vote in the entire world where Muslim woman America just got voting in 1960, 5040. I don't even know. So it's not it's less than a hundred years. So I think, you know, it's important to know the facts. And also a lot of Muslim woman run the finances. Show me an American household where the stay at home mom is running the finances. That's not a thing. So, I mean, I can go on and on. The prophet's wife was a 40 year old. She was 20 years older than him and she was a millionaire. So she was a self-made millionaire woman. And she was she's one of the main figures of Islam. People just don't know the history. We need to separate culture from religion, right? We had the Christian Crusades, but no one ever says Christians are terrorists. Right? But the Christian Crusades killed more people than any Muslim terrorists ever has. So you just have to know your socks. And I think because I went to Christian school, I get both sides of the coin. So I think it's just we just need to educate ourselves better.
Britt [00:06:44] And it's like if you see somebody wearing hijab, the appropriate response is, Hello? Why do I have to have an opinion about...why do I need to express an opinion about your hijab? Like if you're wearing it, not wearing it. I've got enough going on. It's not enough going on in my life.
Amir [00:07:03] We all have enough going on in our lives, Right. And I think that even if she's being forced by her husband, that's not your place. Even if she's being forced, know what your place your job is not to save people. Like, I think we have to stop. You're complex, especially from an American or UK lens. It's like the white savior is getting old and I have a lot of people message me like, I wish you're coming out wasn't so tough and I could just hold you on my arm. That was my experience. So when you say something like that, you're taking away from my experience, right? So, yeah.
Britt [00:07:37] And there's a whole other quality to it. Yeah, there's a hall monitor quality to it. It's like, I want to police like what you can do because it makes me feel weird or, you know, it's I just, you know, like you said, if a woman is being forced to to wear an article of clothing, what am I going to swoop in there and suddenly change it? I mean, the whole thing is absurd.
Jonathan [00:08:01] Mm hmm. Yeah. Yeah, I really. I really don't understand that whole Western idea that our culture is the enlightened. Our way of living is the most fucked up way of looking at the world and. And, you know, coming from the UK, you know, really started here and there. You know, things don't leave the UK. Or if they do leave the UK, they go to little British communities in Spain or places like that where they don't experience culture of any kind other than their own. And it's short sighted. It is.
Amir [00:08:47] But I mean, people are comfortable in their bubbles, right. And I understand, like I grew up in Orange County, it's like such a bubble. And even in Islamic communities, like it's very bubble, right? You hang out with people that are religious women and men go separate. So when someone shows up like me and kind of throws a grenade and is like, I'm gay and Muslim, they go nuts because I think they just can't process it. But I have always loved doing that. I've always loved to throw grenade and be like, It wasn't me, you know? And I think that's kind of part of my charm. You know, I, you know, sorry, like, you know, and someone had messaged me like, you should be talking about Iran more and you're not doing enough. I'm like, let's see, the life of an activist is balanced. You got to have some balance, you know?
Britt [00:09:32] Oh, my Lord. Again, that's like. The idea that just because we have an opinion, we feel the need to express it to every person we meet. Like you should be doing more. You're Muslim, you should be healing Iran or I'm just it is. It is.
Amir [00:09:52] You know, my job. And also my mum is in Iran, you know?
Britt [00:09:57] So you made a comment that you grew up in Orange County, I believe you said, and so you maybe you'll appreciate this. Next thing I've been thinking about, we have listeners all over the world, and Jonathan was very generous in the intro about not making too much fun of the United States because it's just a dumpster fire at the moment. But one of the things as we approach the midterm elections and, you know, none of us really know what's going to happen, it feels like it's teetering on a knife's edge. Everything over here, it seems like when you look at the political polls, they're really just a proxy for gas prices. More and more, I think about it. I am almost like all the people in the United States seem to kind of care about, is gas prices, which I get in a way, because commuting here, there's such large distances and people have to travel so much for work and, you know, with inflation and everything. But it does seem a little odd of a choice, given the lack of control that a president has over gas prices and all of that. Is there any hope for us? And I need a pep talk.
Amir [00:11:14] I don't think I'm the right person, but I will. I will. I will do my best. I mean, I'm in Dallas, so I mean, I've been here with the family and I kind of thought I would be really like, boy, But actually, it's been the opposite experience. I, I have honestly felt very welcome. And, you know, people have come up to me on the street and said, I love your nails, I love your handbag. I feel very welcome. And I'm not saying Texas is perfect. I'm in Dallas as well. So it's a little bit more like a bit more of like a cosmopolitan area. There's a lot of Beto O'Rourke bumper stickers and people have it in front of their houses in areas like Highland Park. That's kind of the Beverly Hills of Dallas. And so for those people to be like supporting a different, you know, mayor and like a different shift or governor, I don't know what it is, but it's like it's a shift that's happening. I think that's like really great. And I. I'm trying to focus on like the glass is half full instead of looking at it like, so empty. Because I think that I have spent a majority of my life since I was like since 911. Right. Feeling very othered in this country. Right. Like, so I think that I'm trying to look at it from a different perspective. I did a tick tock that went viral where I said like, say, America in three words, and I said, you know, racist, homophobic and Islamophobic. And, you know, there's like maybe a thousand comments now, and most of them are in agreeance, but there are a lot of people that are in agreement and there are a lot of people that are like, no, this is not the experience I had as an Arab Muslim, or I'm just not my experience or, you know, as a gay person. I'm like, It's really funny because when people don't have an experience, they try to negate someone else's experience. I've never been assaulted, but I don't negate someone's assault story. But it's so funny when it comes to racism or homophobia or Islamophobic, people are very quick to say, No, that's Europe, that's this is another country. And someone wrote, No, it's worse than the Philippines. So they do like the trauma comparisons. And it was really interesting because that's just my experience. I'm just one person and that's been my experience of America. Has America been amazing to my immigrant parents? And it has been amazing to me as well. Absolutely. But it also I think we can do better. And so many people wrote, leave then move, get out. We don't want you. That's not the point, because I want to make it better, like I care enough about America to make it better. And I know it can be better because it was built on being better. Right? So I don't like and I know I'm sound like I'm running for governor, but I like literally I think it can be so much better.
