My Pride Story: “I’m black and queer. We need more role models”
Isaac Eloi is a paralegal and future trainee at Midlands firm Freeths. This is his Pride Story.
My story begins in Bradford, West Yorkshire – the place I was born and bred. Both sets of my grandparents come from the little island nation of Dominica in the Caribbean and I’m incredibly proud of my heritage. From hearing whispers of our Kwéyòl language as a child to playing out on the street with the other children at the Dominican Association Club on a Sunday, I had a culturally rich childhood.
However, with all this brilliance came adversity. Like most second or third generation children descended from immigrants, I felt like “a child of two worlds”. I wasn’t particularly sure where I fitted in. This all culminated when I first came to identify as queer in my late teens at university. It took a long time to get to that place, having tried to force myself into specific labels – none of which actually described me fully.
Life became harder at university when I joined the LGBT Committee. Like my course, I found it hard to relate to people and noticed very few “out” LGBT people of colour. Coming from a multicultural and ethnically diverse city, it really shocked me. This influenced my campaigning work upon joining the BME Students’ Committee as it’s important any movement represents your whole identity and not one sole part.
I studied abroad at the Universitat de Valencia, Spain, which showed me what it was like to be an LGBT person of colour outside the UK. I’ve always felt semi-visible, but for the first time I felt invisible and hyper-visible. My friends and I would go out and be gawped at. People also looked through us, not at us or they’d want to “try” being with you, like you were a flavour. How can I forget when out walking with a white Spanish friend, a police officer wanted to see my ID (and mine alone), asked where I “came from”, why I was here and if I’d ever been arrested before simply because I was black.
I’m glad that working in the profession, I don’t face all these issues to such extremes. But there is still a long way to go. I have no problem being myself at work yet I think we need more role models, especially those of colour. I’ve also brought my university campaigning experience to work with me, and it makes a massive difference in me obtaining a training contact. We have stories and it’s so important to tell them. People really do learn from our voices being heard.
I think my story is mixed one. I am as black as I am queer and that influences my experience. However, as painful as some memories have been, I wouldn’t be who I am without them. Like my Dad would say, we strive to greatness through adversity. I guess that’s my pride story.