Discussions of inclusivity in STEM too often do not address major diversity issues, in particular, they do not centre the needs of people of colour. Medicine is no exception and many steps can be taken to ensure medicine is a safe space and safe for all, whether they’re a staff member or a patient. Our host Craig Poku (he/they) is joined by the wonderful Dr Kayode Oki (he/him) in the finale of Season 2. Dr Oki discusses his journey through medical school, the barriers he faced at different stages, and what he’s doing to ensure that medicine is safe for Black people.

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00:00:01 Craig               Hi, I’m Dr Craig Poku, and you’re listening to the Pride in STEM Podcast, a series that explores the different barriers faced by members of the LGBTQIA+ community. As scientists, we are always taught that numbers and objectivity are the solutions to address problems faced by society. However, storytelling is just as important, especially when it comes to ensuring equality for marginalized communities. Through this series, I hope that you, the listener, will come away with a new insight into what these barriers are and discover pragmatic ways to help us overcome them. In today’s episode, I’ll be talking with Dr Kayode Oki about his journey to qualifying as a doctor of medicine. Within the medical field, being a part of a marginalized community can come with a range of barriers. More specifically, if you have intersecting identities, you may find that one of these identities will create more barriers than others. For example, race and sexuality. Here we spoke about Kayode’s career journey, the barriers that he’s faced along the way, and what he’s learnt from his experiences. Kayode, hello.

00:01:02 Kayode           Hi.

00:01:02 Craig               Hi! Firstly, how are you doing?

00:01:04 Kayode           I’m good. I’m good, Dr Poku. I’m wonderful—

00:01:08 Craig               Can I—

00:01:09 Kayode           Go on.

00:01:10 Craig               Well, I was going to say, I mean, you’ve just said Dr Poku, but by the time this episode comes out, will you be Dr Oki?

00:01:16 Kayode           Yes, I will be Dr Oki. I’ll be Dr Oki.

00:01:18 Craig               Yes! Can I just say, I’ve known Kayode for—

00:01:22 Kayode           Seventeen years.

00:01:23 Craig               A very long time. And [chuckles] Kayode is one of those people who I will come to for absolutely everything. And he is ready to fight the system and call people out for their foolishness on a regular basis, but does it in a way where actually you are enabling people into spaces that would not have access to that. And that for me, like, yes, you are getting a public. Congratulations.

00:01:49 Kayode           Yeah, I’m very confused, because I think I just like to read people for filth, but okay. [laughs]

00:01:54 Craig               But you say that, though, but I think that in a way that yes, you are reading people for filth, but then all the stuff that you’ve done with the British Medical Association as well as all of the other projects that we’re also going to talk about in this conversation, I do think that combination, it kind of needs to be done.

00:02:10 Kayode           I had a conversation with someone about this earlier today. She said that she used to be intimidated—very, very questionable choice of language—intimidated by me, the way I call things out. And I was like—

00:02:24 Craig               You? Intimidating? Never. [chuckles]

00:02:27 Kayode           I’m not intimidating.

00:02:27 Craig               [laughs] I know.

00:02:28 Kayode           Okay. But by the way I call things out and everything. I just sort of told her that, you know what? My philosophy, I listened to what Auntie Oprah said—my good auntie. We’re blood relations, yeah.

00:02:40 Craig               Mhm. Definitely. [chuckles]

00:02:42 Kayode           What Auntie Oprah said, “When you know better, do better.” And that is sort of my own philosophy. Of course, you can hold people to account for their past mistakes, but me personally, I don’t burden myself with my past mistakes. I’m like, you know what? I made that mistake. Now that I know better I will do better. So not letting your entire past just drag you down the entire way. Which is why I’m always talking. So the powers that be or just people, they know, no one can say that. “Oh, I didn’t know. I didn’t realise. I didn’t know better.” You know now. So that’s my philosophy. I’m just informing you. Do with that piece of information what you would like to do with it. But I have done my part as a member of society.