Jonathan [00:13:45] It's really interesting to me that a country with a with a written constitution, of course, is no different to any other religious text can be interpreted whichever way you like. Right. Whichever way supports you. Right. And so. Whilst I can look at it and see a country built on freedoms and and the American dream as such, others can look at it in a way that it is not that and also claim it is that. And so this whole idea of perspective right. Of well the way we view it and interprets it is. Is quote unquote, freedom or the American dream, but also someone with a completely different perspective and view on it can also seem to see a totally different way of living that life. I don't know where I'm going with this other than just adding that to the conversation.
Amir [00:14:41] No, it makes sense.
Britt [00:14:49] You know, the US is in many ways just a big old contradiction. And it's, you know, a country founded on stolen land with stolen labor. And that's putting it nicely. And it's everything you both said, you know, we're responsible for some of the thinking in the documents that led to more worldwide freedom than maybe any other country in the history of the planet. So it's this huge contradiction. And if we take that at the microcosm like you were talking about, I wanted to kind of share an experience that I've had, too. And I think it kind of related maybe with what you were saying in Dallas, which is so cool to hear. I engage with lots of politically conservative people. I don't know the word anymore because it doesn't feel like it maybe used to be, but we will call them Trumpers. Who have a genuine affection for me. And it just makes my noodle because on the one hand they would vote for me to be interned and was shipped off the island and eradicated and, you know, whatever reeducation camps, whatever they could do, you know, whatever homophobic action they could do at the ballot box they were all in. But when it comes to engaging with me one on one, there's genuine affection in their eyes and in their voices, in their hearts. When they ask me about my husband, when they invite us to be with their family. And it I, I am humbled and I have it's beyond my wisdom to be able to hold these two opposing thoughts, this cognitive dissonance. It is so weird. I don't know what to make of it. I just. I like it makes me cross-eyed. Do you have any kind of thoughts on that? Maybe what you've been experiencing in Dallas is kind of similar.
Amir [00:16:37] You know, I got to a place and I think this is like probably the last ten years of therapy has helped me get to that place. I don't need to know that you're able if you don't present it to me, I don't even like research and try to find it and look for it. And I think I spent a lot of my life looking for it. And I believe that the universe sets you up for that. So you end up finding those people and you attract that energy. When I started my Instagram, that was called Coming out with Love, and I was like, I'm angry. I feel othered in this country and I'm not coming from a place of love. So I think a lot of people that like are really staunch Republicans or like super conservatives, they are ironically coming from a place of love, even though they're voting against us. I think they come from a place of I know someone who is gay or and I know these are like Trump, but someone does my hair or or like my younger brother is like friend is gay or whatever it is. And they see something in us. And I think that like what I think when I do any kind of coaching, I always tell queer people when they come out, you actually end up becoming a superhero. And I think for a lot of people it's hard for them to ever be themselves. So when they see us, like sashaying down the street looking fabulous or feeling confident or like, whatever it might be, they're like, Wow, that's like really alluring. And there's something magical about that. Like when I was in New York and I'm always on my head and I have so many body issues and, you know, I had an eating disorder and I've had a lot of disordered thinking around myself. And I was crossing the street, really feeling myself. And this guy, like, secretly was taking my picture. And then he uploaded the photos and they gave them to me. And that person that is walking across the street so confidently, I was like, I don't even know who that is. It's like I was looking at the photos being like, That's what I look like. Like that's so magical and not is the queerness. That's nothing else but queerness, because I didn't even feel that confident that day. So I think that when it comes to conservatives like they are coming from a good place, it's just like their their interests sometimes supersede what other people might need. And I think that, you know, I'm not saying Democrats are perfect. There are a lot of Democrats that are homophobic as well. And I don't want people to think that just because you're a progressive and your policies or your political thoughts, you are so open and you want great immigration and you want you're not an Islamophobe like. So we also have to be like cognizant of that other story, because I've met many Democrats who have said very off the wall things and I'm like, not great. When you start a conversation with I'm not racist, but. Yeah. You're going to be racist. Sorry.
Britt [00:19:09] You know, that's such an important truth. I mean, come to Seattle. I mean, we. I think we have a corner of the market on the sort of self-satisfied latte liberals who want so quick to pat ourselves on the back for having all the right politics as long as it doesn't inconvenience us in any way.
