André Isaacs

Tell us about yourself! What do you do for a living? What are your interests? What are your pronouns?

Hi! I’m Andre and I use he/him pronouns. I’m originally from Kingston, Jamaica and moved to the United States for college. I currently live in Boston, MA and I’m an Associate Professor of Chemistry. I teach courses in Organic Chemistry and conduct research in the area of copper-mediated organic transformations. I’m a huge tennis junkie (I watch and play), karaoke enthusiast, wine lover and planespotter. I also love making TikTok videos that showcase my life as a queer, black chemist and the lovely interactions I have with my students.

About how old were you when you came out? How was the climate you grew up in?

I came out when I was about 27 years old. I had been in a long term relationship with a woman since our freshman year of college. I grew up in Jamaica, which is culturally homophobic. This prevented me from even considering any option other than being a heterosexual for much of my life. I can’t believe I thought I was straight! Although I was living in the U.S. where I ultimately found myself, it was still difficult to come out to family members, friends and relatives. My relationship with my mother deteriorated and communication with relatives dwindled. I lost many people I considered friends. I have since reconnected with my family. 

Did you make career choices that allowed you to feel comfortable being open about your sexuality? (Are you out or feel comfortable being out at your workplace?)

It did not. By the time I came to terms with my sexuality, I was close to finishing my PhD and had decided to pursue a career in academia. I was, however, very nervous about disclosing my sexual orientation when I started my job. The pain of having to constantly come out takes a toll on you, particularly when the people around you determine whether you have the job (tenure) for the rest of your life or not. Luckily, my colleagues and institution have been extremely supportive and I work in a very progressive environment. This has helped me to be more comfortable and has allowed me to express my identity in ways I previously thought weren’t possible in a professional setting (mainly how I dress).

If you could tell your younger self something about yourself that you are proud of today, what would it be?

I would tell my younger self that the only way you’re going to be successful is to be true to who you are. Embrace your weirdness and explore ALL your interests. Your happiness, and consequently your productivity, depend on you being in a community of people who love and support you unconditionally. You will thrive when you’re able to emit all the light inside you and you will falter when you feel constrained by the expectations of people who don’t support you fully or mean you well.

Have you tried to surround yourself with like-minded peers/colleagues? If so, how?

It seems I’ve inadvertently answered this question above! The older I get, the more I value my time and my interactions with people. I definitely surround myself with like-minded peers and colleagues. I frequent spaces that give voice to minorities and encourage dialog around progressive issues. However, I’m not closed off to having substantive discussions with people with different opinions. I welcome that and believe it’s healthy. 

Who were your role models growing up? What tv shows/movies allowed you to feel seen?

I always loved strong women! Once again… How did I not know I was queer? Serena and Venus Williams and Mariah Carey (I’m obsessed). Since I came out later in life, I really don’t have any TV shows/programs that made me feel seen and I didn’t watch many growing up. However, any music video by a leading female artist was certainly something I’d watch on MTV or VH1 constantly.

Complete the sentence, if I knew ____________ back when I was first figuring myself out, I would tell my younger self that _____________________?

If I knew my future self would be this happy being queer and very out back when I was first figuring myself out, I would tell my younger self to be patient. It really does get better. Oh…. and save some more money….your closet is gonna need some sprucing up.

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