Words by Vish | @VishDelishUK  | Photos: © Flickr.com/Rhys A

I’ve been thinking about role models a lot recently. At work, near the water machine, a colleague fired a question that had me stumped: “So Vish, who is your role model?”

In that moment I didn’t have an answer on top of my head. I politely changed the topic and scurried back to my desk with a feeling of awkwardness for not naming some prominent LGBTQ+ figure. To be honest, this makes me sound insecure. Why was my mind clouded with the misconception that my role model had to look ‘cool’ or ‘relevant’ to others? After all, surely role models are simply a personal thing.

So what is a role model? In the past I’ve naively thought of role models as perfect beings that society places on a pedestal who we praise like some deity. Today I realise that this perception is toxic, because let’s face it, nobody is perfect. Personally, I feel attracted to people who have their flaws, admit them and do their best in putting themselves out there in whatever capacity they can.

As a child, I looked up to Princess Ariel from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. There was something so captivating about this movie that I used to watch it three to four times a day on VHS (yes I’m showing my age!). Ariel - an LGBTQ+ icon - was a free spirit and followed her heart at any expense, that is exchanging her voice to the sea witch for a pair of limbs, to find love with a white, rich, handsome human Prince. Girlfriend was gutsy, strong willed and penetrated my young mind that I needed to marry a rich white man #LIFEGOALS.

Fast forward to today and my love for Disney princesses has somewhat dwindled, and I’m still left pondering who my role model is.

I think I’ve come to a conclusion. My role model couldn’t possibly be just one person. I’m fortunate to have met many inspiring LGBTQ+ people through my line of work. Particularly LGBTQ+ people with intersectional identities, such as a person who is BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic), trans and an asylum seeker.

Naturally, this person will experience a different set of issues and levels of discrimination to say a white gay man – it can be complex to say the least. It’s clear to me that LGBTQ+ people with intersectional identities are unfortunately invisible to the wider LGBTQ+ community, which understandably causes upset. After all who wants to be invisible? But there is hope. I’ve met some awesome LGBT people this past year, who’ve put themselves out there and made me think about my role in the LGBT community.

So I guess this leads to an inevitable question – could I be a role model? The truth is, I’m not sure this is a question I could answer. It is something I will let others decide. But in my eyes being a role model could be about being more visible and letting the wider LGBTQ+ community know you exist. Unfortunately there is a drought of BAME LGBTQ+ role models.

Understandably, visibility can result in fear and repercussions from a community’s family or community members. This isn’t an excuse, but a reality. In Britain many people fear being their authentic self which can take a toll on wether someone would put themselves forward as a potential role model.

Ultimately, it’s going to take time for some communities to change and for the LGBTQ+ people from these communities to grow in confidence and live life on their own terms, just like how Princess Ariel managed to. So there you have it, as cheesy as it sounds, perhaps this red-haired aquatic creature was my ultimate role model after all.