Amir [00:19:34] And I think that's why people kind of find me to be like in An Inconvenient Truth, mainly because they're kind of like on the page, because we want to have fun. We want to see you talk about Bravo, and then I'm talking about, like, things they don't want to talk about, which is like body shamers and racism in the gay community or homophobia in the gay people are like, That doesn't make sense. Homophobes in the gay. I'm like, yes. Hmm. Misogyny in the gay community. I mean, people are so quick to tell me if I wasn't so feminine that I would be a perfect boyfriend, right? Those words. And even like a movie like Bro's, right? You're making a movie about two gay men in a rom com. Great. And then you're calling it bro, right? You're adding that level of like, I get the joke. Like, I'm. I'm in on the joke. I enjoyed the movie. I know Billy Eichner. It's fine. Like, I'm not mad at it. I'm just like, again, that trope of the bro, the masculine white guy, right? Like the fact that if someone was to like one of my friends in an experiment where you put like a very masculine but white guy, like, very like cisgender on his Grindr and it was blowing up, right? Like just no information in the thing, nothing about age, nothing about anything. Like just the photo itself. All of a sudden, like, was going like, off the wall, you know? So that says something about our community. And I the reason I talk about these things is because I want it to be better. For me, it's selfish, like I want it to be better so I can feel welcome. It's not just like I'm not like a thing. Like I just want people to know that I'm not a saint. Like I'm doing it cause I want to be okay.
Britt [00:21:10] Yeah. It's like if you can't get people on moral theory or ethical principles, like, let's go for a pragmatic reality, like, what's your going to make your life better? And diversity is always a strength. You know, there's nothing wrong with masculine people, even if they happen to be gay. But wouldn't it be lovely to show some other type of queer people in mass media? And I think maybe that's kind of like what you're saying. It's like there's room for all of our stories, but some of us are suspiciously often left out.
Amir [00:21:41] Absolutely. And I think, you know what it is? It's like it's a deeper conversation around. It's not about what you're doing. It's about who's doing it right. When Harry Styles pin, it's avant garde. It's fashion. When it gets, you know, that that's not appropriate for work. Why are you trying to be a woman right now? That's important. I think it's important to understand what some of these Charlemagne wears the halter top. It's like, Oh, that's so avant garde, that's so fashion. But then Billy Porter does it, and it's like, Oh, okay, well, that's just a little too gay for us. So it's not about what they're doing. It's about who's doing it right. So men have been wearing dresses, killed, etcetera, etcetera, for thousands of years. But what is it? Because those men are strange and masculine, Is that what it is? Right? Like, so I think it's important to understand and like, why does milk like the RuPaul's Drag Race Queen milk become so famous and have so many followers? It's because they're both they're cisgender, They're like masculine, right? So I just want people to, like, enjoy. Listen, you never have to open a book. You never have to vote. I don't care what you do, but what I need you to do is like, be aware of some of these things. I don't care. It doesn't change my life. If you vote, I don't really give a shit like I think people are like, Oh, you're always doing this to that. Say talk about it. I don't give a shit what you do because my life is going to be great either way. Like I'm good, I'm sad, I look cool, I'm going to Neiman Marcus, like I'm traveling like my life. So I only say these things because I'm like, I want things to be better for, like, all of us.
Britt [00:23:02] And so you're so generous about, you know, sharing the humanity in your story, but where do you get this confidence and how can some more of us have it?
Amir [00:23:15] Well, it's just fake. So it's it's it's fake of the drawback. I mean, I from Canal Street like, I don't people always ask me, like, how do you find your confidence? I'm like, I, I don't have an answer. I mean, I was a confidence coach for literally most of the pandemic. And I still have no idea how my students one opened a flower shop, the other one got a divorce, came out as bisexual. I mean, I don't I like you guys. Are can you teach me how you did that? Like, I don't know how I'm doing. So, I mean, I think confidence is like I think people confidence is like happiness. Like people are looking for it to be a destination. And I think that it's a lifelong thing. It's like you wake up some days and, you know, I'm ready to like open an onlyfans and like fuck on camera. And there are days where I'm like, I cannot get out of bed. I mean, it's really the fact of the matter is that and there are moments where I'm so confident and I'm in the middle of doing something, I lose the confidence and I'm like, What the heck? Where to go? Like, so I just I think being kind yourself, I don't know. It just like it just disappears like an ether and I and I don't know how to like, reclaim it, but I think just be kind to yourself and, and listen, we're all on a journey. Like I spent so much time eating lunch in a bathroom or hiding out, like, why do I have to change in front of people in, like, you know, one of those single bathrooms I was bullied was called Start with you have a list of you're gay. All of that trash that people throughout me after a while you're like, oh, I can recycle this. Like, I don't need to hold on to that trash anymore. Like, I am not unworthy. I am not disgusting. I am I might be a certain way, but I am enough for what I provide like, right? And I used to, like, hate my voice and I thought it was so I was like that person that like, can't listen to a voicemail. And then I got on clubhouse and people would like the minute I come into a room, they'd be like, Amir's here. And I realize, wow, like, my voice is like, I didn't do anything to deserve this voice, but I got it. And it's kind of like it's kind of magical. Like I went and into Whole Foods to pick up a cake and the guy was like, Oh, I know who you are. I remember you on the phone. Like, How many people do you talk to all day? And he remembers me. In the past, I would have been like, Oh my God, you sound like a girl. You're stupid. He probably thinks you're so dumb. And I was like, Yeah, the voice is iconic. Like, she's iconic. So I think that that is where the confidence comes from. It's just I have no other choice, really.
