Coming to terms with my identity, especially queerness, has been incredibly difficult. I still find myself questioning my identity frequently. A big part of my project for this program revolves around this theme. For the past few years, I have been drawn towards queer artists and look up to them for inspiration. One of them is Alok Vaid-Menon, a poet, artist, performer, and more. They also go by the moniker Alok and use they/them pronouns.
Since poetry is so close to my heart, I’ve always admired their poems. But after I began questioning my gender identity, I felt a closer connection to their work. Both of us are genderfluid and Indian. This brings me a lot of comfort. At times, while my questioning process was especially difficult, seeing a brown queer person alive and thriving in this world gave me some hope for the future.
Alok holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University where they studied feminist, gender and sexuality studies during their undergraduate years and sociology thereafter. They make use of this knowledge to educate their followers on social media, especially Instagram (@alokvmenon). They post book reviews and share important historical details about queer communities of color that often go overlooked, or are violently erased. Some topics they’ve spoken about include medical racism, the colonial history of the gender binary, white feminism, the racist history of body hair removal, mental health, and more.
Their book Beyond the Gender Binary was published in 2020 and was made available to queer youth across the U.S. for free. It was included on a list of 850 books to be banned by Texas Republican State Representative Matt Krause for causing “discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of an individual’s race or sex.” But during a time when anti-trans legislation has been at an all-time high in the country, their work is even more important to spread awareness and support the LGBTQ+ community.
I feel incredibly grateful to have idols like Alok to look up to, even if there aren’t many of us out in the public eye. Their words always act as reminders that despite all the negativity and discrimination, there is hope.