00:03:33 Craig               And I think, in a way, you require a lot of self-awareness in order to have that philosophy. Because it’s one thing calling people out, but it’s another thing when I’ve seen it on the bird app, whereby people are calling people out, but I also see them doing exactly the same waywardness at the same time. And I think that for me, that is a lack of self-awareness which I don’t appreciate. But anyways, rather than us working out how you’re going to be dragging people for filth, Kayode, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

00:04:03 Kayode           I am a twenty-eight-year-old medical student, a professional troublemaker, a baby boy, and I am also fearful. I’m full of fear. Everything scares me. People say, like, oh, I’m so fearless. No, no, no, no.

00:04:19 Craig               [chuckles] No you’re not.

00:04:19 Kayode           I am very much full of fear. I don’t like risks. I’m a fearful person and I’ll leave it there. That’s me.

00:04:28 Craig               For added context, I have invited Kayode several times to come climbing with me, to which he has outrightly just gone, “No. I do not—” [chuckles]

00:04:35 Kayode           No, I’m sorry. If I was meant to be climbing up and down things, I would have hands for legs like monkeys. I don’t have that, so I don’t know why you’re expecting me to be going climbing. No. No. No. I’m a fearful person.

00:04:51 Craig               Well, one thing I did want to commend you for—so I’ve known you for several years. And—

00:04:58 Kayode           Seventeen years. We’re old. Yeah.

00:05:00 Craig               Seventeen. I have known you for several years, and one of the things, of course, is seeing your journey into medicine. So literally from when we were back in school, when you were interested in the sciences, to then actually getting to the point where we dealt with the waywardness of you actually applying for medical school. To then actually go from London to Dundee, like—how has your journey ended up here, I guess? Your journey to medicine, whilst on paper it looks conventional, but there were several barriers that you hit at every single stage.

00:05:37 Kayode           Another quote from my auntie, Oprah. [laughs] She said something like, “Make the next best decision.” So at the point in time, make the decision that you are able to make with the information that’s in front of you. So like just make the best decision that you can, and don’t think twice about it. So yeah, my journey to medicine has been long. Is it worth sharing the whole thing? I don’t know. It might be a bit boring.

00:06:04 Craig               Go for it.

00:06:05 Kayode           Alright. Okay. [chuckles] I would say my journey into medicine has been like steeped in racism, I guess. So from school and having a head of sixth form who lies about what they predict in you, and predicts you lower grades than you’ve achieved in the past. For the first time in my life, somebody told me no. I was like, “Um, sorry. Excuse me. Do you know who I am? I run this place. I do whatever I want to do.”

00:06:32 Craig               I mean, you were head boy, so technically you did run this place.

00:06:35 Kayode           So we were that awkward year where there was a tuition increase from three thousand to nine thousand. And I thought about going to uni and just doing biomed or something and just pay three thousand pounds a year. But I was kind of like, “Why? I’ve got the grades. I might as well just reapply for medicine.” But there was a change in the tuition fee law as well, so even though previously I would have been a home student, people on my family’s visa suddenly became international students. But I didn’t realize that when I was applying. And I had to make that tough decision that, “Okay, right, I can’t afford to pay forty-whatever thousand pounds a year.” So I had to just be like, you know what, no matter how hard I try, unless I get like some weird glucose guardian who comes in and funds my entire life—glucose guardian is the non-gender-specific sugar daddy.

00:07:31 Craig               I love that term. I feel like I need to use this going forward.

00:07:35 Kayode           I’m not picky. Like, whoever you are, by all means, fund. [chuckles] So I had to make that decision to just leave and not complete my studies because I just wouldn’t be able to afford to pay forty-whatever thousand pounds, and that’s just not something I was capable of. However, this is where the Kayode that you know that is a bit anally-retentive and annoying and has a scary attention to detail comes in. So I got lawyers and stuff involved, but they couldn’t see the things that I was seeing, so I got rid of them. And I spent weeks—I kid you not, weeks—because I hated my job at that point in time. Like, I was going nowhere. I kind of realized, “I can’t do this anymore.” So I spent weeks comparing legal—like UK law. So like Scottish, English, Welsh, and Northern Irish law, because I’m a weirdo. [00:08:32] And I found a loophole in the law that meant I was a home student in Scotland but not in England. So I called up unis in Scotland and on the phone, Dundee sounded the nicest. The next week I packed my stuff up and moved to Dundee and started studying. [laughs] It was very, very wild.