Jonathan [00:25:37] Is there is that also an element? Because because as you're talking, I'm thinking about courage kind of in the face of fear. And I wonder if if there's an element of that in it, because I really get some days it's easier for us to do the things that feel scary or that make us feel confident. And other days we just can't muster the courage or the bravery to take those actions. And I wonder if that kind of is something that gels for you.
Amir [00:26:09] It does not experience. Yeah, it really does. And I would always tell my students or anyone who asked me like how to find confidence I might go to a restaurant, order something and return it. Return it, and then I just tell them I'm doing an exercise, like the food's fine, but I like, do it and I'm on because there are so many people who can't do that simple act for themselves. They will eat something they don't like. They will sit through a date they don't like. They will sometimes even sleep with people they don't like. I've done that where I'm like, Well, I'm already here. But like, you're exchanging energy with someone and possible fluids and you're like going, Oh, why should just do it? Because I'm codependent. Like, that's not the right way to go about things. So I think that like again, being conscious of why you're doing things and when you're doing things and just be like in your body a little more and you know, I barely survived coming out. You know, it was really on some days, like really like a hair follicle. I would barely out. So I think that for me, I think gratefulness has a lot to do with it. I and I don't mean toxic positivity where you're like, Oh, I'm going to make a mood board and I'm going to make like, you know, I'm going to manifest. That's all great. But if you don't feel it and you don't believe it, it's not going to happen. Like, people go, Well, I love myself. You're not acting like you love yourself, right? I had a therapist who said you're treating yourself with your inner child. Like, think of it like this. Like CPS is going to show up. Child Protective Services are going to show up. Would you talk to a child like that? Because I do that. Like when I make mistakes, I'm like, You're an idiot. Like when I was in New York, I like, messed up, like, whatever, like time that I had to be in an interview. And I was like, Oh my God, you're such an idiot. And the person was like, Oh, it's fine. Like, you're 10 minutes late, right? Like, so I did all that beating up with myself, and then I had to show up and be like a mirror off and, like, present myself and be, like, on. And then I was like, Why did I do that? I would give my little cousin, like, literally knocked over something. I'd be like, That's fine. Let's clean it up. If I did that, I'd be like, You're an idiot. Look what a mess you made, right? And those are the inner voices that you have to unlearn. Like, that's like an uncle or a friend or someone who said, like, you're always a menace, right? Like, and I think that, like, stuff like that, it just takes so much work to like. And then you don't know you've done the work until you're presented with a situation. Like a great example. I'll tell you a quick story. I went to like the grocery store in Dallas and I was returning something whatever, and I was waiting behind this woman and she turned around and said, Oh, I didn't even see you there. I thought you were invisible. Right Like that's a really like, that's like, that can be very damaging to someone who's like. But I was like, yeah, she just didn't see me in the past. I would have attributed it like, so much. I'd be like, Oh my God, she thinks I'm invisible. I never heard, I've never seen a nobody. And I was like, Listen, if she can't see this gorgeous six man, okay? With like, a big head of hair, then she needs to get her eyes fair. It's not about me. It's not about me. It's about her. It's her thing, Right? So it's like remembering that. It's like it's not always about you, right? I think that's like, a big thing. I think especially in America, we always center ourselves and everything. And sometimes it's not about you when someone's upset or angry or sounds your thought or ugly. It's not even about you.
Jonathan [00:29:18] We are. We're all the center of our universe. And I think there's an element of because we think so much about ourselves, we assume everybody else is too. But the truth is everyone's just the same as us. And all they're doing is thinking about themselves.
Amir [00:29:31] Nobody cares. And people might talk about it in 2 minutes. I always tell people, I always tell my students. I tell my friend like 2 minutes. They're going to talk about it for 2 minutes. Even if you walked out, I saw a woman who was topless walking down the street in L.A. We were sitting at a cafe. We talked about it for 30 seconds. We were like, Oh, my God, she's she really topless? Oh, my God. Oh, my God. Oh, my God. And then we were like, okay, what are you ordering? Like, nobody stays on that topic long enough. So even if you fall and fail and get divorced and lose your job and you mess up and you end a relationship. I don't think anyone cares. Like, they don't care. Like, at the end of the day, we're on a spinning rock in space. I mean, I just heard the other day that black holes apparently burp up stars. After three years, they swallow a star. They burp. I mean, what the hell? Where are we living? Right? To. To focus on this. Like, who cares?
Jonathan [00:30:23] Isn't it sort of the absurdity of life? And we have so much meaning to everything, but I think we are meaning making machines right, or designed to add meaning. And I think the danger is when we get caught in the trap of attributing meaning or choosing meaning that's harmful or, you know, any number of things.
