Alok Vaid-Menon. The Pain & Empowerment of Choosing Your Own Gender.


[Interviewer] So can you talk about
how you feel about doing this? [Alok] I think so many narratives
around trans people is that we hated ourselves
when we were younger, and that now we love ourselves
when we’re older. And that’s just totally not true
for so many of us, because no matter how much
we are comfortable in our bodies, the minute we go outside we’re under attack. [Interviewer] Can you talk about
what your style says about you? [Alok] I think my fashion is its own form of armour. Our daily acts of resistance are just seen
as frivolous or excessive, but I think style is actually extremely political. [Interviewer] Can you talk about assumptions that people have about you
based on your style? [Alok] I grew up in a small town in Texas. It was like a predominantly white, evangelical,
republican, straight, cisgender type of town. And I grew up in a sort of post 9/11 queer body. Even despite being told that I was a terrorist
every single day, being called a faggot
every single day, being called a tranny. And I think that there’s this hierarchy
that gets drawn between sort of flamboyant faggotry,
or like queer femininities, or like trans femininities as being somehow inferior or less legitimate than “womanhood” because we’re always seen as sort of
[em?]posturing to be women. I feel like the way I understand my gender is that I am both a man and a woman,
and neither a man or a woman. I’m outside of these entire categories. I think they see me, and they see me as a failure. I think so many of us who grow up
in the south [of the U.S.], or in small towns, think that moving to New York means
we’ll finally be acknowledged. Like, we’ll finally be safe! That’s a total and utter lie. And I’ve had to learn the really hard way. But in New York, I think,
because it’s such a large city, there’s so much anonymity, I think people don’t feel
empowered enough to defend people getting harassed on the streets. People will just stand and stare and watch. I’ve had people spit on me, I’ve had people call me an “it”. This one day, I hadn’t shaved
in like 2 weeks or something, and I was getting off the train and this white man was
about to enter the train, and the doors open and he screamed “OSAMA!!!!” Like, really really loudly! And then I was like, petrified because my entire life i’ve known that when people call me a terrorist, or Osama, or Bin Laden, or whatever, you run. You run because no one’s going to defend you. And then he looked down and saw
that I was wearing stiletto heels. So I had a beard, but then I had heels, and then he cut himself short,
he says “OSAAAA…” And there’s this really weird moment where I didn’t, I no longer fit his stereotype of a “man of colour sort of a terrorist”. So when people see me as a brown person, they automatically masculinize me too, because of this idea of the like terrorist idea. Like the other day I was using the bathroom, and I walked into the women’s restroom and this older white lady
came up to me and said “What do you think you’re doing, sir?” And I said “using the bathroom.” And then she pointed to the door,
like, very vehemently, and was like “This is the women’s restroom!” And then, in this moment, I was so frustrated
because I knew that I had to say I was a woman. Like, if I walked into the men’s restroom
in this dress right now, there’s a serious chance that I could be attacked, like, “what are you doing?!” And so I just said “I AM a woman”, and then she looked at me and said “Oh. You must understand why I was confused.” And I think that’s because when women see me, they’re trying to protect this category
that they belong to. And I think so much of the ways
we talk about patriarchy, is that it’s just men doing it. And I think actually women do patriarchy every day. I was really nervous about going back
to my family home in India, like a couple of years ago, because I knew that my family had all found out, that I was no longer, like, a straight man. Even though I was so scared, one of my aunts, like, took me aside and gave me one of her necklaces. And she didn’t explain why, and she didn’t say, like, “Look, I’m validating your femininity.” She just said “here you go.” And all these subtle moments in my life matter a lot to me. People would come up to me and say “why do all Indian people smell bad?” “Why are you all, like, dirty?” Um, I would go home and tell my mom, like, I kept on washing my hands but this brown wouldn’t come off of me. I grew up feeling ugly because I was brown. I thought brown people could never be desirable, could never have sex, I thought we were all ugly, and
we all needed to be white to be beautiful. And then when I started to be more…
present more feminine, people started to call me a faggot. When we go to the club, everyone’s gonna be like
“Oh my god I love your outfit!” But no one’s gonna ask us
“how are you getting home?” They don’t care because I think
