Alok Vaid-Menon, Poet/Artist and Non-Binary Transfeminine Person
Alok talks to us about breaking norms, initial struggles, spirituality, style and their blue lipstick!
Alok Vaid-Menon is a poet, writer and performance artist, who identifies as a non-binary transfeminine person and uses the pronouns “they/them.” Born and raised in Texas, Vaid-Menon rose to public prominence as part of Dark Matter, a duo of non-binary trans South Asian performance artists. Alok talks to us about breaking norms, initial struggles, spiritually, style and their blue lipstick!
Alok 101 by Refinery29
Q1. First off we love you Alok, tell us about how this has journey been?
Alok: It’s a journey without a fixed destination. I’m not sure I believe in transition — but I know that I believe in transcendence. For me coming into myself has been about transcending from gender and all of the norms ascribed to it. I’m in a constant state of becoming and unbecoming — and all the change is simultaneously thrilling and terrifying. I never know what to expect!
Q2. How important is an appearance for a non-binary person?
Alok: A lot of people think that gender is what we look like, but that’s not necessarily the case. Gender is who we are at a more intrinsic level. So it’s not actually possible to “look like a nonbinary person,” because there are so many ways to be nonbinary! But I think nonbinary people like myself grow up without any representations of people living outside of the gender binary. So having visibility of other nonbinary and gender non-conforming people is so vital because it allows us to feel like we’re not alone.
Q3. Tell us about your love for poetry!
Alok: I started writing poetry when I was a teenager because I quite literally needed to write myself into existence. I didn’t know about any other people like me and I didn’t have anyone to talk to about the experiences of discrimination I was having for being gender non-conforming. So poetry became my most intimate friend — where I could be honest and real about what I was experiencing. I didn’t have words like “nonbinary,” I just had, “I’m hurt,” and poetry gave me a space to work that out. Ever since then poetry has been a positive force in expressing my emotions — and that’s why I continue to love it.
Q4. You’re a big norm breaker and we’re sure it’s not been easy, how did you overcome the struggle and criticism?
Alok: It’s certainly not been easy! I think it’s important to say that I don’t do this alone. I have friends who really support me through the rough times. It’s only through their constant support, care, and critique that I’m able to do the work that I do.
Q5. Do you believe in God or spiritually?
Alok: I suppose that my relationship with my art practice is my form of spirituality. By which I mean it’s a space beyond language where I can feel recognized totally and completely.
Q6. Are you currently single? If yes, are you having fun being single?
Alok: Haha I don’t believe in the idea of “single.” We use single to refer to people who aren’t part of traditional romantic relationships and I think that’s silly — just because we might not have a romantic partner doesn’t mean that we are alone. We are constantly connected with so many different people — our friends, our neighbours, our family — and to only privilege one form of relationship as the only legitimate way to be connected/be loved is so limiting! So no — I’m never single! 😉
Q7. Fashion cliches you hate?
Alok: “Boy’s Clothes” and “Girl’s Clothes” Gimme a break!
Q8. 5 outfits in your closet you cannot live without.
Alok: Black & white striped body suit
Denim School Teacher Dress (the first dress I ever wore!)
My T-Shirt that says “Call Me They”
The Pink Gown I designed that I wear to perform my new show!
My Blue lipstick (yes, it’s an outfit unto itself!)
Q9. Take us through your skin care routine?
Alok: I actually don’t use any products!
Q10. Your favourite quote that gets you going in life?
Alok: Make them laugh, then stick the truth in their mouths while they’re open!