Britt [00:30:50] And it's all just stories. And and what I'm hearing on there is like you have cult to this deep well of resilience and confidence by practicing authenticity and being yourself and learning to embrace yourself and that ongoing project and experiment, you know, in all sorts of different situations and relentlessly putting yourself into the stream of life.
Amir [00:31:20] Absolutely. I have no other choice for it. I think that a lot of people think, like, I willingly do this. I literally have no other choice. I grew up in a very conservative Muslim household where nobody was really being themselves. Everybody was hiding. Everybody was looking for a voice. And I and then I would go to school and be in a Christian school where, like, I'd be like the token Muslim. And I go to the mosque and be the token gay child and like, you know, it's like you just continuously feel othered. And after a while you're just like, well, like, this is the life that I have and I'm either going to sink or swim. And for me, I'm a great swimmer. She can do a great breaststroke. So I was like, I'm a swim and I'm going to butterfly my way through this life. And I think that I've done that. And I have to say that and I'm not saying this in an arrogant way, but I've done it beautifully. Like, sometimes I'm shocked at how graceful I am because I don't feel that way. Like, I feel like Bambi on ice, right? But then I look at the videos, I look at the interviews, I whatever. I'm like, I see myself the way I go through life. And I'm like, Oh, that's kind of graceful. Like, you got to give yourself a lot more credit. And I think that I give other people more credit because that's a lot less like vulnerable. Like, Oh, you're doing great, right? That's a lot less vulnerable than saying I'm doing great. And I think it's taken me and even now I'm saying and I'm like, oh, people are going to listen or they're going to be like, He's so egotistical, but it's not egotistical. Taking up space is like not being like, egotistical, But I used to think that. So I would shy away and I, you know, my dad, like one time he was like, I'll give you $20 if you go hang out with the people at your birthday party. Because I didn't want to be around people because I felt like people were just like pointing, They're going to call me out. They're going to make me feel other, right. They're going to be like, Why are you this? Why are you not, you know? So I think that like, I just had no other choice than to other just to jump in and to really like, I had to find that confidence. And, you know, again, like I said, some days I can't muster it and other days I can. And honestly, I don't want to be like, Oh, I'm super religious, but I honestly believe some of it's divine because I don't know where it comes from because I really like if you heard my internal thoughts, like they're not so friendly.
Jonathan [00:33:22] So yeah. It also sounds to me like you've cultivated a habit of making hard choices. Mm hmm. No, because you talk about. You talk about kind of appearing even to you from the outside is looking effortless and graceful. So that surely that can only exist in a world where you have chosen to do hard things. Because when you continuously choose to do hard things like this, easy life gets less challenging. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. I mean, is that Joe?
Amir [00:33:58] No, it does. It really resonates, because I. It's actually with standup comedy. We had a comedy group that was like it was like a roundtable of all the comedians with mental health issues. Like, comedians are always surprised, like when people would hear about, like, you know, Robin Williams, they'd be so shocked and like to be funny. You have to go through a really dark way and there's no way around it. You can go uptown. You have to go right through it. And I think that because like I said, I've been to those dark times and, you know, working as a publicist, ironically, I gained a lot of my confidence by working with talent because they want it to be I want to be the next J.Lo, I want to be the next Lady Gaga or whatever. And I would always tell them, Why don't you be the next Amber? Why don't you be the next Janelle? Why don't you be a lot of those people? And then I started realizing, why am I trying to be Jonathan Van Ness when it's already taken a myriad of it's great. Like, I, I like someone wants to then model their career after me, right? And until I realized that I couldn't do anything because this especially social media, it's savage. Like when my first video, it got ten views and it had ten comments, which means like for every view, someone had a nasty comment. That's really hard to like not feel effective when people are like, You're old, you're not funny, you're fine, you're ugly, your voice sucks, you know? And then they got they got they got more and more aggressive. I want to kill you. I want you to die. And I think sometimes you go through that and then you're like, Wait, I'm free to do whatever I want, because whatever I do, they're not going to like it. I just did what I wanted. And it works. Yeah, it works. I enjoy it. It's not even about like, Oh, I want to make $1,000,000. I enjoy my own shit. And I think that that's. That's my only if the only advice people get from this episode is that love your own shit. Like, if you don't want to make a movie, don't make a movie because Leonardo DiCaprio did it. Like it's not going to be good. Like nobody cares. I promise you. Even if you become a massive success, you are not going to do it for a long time because it's not true to who you are.
Jonathan [00:35:57] There's something in there that really strikes me and it's my brain just started. It will come back from the floor of the House standing for something because so many people are so worried about sending people or worried about the rejection or worried about, you know, any number of things that the people end up sounding for nothing or end up not speaking the truth and not following their dream or not. You know, any number of those things. And so it strikes me that it really takes an ability to say, actually, no, this is what I believe and this is what I stand for. I'm going to be here and I'm going to be talking about it no matter what. I'm always going to come up against resistance because anybody who has an opinion is going to get resistance. That's the world that we live in. And so you either deal with that, learn to get used to it and move through it. And like you've done reached a point where you're totally free because even if people are in the comments and they want to kill you, you're still going to keep going on, right? Because. You've got something important to share. And so I think that's a really important thing to kind of dive into for the listeners as well. Is that. Find your voice. Use it. Stand up. Talk. You may be seen. Be heard. You know.