trans feminine people only matter when we’re fabulous. The very core of misogyny against trans people, or transmisogyny, is that we’re always masquerading
as something we’re not. That we’re always just
put on this dress to trick someone. And so therefore we are always seen
as worthy of our violence. That’s why people don’t stand up for us,
it’s kind of like “you chose to be that way,
you have to take the brunt of it.” I have an older sister and I loved my sister so much that I just wanted to be her. So when people would ask me “what are
you going to be when you grow up?” I would say “my sister!” I would say I want flowers
on every single birthday cake. And my parents were totally down, but then things changed
when I hit puberty. I began to develop facial hair,
people started to say “you need to be, you’re a boy, you need to
be a man now, you need to butch up.” I became really really really depressed. I attempted suicide when I was 13 years old. I took a belt to my neck. I was alone in my room, and I felt destroyed. I felt attacked on every level. I decided that I needed to get out of my town, so I made a plan. I said “work really freaking hard, and then get a full scholarship or something to get you out of this place.” And so I moved to California because literally
I was looking at schools, like, where can I do my activism? And I just, like, joined the movement
the minute I could. And that’s why for me, my “coming out” is much less
about my gender and sexual identity, and much more about my politics. The world I’m fighting for is where we stop making assumptions around everything. Where we allow people to
self-narrate their bodies. I think that’s a profoundly radical act. Cause we exist in a western colonial system, that’s invested in categorizing
every single thing about you. And creating norms about every single thing. Rather than actually recognizing NONE of us fit into norms. My politics is “I am me. I am Alok. And Alok exists outside of your colonial white
supremacist heteronormative gender binary!” I don’t have to be a woman or a man
to be coherent. And I think that threatens so much
of the fabric of this society. I wasn’t born in the wrong body,
I was born in the wrong world. I see my hair as part of my femininity. If I have a beard and lipstick,
that’s part of who I am. Why do we always put the onus on people
to change their bodies, and the onus on people to prove
or authenticate themselves to other people, versus have society shift their norms? This is why trans women get murdered. Because what ends up happening is that when they’re hooking up with someone, someone sees a penis and then kills them. Like, literally, it’s the most misogynist idea where women are defined by vagina. That’s why, like, transmisogyny
also effects cisgender women, because cisgender women, “womanhood”, should be more than your vagina. A lot of the trans people I know will, like, have surgery, have hormones, whatever, because of safety. Not because they wanted to. What I’m fighting for our world, is that we can just say “Y’know what? My body is on my own terms.” I think what’s also frustrating is that we
ask trans people to have all the answers. How the hell am I supposed to have all the answers when I grew up in a world that erased my existence? I’m still figuring it out! But I have people in my life, I have lovers in my life,
I have friends in my life, who are willing to work through that with me. And that’s been the most liberating part about becoming politically active. I would much rather know that y’all would, if someone was yelling at me on a train, say “hey stop that!”, versus, like, knowing my pronouns. I know that people hurt me because they’re hurt. I know that people, especially people of colour, are discriminating against me
because of their own trauma. And so for me, like, unless we liberate both
perpetrators and victims of violence, then we’re still caught in the same system. My fervor comes from being…
from wanting to be a nicer person. I’m really invested in niceness! I think it’s really radical. I think the state is SO BAD, I think we grow up with so much toxicity, and we’re so mean and disposable for each other, [Interviewer] When do you feel the most vulnerable? [Alok] Hm. When I’m writing poetry. So, um, I started writing poetry
after my suicide attempt. Art is the space we go
when language fails us. Yes, go get therapy
if you need to have therapy, but how can our friendships
BE that therapy? How can we really love each other hard enough where we don’t have to outsource our trauma? Where we don’t have to leave
where we’re at to deal with shit? So much of my identity
has been framed by violence. I didn’t understand my gender,
other than being called a faggot. I didn’t understand my race,
other than being called a terrorist. I think when I moved here I was like “oh my god, you’re never gonna feel
lonely ’cause there’s a million things to do!” And those million things to do