00:08:55 Craig               Literally. Truly, it sounds like you just went off vibes, but actually you didn’t just go off vibes. You went off the decisions that you had based in front of you. You used the evidence that was based in front of you.

00:09:05 Kayode           Exactly. Auntie Oprah.

00:09:06 Craig               Yes. I mean, as somebody who watches Buffy quite often, there is that whole thing about going, when people say you don’t have a choice, it’s like, you have a choice by doing nothing. And that in itself is a choice.

00:09:17 Kayode           Yeah. And sometimes doing nothing is an okay choice. Doing nothing at that point wasn’t an okay choice to me. I uprooted myself and said, “I am going to Scotland to study any science degree that will take me.” And that’s what I did.

00:09:33 Craig               That is a wild journey.

00:09:34 Kayode           It is.

00:09:35 Craig               [chuckles] That’s the only way to describe it.

00:09:36 Kayode           And we haven’t even got into the getting into medicine part. But anyway, I applied again and I got in, because, you know, I’m a bad bitch. [laughs]

00:09:56 Craig               But I think also, to kind of add to this at well, whenever people talk about barriers that are faced to engaging in medicine or entering medicine or wanting to practice medicine, it’s always surrounded by or centered around whiteness. So especially—

00:09:56 Kayode           Mm!

00:10:06 Craig               The reason I mention this is because of course you’ve done a lot of work to talk about actually there are other barriers that are faced. I guess for me, one of the things that I’m interested in is, from your perspective, what barriers do you think queer people would have in engaging in medicine, and more specifically, do you think that sometimes, those barriers are seen as superior to other barriers such as race?

00:10:31 Kayode           I’m very biased, because I’m a cis, masc-presenting man, so a lot of the barriers that people could face in medicine for being queer I don’t necessarily face myself because I don’t think people straightaway view me as queer. So one thing I really despise about medics is that we tend to act and pretend that we are superior to the rest of society and we don’t do the things that other people in society do.

00:11:04 Craig               Mhm.

00:11:06 Kayode           But queerness in medicine, I don’t think it’s necessarily different to queerness in any other field. It’s the same barriers, the same problems that you would face, I don’t know, as a PhD student in—

00:11:20 Craig               And that’s a very interesting point to make there. Because, I mean, it seems to feel as though a lot of people will assume that medicine is kind of its own separate thing from STEM, and this is sort of the attitude that I notice from my other colleagues. So whenever people talk about, oh, the barriers that are faced within STEM, they never usually include medicine into that equation. But from what you’ve just said, actually the barriers are still there. And I say that because I feel that even though I’m a non-medic and you’re a medic, I do wonder that actually some of the barriers that we’ve both faced in our own careers—

00:11:57 Kayode           So similar. So, so, so similar. I think we are—as a society, we’re very, very keen to like label and categorize things, which I think is definitely very, very useful. You can’t solve a problem unless you highlight it. But I don’t think the homophobia and transphobia and stuff is unique to the rest of society and doesn’t occur in medicine. It’s just the same nonsense happening which is transplanted into a different environment. There are quite a few queer people in medicine right now. There’s a lot of white queer people—white queer men specifically, cis men—in medicine now. So there is that representation there. The bit I am concerned about is the transphobic GP, for example. I am concerned about the health outcomes, because of people’s—I don’t like saying this word—biases. I really want to say wickedness, because that’s what it is.

00:12:59 Craig               [chuckles] It is wickedness, though.

00:13:00 Kayode           Right. So people are dying because of racism and transphobia and just all queerphobia in general, so that’s my concern in terms of barriers and queerness in medicine. Because people are literally dying.

00:13:17 Craig               And, see, for me, like, this is an example of whenever somebody says to me—so I’m going to talk about STEM generally speaking—so when people talk about, “I feel a lack of representation,” it’s this idea that people will go, “Well, we need to engage within the BME community,” which is a term that I absolutely hate, of course. And it’s this thing whereby they will then go, “Well, if we just pump money into this and therefore we’ll have more Black people in this space.” Not actually acknowledging that actually, it’s more—the reason as to why there are less Black medics in medicine is because then there’s no one questioning why would you want to engage in these spaces.

00:13:57 Kayode           It’s out of pure stubbornness that I am still here. Like, I am not going to go because you’ve kicked me out. I am going to go when I can’t be bothered anymore. It’s going to be my choice. I’m stubborn.