Amir [00:37:19] Yeah, absolutely. And Jonathan, you know, I'm a human being, so, you know, I took a five minute, five month break. I was like, No more embarrassing, no more. I can't do it anymore. You guys are just too mean. And tech talk is shadow banning my account just because I'm talking about being gay. I got tired of it. Right. So it's okay to take a break and then you come back and I'm like, full force now, and I'm back in, and I. And I really enjoy it. And, you know, it's also with all the negative stuff, there's always the people that are like, You saved my life. I got through the pandemic because of you. I watched that. I wait for these videos and I'm like in a bad relationship and I watch video of my life and I feel like we're friends. And so that stuff like and I always get emotional, but that kind of stuff is like the reason I do it, because that's the only reason, really.
Jonathan [00:38:04] Yeah.
Britt [00:38:05] Well, there's there's so much that's beautiful about you. And one of the things that attracted me right away was the way that you are so expressive and so, so openly optimistic, surprisingly optimistic and relentlessly pushing yourself out into the real world. Jonathan kind of alluded to some of the echo chambers that tempt us when we don't get the serotonin hit maybe that we're looking for in a given day. And it's always a pleasure to be with friends and loved ones that we can effortlessly express ourselves and seamlessly be our true selves. But the reality is that the society is a messy business, and it's really it's incumbent upon us, certainly if we're talking about things like democracy and political systems meant to increase liberation, worldwide liberation, it's going to take all of us. And when we when we acknowledge that fact, and then we are compelled to speak with people and listen to people who disagree with us. And your bravery and courage has touched me so deeply over the years, watching all of your, you know, your your various socials and and seeing you be so honest and real and authentic about the good days and bad days and taking the breaks and everything and still swimming in the stream of life as best you can. There's there's so much inspiration in that. And, you know, I just I wonder, like you said that you said that you do it because you have to like it's not necessarily this magnanimous choice that you're doing for everybody. You're doing it for yourself. And because that's how you have to be in how you have to survive when you're working with students. How do you help them tap into that for themselves?
Amir [00:40:19] I think it's about it's really important to meet people where they are. So, you know, like I said, I had a student who was, you know, had come out to her husband during the pandemic that she's bisexual. And, you know, obviously, he didn't take it while men have fragile egos, you know, and he didn't take it well and etc., etc.. And instead of saying you need to come out, leave him, we're going to figure it out. You're going to be like, it's not my place to like. First of all, like I always tell people, are you safe? Are you financially comfortable? Right. A lot of people pushed me to come out, specifically, a lot of queer people come out. You'll you'll never regret it. But I wasn't ready to hear that. I was feeling unsafe financially. I was tied to my parents. I didn't want them to hate me. I didn't feel safe. So when people would push me, it was like really, really hard. So I'm not a pusher. Like, I don't know if it takes 50 classes for you to literally go to a restaurant alone. And that's what it took, right? You know, I had a student. It took ten sessions for her to wear, you know, a crop top to the bank. You know, she was very self-conscious about her body, but she did it and she hated me for it. But she did it. And that's all that matters, right? Like, I you know, I struggled with agoraphobia at a time. I didn't leave the house for three or four weeks. Me going to CVS and getting out of the car was a huge success. Right now, I'm like doing interviews on the red carpet and I'm like, okay, who was that guy like? Right. I think it's like it sometimes get so in the rearview and you're like, Wait, but how did I ever struggle? Like, for me, I'm like, How was I not always like, I don't understand, like, how is I like living my life? Like I was basically half breathing. So I think that that's really important because I think a lot of people listen to podcasts and they get really great advice. You know, you listen to JD, anything like the perfect stuff and it sounds great and no shade against him. I think he's wonderful, but a lot of times people listen and they're like, I could never do that. Like, that's so far from what? I'm trying and I can never love myself. And what I say to that is like, how about you start with liking yourself? Let's start there and then we can work out. Because that seems so like it's like you hate yourself and then you're like someone thing you love. It just doesn't mean it doesn't register. So I start it like on a lower frequency and then we just like and I slowly upped the ante and I can always tell when it's working, when they don't want to come back. Right. Like, kind of like there was like a therapy energy and, like, they don't want to come back. They're like, making excuses. They're like, I can't afford it. And I'm like, I know you can. So it's like, I think it's important to call people out in a nice way. Call them out, you know?
Britt [00:42:57] I love it. I know you can afford it.
Amir [00:43:02] Like I'm telling you, I know you can afford it. Like you work in finance and you're telling me the job is killing you, then you better do something about it. Like, I don't know, the number one thing that's. I don't get angry, but the thing that will piss me off in any kind of teaching situation is, number one, carelessness and like, not being thoughtful. So if you're, like, telling me you want to become an influencer, like a mom influencer, but you don't want to wake up a 4 a.m. and shoot five videos and I don't want to teach you like you don't want. It's not enough. Like, I think it's important to people. People want all that stuff and they're like, It looks so easy. The Kardashians are doing it. No, no, no, no, no. They are coming from a famous family and they work really hard. I've worked with them like I've worked with a lot of really big talent. They works three times harder than you would ever imagine. So, you know, like I worked with Donald Glover. He sleeps 4 hours a day. Like, they don't like they don't sleep like these people are working. And even when they're famous, they still they work ten times harder. So I think it's really important that people like when you are following your dream, is not easy. That's why most people just clock in and clock out. So if you really want to follow your dreams, like it's not going to be fun. And I always thought like, Oh, you follow your dreams. And then it's like, so cute and you're wearing like two outfit and you're like, living your best life, like, and then everyone's infiltrating it. What I realized is you're stripped naked, thrown into the gutter, and then a bus drives by every 5 minutes and you get dirty ice water. Like that's what it feels like to follow your dream.