actually make you more lonely. We keep on making this mistake in the west where if we have more things, we’re happier; or if we’re around more things, we’re happier. Versus recognizing that
we already had everything we needed. So moving away from scarcity towards abundance, recognizing that we are enough. So it’s a poem called “Funeral”. Our train is delayed and I am
late for lunch with a boy I like because his smile makes me feel
a little bit less lonely. And this feels like a working definition
for love these days in the city where it’s possible to be surrounded by
the warmth of over a million apartment lights and still feel cold. The lights turn off and the train starts moving. …stops moving. And it’s one of those rare moment when we’re forced to look up from our screens and remember that we exist outside of them. They tell us that a man jumped in front of the train. That he died upon impact. So we just sit there in silence as they remove his remains from the tracks. And some part of us is happy because this, this is the first time in a long time we have been forced to feel
like something greater than ourselves in the city, where sometimes it takes an accident to remember what the purpose
of a body is to begin with anyways. The lights turn on, the train starts moving, and the woman next to me starts complaining. Asks why this man couldn’t have taken
a bottle of pills before leaving the house. How selfish it is to delay others with your own death. And I want to hug her, say “remind me the purpose of arm.” I want to love her, say “remind me the purpose of heart.” But then I remember that this is America, where bodies fall on streets like discarded leaves, only touching accidentally as we all
tumble onto these cities we grew up with, circling a map saying “remind me happiness”, and somehow convinced ourselves that they did. The same way we learned about
the borders between countries so well. That we built walls around them, call them “mine”. This is America, where pain is ritual we are
required to conduct in private. An elaborate symphony on mute. Call it “he lived to be 86 years old”, not “he hated himself for 30 of them.” Call it “he died in his sleep peacefully”, not “the stroke tore him to pieces.” Call it “accident”, not “no healthcare”. Call it “casualty”, not “calculation”. To live in America, is to live in a constant state of illusion [allusion?] is to be 30 people underground on a train, unable to hold one another and weep, is to sit there in silence until we can just keep on moving and forget how much death is required in the soil to birth such beautiful denial. And I want to text the boy above ground, ask “have you ever been to a funeral
with complete strangers?” But instead, I look at the woman next to me the one who told a dead man
to die more considerately, and then I remember that to live in America is already to attend a funeral
with complete strangers. How many ghosts does it take before
a cemetery can call itself a country? To live in America is to blame the dead for their own death. Not the country for creating the conditions that already killed them before they caught up and made things more clear
for the rest of us. Which is why, when the liberal who
wears words like “democrat” and “diplomacy” calls me a terrorist after I tell him that I’m not interested in paying his taxes because I do not want my coins
to cause more carnage, I understand. Which is why, when I tell him that I do believe in monsters who come out at night call them “men” for short, and he tells me that I only dress femme because I want to be bashed, I understand. Which is why, when I tell him that the same women who started his movement are still being murdered, and the same cities he’s getting married and calling it momentous and he gasps and says “that happens HERE? In America?!”, I understand. The way we’ve been taught
to apologize for the pain, to erase the hurt, to numb the violence, to deny that we may not be able
to wake up in the morning, that we may see a pill
coming in the place of the train, that we may wonder what it would feel like to finally have
others empathize with our struggle, for once, in OUR GODDAMNED LIFE, what it would feel like to hold captive attention of a funeral of strangers, so I would run back on that train, hug that woman, say “I’m afraid too.” say “remind me trust” say “sometimes silence feels like
the highest pitch of screaming” say “this is the first time in a long time I have been forced to publicly mourn death and there is something
beautiful about that”, say “what if we allowed the pain to fill us
a little bit less empty?” But instead, I will sit there
in silence on the train. I will say nothing to the woman next to me. I will disembark at the next stop. I will have lunch with a boy I like, because his smile makes me feel a little bit less lonely. I will apologize for being late. I will not have the word for a type of loss that is so distant it is intimate. After lunch, I will get back on the train, I will remember, I will soon forget.