00:14:09 Craig               I think this is why we’re friends, because we’re stubborn as hell.

00:14:11 Kayode           Exactly. I will take up as much space as possible, even if you don’t want me to take up that space.

00:14:17 Craig               The thing that you’re doing that’s different, I think, is that you are actively trying to improve this space for Black medics. I’m aware of the fact that you were on Sharp Scratch. You’ve done some podcasts on that. Can you just tell me a little bit about what is Sharp Scratch and how did you, I guess, come to using that as a platform to have a conversation about these issues?

00:14:40 Kayode           So Sharp Scratch is a podcast about the hidden curriculum. Hidden curriculum is basically conversations that you can’t really get taught explicitly via lecture or something. So it’s the little subtleties of being a doctor that no one’s going to tell you. It’s like having an older brother or an older sister, or an older sibling in general. And so I’ve been on it for the last two years. I would say it’s a great podcast and you don’t have to be a medic to listen to it. Like, we talk about things from racism in medicine, to fainting at work, to—the latest episode that I was on was actually about activism.

00:15:24 Craig               The term activism has been copped by certain people to be a very negative thing. And I don’t think it should be because the fact that you’re having these conversations, I know that if I were fifteen years old and I saw someone like you, hypothetically speaking, being your authentic self and calling out the system when it’s needed, that for me is a very important space to have, because that means that you’re then empowering Black people, Black queer people, for example, who want to be engaged in these spaces and at least are aware of the problems that could potentially be faced.

00:16:03 Kayode           Definitely. The spaces I’m navigating are very violent towards me and people who look like me, so I will speak out about that specific experience. So I am well read, so I do have theory behind it, but I make a conscious effort, if I am going to, I guess, call something out or explain something, I will always write it in slang. I don’t write the same way I speak. My writing is a lot more colloquial than the way I speak. And that is one thousand percent intentional, because I don’t want people to be like, “Oh yeah, I didn’t quite understand that.” You don’t need a dictionary to understand what I’m saying. It’s very South London, that’s where I’m from. It’s very plain spoken, anyone can understand it. A seven-year-old could understand it.

00:16:49 Craig               Yeah. And I think in a way you are breaking down those barriers by having those conversation. Obviously with the podcast and with the work that you’ve been doing, and obviously with the fact that you’ve spoken about how you break language down in a way that you allow people to engage. Have you noticed a shift of other Black people within medicine? Have you noticed that they’ve gone, “Actually, I can use my voice to have these conversations”?

00:17:13 Kayode           Honestly, it’s not something I’ve ever really thought about, to be quite frank and honest. In the last six months, I’ve had so many vexations complaints to my university, the GMC, the union I’m part of. Like, so many. I did take some time to think, “How am I able to rile people up so easily without trying?” Because I don’t think I really say or do anything wild or exciting. Because I’m just like, “I’m just me. I don’t know why you’re listening to me, but okay, cool.” [chuckles] So it’s something I’m beginning to realize, that, “Oh, actually, people listen when I say something.” Because I am very selective about when I speak about something. Unless I have something important to add to a discussion, I’m not going to get involved. I’m not going to say anything. So I think that has had an impact on the way people view me and view what I say, because I don’t—if it’s a serious topic, I just don’t talk for talking’s sake. I’m talking because I know what I’m talking about.

00:18:19 Craig               Yes, there is a bias in the fact that I will probably listen to what you say because I have known you for such a long time, but actually, whilst that bias may be there because I’ve known you for a long time, the reason that I listen to you is not because I’ve known you for a long time, but because you actually talk sense. But actually the words that you’re saying online, I mean, I’ve definitely seen a shift in some of the conversations. And what’s interesting is that I actually will bring some of the stuff that you do into our work, which is air quality. And I mention that because for me, the reason as to why people probably do listen to you is because you’re highlighting a state of uncomfortableness that they don’t want to face. But then when they realize, actually, by engaging in that uncomfortableness I will then make it better for the people around me, that’s a step in the right direction.

00:19:08 Kayode           One thousand percent. You just have to lean into the discomfort. That’s the only way you’re going to grow and don’t do that thing again. And for me, that’s the most important thing in the world. Learn more and change your behaviour accordingly.

