Bad at small talk, and wants an end to the world that forces us to categorize ourselves in the first place
Alok Vaid-Menon grew up in a small, conservative Texas town. They are an unapologetically radical South Asian nonbinary person whose work is in many ways about subverting introductions like these, as well as white supremacy and imperialism. You’ll get to know them in their own words below, but still: Alok is one-half of the performance art and poetry duo DarkMatter, they work to support qtpoc organizing with the Audre Lorde Project, and they recently penned an op-ed for The Guardian, where they call attention to the fact that “putting trans celebrities on pedestals doesn’t translate into safety for those of us who are visibly gender nonconforming.”
The question of visibility is at the fore of Alok’s practice and persona – their own aesthetic is vibrant, regal, and queenly – but in a way that also protects the unseen or imperceptible. They’re here for the queer kids who can’t or won’t come out, the plainclothes radical, the trans people of color for whom being seen means surveillance, violence, and incarceration. So at a time when the push toward ever-increasing transparency is trending high, Alok reminds us “incoherence is resistance,” too.
We spoke with Alok to chat about current looks, curating life as content, and being unabashedly complicated.
How do you want to be seen – and by whom? I started doing the work that I do because I wanted to create the images that I didn’t see growing up when all of the South Asians I knew were heteronormative and all of the queer and trans people were white supremacist. But I think over time I have developed a more complicated relationship with visibility: I’ve come to appreciate the parts of ourselves that do not – and in fact cannot – be rendered visible.