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!

Image: Refinery29

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 

Image: cake boy mag

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.

Art by @rattlsnake

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!


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