00:19:26 Craig               So you may say something and it may take you five years, ten years for you to go, “That is a very problematic statement.” But it’s for you to do the unlearning, and it’s not for you, Kayode, to do that unlearning for that person.

00:19:41 Kayode           Just thinking about the discomfort and things, just thinking about the impacts of racism and queerness in medicine specifically, I will always first and foremost be a dickhead. So—can I swear?

00:19:55 Craig               It’s fine. We’ll figure it out. I don’t know if we’re allowed to swear or not. I’ve knocked this round 00:20:00 the whole day. But honestly, I want to keep the vibe in this here, so he’ll tell me if I’m allowed to swear or not. Are we allowed to swear?

00:20:08 SX                    Uh, no. But, I mean, dickhead is—I wouldn’t class that as a swear.

00:20:12 Kayode           You know what? Tell my medical school that. [laughs]

00:20:15 SX                    Just don’t call someone a cunt.

00:20:18 Craig               Yeah. I almost did earlier and I had to kind of filter myself and stop. Carry on.

00:20:28 Kayode           I’m trying to find a different word from dickhead.

00:20:30 Craig               Problematic.

00:20:32 Kayode           No, no, no.

00:20:32 SX?                  Unpleasant.

00:20:34 Kayode           No, no, no, no, no. I’m talking about myself here. [chuckles]

00:20:38 Craig               Wayward? But you’re not wayward, though.

00:20:40 Kayode           Okay. I will always first and foremost be a messy queen. That’s my vibe. So when wayward things happen at work or anything, my first instinct is, “Okay, I’m uncomfortable. Let’s share.” I’m a very giving, kind person who likes to share thing, so—I remember there was one day—so I work as a healthcare assistant on the weekends as well. One day I turned up to a random ward I’ve never worked on before. I told the team my name, and the nurse in charge just goes, “Oh, I’m never going to remember that!” [babbling noises] And I just looked at her and I was like, “You’re not okay.” So for the rest of the shift—.

00:21:19 Craig               [laughs] What names did you call her?

00:21:23 Kayode           I don’t remember what her actual name is, because—I just remember it began with an L. I called her so many names beginning with L the rest of the shift. I even wrote on Twitter, I was like, “Guys, give me names that begin with L.” Because I’d run out.

00:21:38 Craig               [laughs] I remember. I engaged in that.

00:21:40 Kayode           Because I was just a bit like, “No, you’re not okay. You can’t just try and give me another name.”

00:21:45 Craig               Well that was it, because for me, it’s like—you know when everyone says, “You can’t say X-name but you can say—” you know that Russian—

00:21:57 Kayode           Oh, Tchaikovsky?

00:21:58 Craig               That’s the one. I can’t say that. That’s fine. The problem is that I can’t say a lot of words, it’s not me actively going, “Oh, that’s too complicated.” That’s me going, “I’m looking and I’m trying and I physically cannot say it and I’m trying my best.” But that’s different because I’m at least—It’s the fact that it’s always about the intention behind it.

00:22:21 Kayode           I don’t care about your intent. Please say my name properly. No, but, like there are variations in pronunciation of my name that I will accept. I think people know—well, if you’re not wayward—people know when somebody has maybe a speech impediment or they can’t pronounce it properly or anything. That’s different to saying, “Oh, I’m not going to remember that.”

00:22:50 Craig               “Oh, I’m not going to try.”

00:22:51 Kayode           “I’m going to give you a different name.” There was one time in a tutorial, the person doing the tutorial—One of my white colleagues said this; I didn’t say this—She said, “The tutor looked at your name, took letters out and added ones that weren’t there before, and I’m very confused.” That’s what our Facebook group chat said.

00:23:15 Craig               So wait a second. So if two plus two is equal to four and one plus one—

00:23:21 Kayode           She said one million. No, she literally—two plus two equals four, but the math that she used was like one billion, two hundred and fifty-five thousand—it didn’t make any sense. Like, she was like—I was like, “No, that’s not me.” [chuckles] Like, no. It’s not me. It’s not me you’re calling. And I looked at her, I was like, “That’s not my name, sis. That’s not my name. No. I’m not doing that.” I had to report her. Like, I’m not joking. I was like—I had to tell the medical school, “This is very, very demeaning.” Because, no, you are a grown-ass woman. You can read. My name is very phonetic. Just read what’s on the paper. So there are variations. I’ll accept Kay-oh-dee, Kai-oh-day, Kai-ode, Kay-ode. There’s so many—

00:24:12 Craig               For the audience, can you pronounce your name, please?