Britt [00:44:28] So that was a part of Mary Tyler Moore they never they never showed.
Amir [00:44:33] That was in them that was behind the scenes like, you know, she got yeah, dog shit and our shoes, she got like, dirty water. The heart was like brown, like, yeah, they don't show any. You didn't touch the heart. Like, give me a break. She did not catch the heart. She threw it like, 40 feet in the air. Like, I don't know, like, see, that's the thing where I'm, like, false advertising. I wish someone would have told me so. That's why not. Because, you know, I'll leave this podcasts feeling good, and I'll be like, I feel good. I'm. And then I'll get a rejection, I'll get an email, I'll get, you know, a brand deal all through whatever it may be. You know, you'll get an email saying, Oh, well, we love working with you. And I'm you know, I've missed out on huge brand deal because of that. Oh, well, you're too vocal. Well, you're not vocal enough. How about that? But you know the two effects, right? Like that's no money. And, you know, I still I can't pay my rent with cute little ad lib, so I need money, you know? And so I think that, like, navigating that is tough.
Britt [00:45:28] Yeah, it's like collecting "no's." You have to get real happy with, with rejecting rejection and going out there and collecting those and figuring out, okay, you know, that's, that's the main thing is queer people that I, that I long for us to experience as a community that you alluded to earlier, which is taking up more space and carving out a space for ourselves and each other in this world. Yeah, actually carving it out. And that's hard work. I mean, did we think, like, did we honestly think that all these straight white cis men were going to just hand us their power? Without cost or consequences. No, no. We're going to have to earn it with sweat equity and backbreaking labor. And it's going to hurt. And it's going to we're going to make mistakes and it's going to be messy and ugly. And, you know, it's not going to come gift wrapped. It's not going to look like it was perfectly edited with the right filters and Photoshop applied. It's it's it's going to be janky and weird and we're going to feel weird doing it. And, you know, there's and there's no finish line. So it's like in this big experiment, I just long for a community kind of to be like, here is like take up more space, be yourself, let go of these stories, stop taking it so seriously. Get out in the stream of life and just let your light shine.
Amir [00:46:52] Yes. I need a shirt that says Get in the stream of life like I think I need to. We should make a shirt. We need that. We need that in our lives.
Britt [00:47:00] Merge deal.
Amir [00:47:02] Merge deal. I love. No, I think you make a great point. Like, there's no other way than to get in it. Right. And I think that we talk so much about success that we don't talk about failure. I feel so many times, but I think that made me more sympathetic, more empathetic, more aware of like how things are not always going to work out. Right. Like, a great example is Jennifer Coolidge. Like she had written off her career. She was doing small guest spots and now she's like totally having a resurgence. Like, who would have guessed it right? Like, so I think it's like having that confidence in yours or Kate Bush is a great example. People are like, Oh, this is a new artist. And it's like, no, she's been oh. It's been around for a while. Gen Z. You never know what's going on. So I think it's like Hollywood is a great you know, the reason I love that industry, this industry is that it's like such a microcosm for life. Like you see people have these careers, you see people be arrogant, you see people like lose their careers because they're not grateful. And it says a lot about how life works. Like if you're grateful and happy and energetic and you send good energy into the world and you want to create content that people can enjoy, like you're going to have a career. I don't I don't think that's rocket science like you. What's the secret to success? I'm like, just doing it like, I don't like, I don't know, like I don't have anyone in the industry. I don't know anyone. I have no nepotism, Like I just do young people. I made calls, I reached out to people like and I was genuine. I wasn't like, give me something. I was like, how can we help each other? I think that's like really important that people kind of miss out on. They're like, Give me this, like, and I get the lady. I'm like, I want to help. Now look at my Instagram now. And I'm like, Well, that's not the energy that I was looking for. You know?
Britt [00:48:48] You said, I think a lot of us are just unwilling to pay the cost for what it takes to do to follow our given dream. There's a lot of luck or whatever that goes into it. But in terms of the sweat equity component that you're talking about, it's like a lot of it's expensive. And just in terms of the emotional, energetic, financial, the sweat equity, the the outlay of that, you know, it's it's hard work, like you're saying. And I think a lot of us expect things to land on our lap.
Jonathan [00:49:19] Exactly. Yeah. It's so really it's a really curious thing that is the kind of entitlement of that. So also the inability to move faster, know or do anything of any substance to actually get a result, you know.