100 thoughts on “Alok Vaid-Menon. The Pain & Empowerment of Choosing Your Own Gender.

  1. Alok is a man. A man who identifies as gender non conforming.. cool. Get your life. Stop trying to convince people you are the same as a biological woman. You have no idea what it is to be a woman. This isn’t transphobic, this is reality. This shit is so pretentious and delusional.

  2. i wonder how many ppl voted for trump hoping he would put an end to mankind, i mean by blowing this f'd up planet up

  3. You are a gay man who likes to dress up in odd clothes and clashing colours. Like…all these fucking made up words "cis, queer, trans etc" gender is a bullshit fantasy land.
    Humans are 3 sexes: Female, Male and Intersex. The education system is bollocks. Fuck.

  4. Alok, you're a wonderful person! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us

  5. This is bs, women don’t want men in their toilets because they have dicks and twice as much upper body muscle mass and more height making it all the easier to rape them with. That doesn’t disappear when you put on a layer of lipstick, makeup and out of proportion women’s clothing.

    If I had a little girl and she went into the female toilet and an abomination like this tried entering after her he’d be shitting in the bushes.

    These people don’t need their mental illnesses accepted as positive or neutral, they need help. Stop normalizing peoples mental illnesses.

  6. How much more interesting and colorful life would be if everyone could be who they are meant to be! But, I didn't always feel this way, because I was raised in Central California in the 60's, where people hid who they were. We were mean in whispers, jokes, and sneers. It took me the transition of the new millennium to know I was the bigot, and I needed to change. I needed to be accepting. I needed to celebrate our differences. Now my eyes are wide open, and life is more exciting and peaceful. So, I guess you might say I am a trans, because I transitioned from bigot to celebrating equality and being kind. — Carol Green, Retired California Teacher and Heterosexual

  7. These trans-for-fun non-binary weirdos have almost completely hijacked the ACTUAL LGBT movement, that stands for rights of actual trans people and does NOT provide platforms for guys like this who claim to have to go through so much being "trans" when they haven't really done anything other than put on a dress and make-up and play pretend. You don't have the first clue what it's like to be a woman, to be transgender, or to have fought and suffered for your identity. You do not suffer from Gender Dysphoria, you suffer from Not Enough Attention-itis.
    You have absolutely demolished our community and movement and set us back decades when it comes to acceptance and equality. I honestly fucking hate you and people like you, trend-jumping faker appropriating other people's hardships for your own personal gain.

  8. Sow sad to see this kind of joke pretending to be a trans woman, what does this guy know about being a trans woman, the therapies the treatments. He did none of it

  9. So your a transvestite…or androgynous? Cause your not a girl. An you didn't go threw pain to change your name.or get surgery an various things like that.

    If you really thing wearing "femminie" clothes an male.up makes you female. Then you don't know enough about world history because men an lady have been using make-up wigs and dresses an femminie clothes an everything for years. French revolution… Egyptian times…1940's an before.

  10. I don't disagree with background but honey your not trans. As in Transgener.. your queer but not trans. It looks an sounds like your transtrending cause you mess up how people see trans people who actually go threw worse shit. An actually passing. a the sex they wanna be..

  11. You CLEARLY "sir" are NOT someone with gender dysphoria. You are simply a gay male and please enjoy yourself and your hearts desires. BUT…. if you aren't going to have hormone treatments and TRY at LEAST to "appear" as a woman, don't harm those who ACTUALLY are struggling with gender dysphoria and have people like yourself HARM them by trying to introduce yourself into women's private areas like restrooms and create havoc with mothers with small girls in them. Just live your life and PLEASE don't worry about name calling like gay or osama, name calling should not be a reason to avoid why you live your life to its fullest extent with your boyfriend(s).

  12. I thought to be trans you had to transition, not just wear girl clothes…

  13. It's not that what Alok is is "less legitimate" than womanhood. It's simply not the same. Womanhood is based on being a woman. Full stop. Your identity, clothes, presentation, feelings, surgeries, hormones, etc are all choices. Being a woman is a result of biology. Women don't have prostates. Woman do have mammary glands. Often times, it is trans folks who conflate gender and sex. Gender cannot trump sex. Sex, you see, is biological and it's independent of your identity, expression, desires, etc.