00:24:14 Kayode           Kai-oh-day.

00:24:14 Craig               Okay.

00:24:16 Kayode           But it’s fine. As long as you’re reading what’s in front of you, I won’t be offended. I will correct you.

00:24:24 Craig               So Kayode. You’ve been your authentic self, and this is something that is quite present on social media and all the things and activities that you work in. But one thing I notice, especially whenever people talk about medicine, is this idea of this professional image, and being able to uphold this professional image. What other spaces you’ve been—I mean, I’ve heard stories of the—Is it the OSCEs where people have been told—So for context for the audience, an OSCE is an exam that people within health-aligned degrees have to take, primarily medicine and nursing—where people, for example, have been told that their skirts are too short or they appear a certain way. Have you found that aspect of professionalism impacting your career within medicine?

00:25:15                         Oh, one billion percent. But I am going to go with a disclaimer, again that I am a cisgender, masc-presenting guy. So it obviously doesn’t affect me as much as it would affect other groups of people. But I was very, very lucky that I took a gap year. And I used that gap year to find myself, which sounds so cheesy. But just understanding how to bring your personality to work. So the organization that I worked with during my gap year was very much about that. So I’m very, very comfortable bringing my full self to whatever space I’m in. I’m genuinely about taking up as much space as possible. I will manspread everywhere, my personality. [00:26:14] So in that aspect, it’s fine for me. It may not be so fine for other people who are, I don’t know, more flamboyant and/or anything, or more femme-presenting. But on placement and at work, I dress the way I want to dress. Like, I don’t really think twice about it. Like today I’m wearing red trousers. I’ve worn these trousers on the ward. I used to wear—on placements I wear patent-leather shoes. And one of the male patients was like, “Oh, I love your shoes.” And I was like, “Yeah, thanks, sis.” Well, bro. Or—I don’t know what I said to him, but I said something like that. And I’m very, very happy doing things like that. I’m very, very comfortable doing things like that. [00:27:10] But when it comes to OSCEs, I’m not playing no games. Because I—like we said, medicine is a microcosm of society and unfortunately, not everyone is a good person, really.

00:27:29 Craig               Because obviously you’re within the field, can you explain what on OSCE is slightly better than how I did?

00:27:34 Kayode           So an OSCE is just basically a clinical skills exam. So you have a simulated patient and they come to the doctor with a problem and you have to see the patient. So it’s very simulated and someone marks you. This is where it’s important, because your OSCE says whether you pass or fail and are able to progress through your degree and all those wonderful things. So I do not take any risks with my OSCEs. Like, I wear either a blue shirt or a white shirt and black trousers. That’s it. That is my uniform for OSCEs with my black shoes. I don’t want anyone to come and bring me any of their problems or wahala, because they have their own wickedness in their soul, or as people like to call it, biases. I don’t want any of that because this is my life now. Which is unfortunate that we have to make that decision and think about those things. I’ve had friends say in their OSCE feedback that, “Oh, shirt was a bit too flamboyant.” Like, what?

00:28:39 Craig               This has been an absolutely pleasurable chat to have. I actually brought you onto the podcast because I think that for people within STEM and for the people who are listening to these conversations, they’d see medicine as its own little bubble, not actually acknowledging that there is a lot of problematic stuff that is happening within medicine that is present within STEM. And of course you’ve alluded to some of the ways in which you can improve representation within medicine. If you had one solution to improve representation within medicine, what would it be and why?

00:29:13                         Kayode      Let’s dissect this question a little bit.

00:29:14                         Craig          Yes. Go for it.

00:29:15 Kayode           Because what do you mean by representation? I know people say representation matters. Like, it does, don’t get me wrong. But I also don’t want representation of waywardness. So I would say—I will reword your question for you, because chaos. [chuckles] I think the thing I would change is I would change the systems in which we are operating under. I don’t think representation is necessarily the answer. Like, honestly, we need to get rid of white supremacy. We need to get rid of the patriarchy. We need to give women whips so they can go around and just whip men at random. Like, we need all these different things to, you know, get us back to square one. And I know that if women go round and whip men at random it puts me at risk, and I’m okay with that.