Amir [00:49:37] Yeah. If people are people want it handed to them and I always tell people I'm like everything in my life, money, like whatever relationship was kind of like handed to me. I don't have to work very hard for it. And I didn't appreciate those things. But this, this show and what I've been pitching and like my Instagram, I took I made it from the ground up, like I created it and it really tumultuous time in my life and I made it happen. And and if it never becomes a financial success, I don't really care. Because for me, my only goal from when I started was to save one life. And I've saved hundreds of people's lives. And I can say that without being an egomaniac because I'm I have the receipts, right? So like, I love Bravo. So I'm like at a reunion, I have the receipt. It's like, I know what I have accomplished. And I think that when you get to a place where people can't take that away from you, nobody can take that away from me. That's pretty refreshing. And I think that that's where I am today.
Britt [00:50:24] I have a theory. I want to run by you both. I, for a long time was focused on success like you're talking about and would come up with different ways to define that for me with various projects and stuff. And then I kind of shifted that focus to impact. You know, lives changed, hearts touched, people reached. And now I don't even like that. Now, these days, I have really focused on the creative impulse, the spark. My thinking is, and this is maybe a little weird, but my thinking these days is I want to connect with that divine spark and force and energy in the universe and nurture that flow and let the outward expression be what it wants to be. And if nobody likes it, that's okay, that's fine. Or if people love it, that's great too. It's like it's like it's almost more like clay, as opposed to now I have I'm a certain age and I've reached a certain station life that there's privilege that's all over my life. But I'm just saying, given this sphere that I'm in, I focus these days more on that creative spark than even impact and certainly success or five year plans or like you, a vision boards or that I should not be bothered with any of that. And I'm you know, it feels better. It feels like there's more of a flow and it feels like more like play.
Amir [00:51:56] You know, you're on the right track. I mean, it's. I think if you're not heard of it, fine. Then what's the point? Like, I don't know. People are always like, Oh, my God, you look like you're having so much fun. I'm like, Well, yeah, like, I don't know, like it's. I mean, it's exciting. I think it's exciting when I d I'm someone that I looked up to and they respond in the we're friends and they're following me. I mean, that's exciting. I think it's exciting. I think it's exciting to connect with people. Like when I went to New York, I started I met all these people in real life that I'd been talking to the entire pandemic. And it's amazing. Like, how is that not exciting? Like. So I'm also like a child. And I think that one of the reasons children and dogs love me because I'm just like, excited about it. I'm like, Oh my God, I love this. I die for these shoes. I die for this outfit. Like, I love this food. Like I don't Why are people not more excited? Like one of my exes, which is like with an I would always be like, Why are you excited about everything? I'm like, on the matter are so cute at Starbucks. It's like, I don't know, like, why can I be excited about that?
Jonathan [00:52:52] As someone who who has suffered with perpetual lack of excitement in my life. But I can I can I can kind of understand how tapping into that can be such a magical thing. Oh, my God, I'm so. And also for the other side, I can understand why people are like, I really can. Yeah. Yeah.
Amir [00:53:23] That's very deep conversation. I think people sometimes don't want to see the joy too. Like, because they're like, I see the joy. Then I have to change my circumstance. And I think changing your circumstances really scary. Like I wasn't feeling happy in California, so I've moved. I don't live in Texas, but I moved in with my family here and I feel a lot happier. So sometimes a shift like that can do. Listen, I'm not going to move to Texas, but I'm here now. And I think that people are like, I can tell people that don't look for joy on a daily basis are like, why are you living there? What's going on? Are you I mean, I'm like, I don't know. And I think that that's kind of exciting and that's like where I am in my life, you know? So I think it's great.
Britt [00:54:03] And I think like promises are for children. All the rest of us really have is the here and now. And so, like you said, I'm gonna now be here now, you know, that's really all I have. And you know, when I'm in California, I'll be in California. When I'm in New York, I'll be in New York, I'm in Dallas right now. I'm here.
Amir [00:54:19] Now. Let it be you. Just let it be like I know And you know, I don't I don't overthink things, you know? And I'm so sorry, you guys. I forgot that I have a 3:00, so I do need to run. I'm having so much fun, but I do need to run. Okay. So sorry. I just looked at the time and I was.
Britt [00:54:38] Not at all. So thank you so much for being here. We will make sure everybody has access to your handles in the show notes. We encourage everybody to check out. I mean, yes, he's brilliant, funny, affirming, wildly optimistic, you know, incredibly comedic, hysterical. Make sure make sure you check him out. And thank you so much, listeners. You made it through another heartrending, heartwarming hour of not going quietly. The podcast for heartbroken healers and outraged optimists all over the world. We love you and we're so glad you joined us today. Thank you. Bye bye. You've been listening to. I'm Not Going Quietly with co-hosts Jonathan Beale and Brett East.
Jonathan [00:55:24] Thanks so much for joining us on this wild ride as we explore ways to help everyone leap into life with a greater sense of clarity, passion, purpose and joy.
Britt [00:55:32] Check out our show notes for links, additional information, and episodes located on your favorite podcast platform.
Amir Yass is an LGBTQ activist battling against racism, transphobia, and body shaming in the queer community. Creating safe spaces is very important to Amir, and he does that on his Instagram & TikTok.
Amir is a queer Muslim unicorn who won’t shy away from any conversation. Comedy is at the center of everything he does. Chatting with Amir is like chatting with an old friend with a lot more sass. From TikTok to Instagram, Amir is always trying to educate the folks through comedy.