00:30:08 Craig               [chuckles] Yeah. I think that’s something that’s really important there. Because this is why I asked the question in as vague of a way as possible, because I wanted to highlight the fact that you can’t do two things. One, you can’t just get a bunch of Black people into a space and think that fixes the problem. Two, you can’t have people who are seen as, like, the golden child of STEM. So you get the same Black person to do all of these talks, but they are basically either dodging the questions or they’re not asking the right questions.

00:30:39 Kayode           Or they’re actively wayward.

00:30:41 Craig               Yeah. And three, the fact of the matter is, a lot of people think that representation means that doors will be opened. But we know several people who are Black, I know several people who are queer, who all want to be the only person at the table and therefore actively do everything they can to close the doors for other people. When in actual fact by you being at that table, that is a privilege, so you should be using that privilege to ensure that other people have a voice. And that’s what you’re doing in the work that you do.

00:31:13 Kayode           Yeah. It’s sometimes a very, very violent place to exist as a person of colour. Sometimes very violent to exist as a queer person as well. So yes, we need to focus on representation, but we also need to focus on these institutions that we are part of. And when you get that token Black person in there, what is actually happening? And when they don’t stay for very long, why didn’t they stay? Why do they keep on leaving? Nobody’s asking the—well, institutions aren’t asking themselves that question. So they say, “Oh, yeah, Black people just don’t want to have these senior roles.” That’s not true. They just don’t want to deal with you. Like, that is honest truth.

00:32:03 Craig               And then by the time you get to those senior roles, because where you are in your career—we spoke about the journey of getting to that. That’s pushing, what, seventeen years up until where you are now? If you’ve already been dealing with all of these barriers, all of these things, all of these systems that are problematic, all of these systems that you’ve had to be engaged in that are very violent, by the time you go for a very senior position, you’re very tired, because the energy and the emotional energy that you’ve had to get to that point—if you are white, and more specifically if you are white and queer, even though yes, being queer does have its barriers, the reality is that your race has had a bigger part to play in there. So therefore you then go for these positions, you’re tired, and therefore you’re like, “Why am I going to put myself through pain?”

00:32:50 Kayode           Yeah. And sometimes you say, “You know what? I just want to collect my money and go home.” And you don’t want the extra stress. But I’m stubborn and I can’t help myself. My life is just very, very vibes, and inshallah, I try not to plan too hard or have too many goals ahead of me. I’m just trying to take each moment as it comes, and if I find myself in those positions, I’ll do my best to represent the communities I’m part of, to represent myself first and foremost. I don’t have loyalty like that. I’m loyal to me. [laughs] But yeah.

00:33:27 Craig               Kayode, it’s been an absolute pleasure.

00:33:30 Kayode           Thank you so much for having me.

00:33:31 Craig               Thank you for coming! It’s been a pleasure to have a chat with you about this. So the final question I have to ask you is where can people find you on the interwebs?

00:33:41 Kayode           So I’m on Twitter and Instagram @teekayoki. So that’s both Twitter and Instagram. So that’s T-K-oki, that’s how you pronounce it. You can also find me on the Sharp Scratch podcast brough to you by BMJ. Not yet award-winning. Award-nominated a lot, but they don’t want us to win. I don’t understand. But yeah, that’s where you can find me. And my DMs aren’t open, so don’t bother. [chuckles]

00:34:11 Craig               All of this information will be put into the show notes, so don’t worry. We will make sure that you can find the beautiful Kayode. I would also like to thank Pride in STEM for providing us with the space for having these conversations, as well as to our lovely production team, Matthew Young, Alfredo Carpineti, and [inaudible 00:34:29], who have been brilliant in putting this podcast together and making it come to life. If you can, please rate your podcast wherever you get your podcasts. And finally, if you would like to find out more about Pride in STEM and the work we do as an organization, you can follow us @PrideinSTEM on both Twitter and Instagram. I’m your host, Dr Craig Poku, and I hope to see you soon.