    Proclaiming you're neither man or woman is like my proclaiming I'm not human. Some things aren't subject to your choice and desires.

    I, too, was once a young man. We had it easy. If we wanted to stand out or be different, all we had to do was get a tattoo or come out as gay. His generation has to try harder. So, they opt out of scientific facts. It's more a reflection of desperation than anything else.

  14. How cold is it where she is? That's like 20 layers of clothing.

  15. You’re non-conforming, but you want to identify as transgender… How are you “outside” of gender if you don’t believe in the validity of gender? It’s a contradiction, no?

  16. I'm sick of living i a white cisSupremacy. I booked a one way ticket to Saudi Arabia. I don't know anything about it but I do know there are less than 0.5% whites living there, so I bet it's a progressive heaven where queer, gay, trans and lesbian lives are valued!

  17. this is the most edgy shit I heard in a while. alot of this poem is BS. but whatever. Go live in your delusional america. you're an insult to trans.

  18. YOUR NOT TRANS! trans means you are TRANSITIONING just bc ur "gender non conforming" (which is bs) doesn't add you to the trans community

  19. that poem brought me to tears . you need to be published please i need a book of you in my room

  20. This guy is all an act! He is not transgender and has no right to talk about it. He's getting paid thousands of dollars to dress like a cross-dresser and wear his 99 cent walgreens lipstick and talk about how he's so oppressed. He may have all these insightful things to say during this interview, but don't let the act fool you. It's the LGBTQ + community who is being mocked and taken advantage of by this MAN. He needs help and I think the trans community needs to give this one the boot.

  21. 7:42 :: um I know lots of trans people who got surgery because they wanted to..

  22. Fighting for "a world where we allow people to self-narrate their bodies." Thank you for this!

  23. This video is packed with some of the best insights and explanations I have ever seen. That you so much for making this video! I am truly inspired

  24. this person is the reson why wemen are scare of trans wemen going in the bathroom. honestly. what a bad representation of the trans comunity. I have noting against their gender, style, or politics, but they should not be going in the wemens bathroom. I, a trans girl, would feel in danger seing somone with a full on beard and hair all over wearing lipstik going into the wemens bathroom. why cant they just use the handicape bathroom or the one at home! RAPE IS REAL! THERE WILL BE RAPIST DRESSING UP AS GIRLS TO GO IN THE WEMENS BATHROOM! YOU CANT JUST CALL YOURSELF TRANS AND PUT LIPSTIC AND A DRESS AND GO INTO THE WEMENS BATHROOM! transitioning his hard! not all trans girls are medical but only trans medical girls should use the wemens bathroom for the safty of evryone. thanks

  25. what, you can’t choose your gender…. you’re either born in the sex you’re comfortable with, or transitioning to the “correct gender.” OR you’re non-binary, it’s not a chose you just are who you are, I watched this when it first came out and now that I’m reflecting on it…. lol

  26. When they mention that they had to work really really hard to leave texas, they weren't playing. Alok never mentions this but they graduated from Stanford University, which is hands down the hardest university to get into in California. Alok's words truly communicate our everyday experiences so thoroughly, I finally feel SEEN. THank you Alok.

  27. The poem gave me chills. Funny thing is, Alok has more courage, authenticity and boldness than the haters who try to dismiss his/her being as being weak, 'fake' or weird. Alok deserves ALOT of respect because to still be yourself in a world that tries to outcast you, erase you, suppress you and ostracize you is what I consider a REAL, BOLD, BADASS PERSON.

  28. As a trans person I thought I knew everything but this individual just made my brain cells explode thankyou so much 💓😭😭

  29. My God in heaven that was absolutely beautiful! Thank you Alok Vaid-Menon I will strive to be kind.

  30. “Funeral” was just as powerful as the first time I heard it

  31. Love this. Love everything about this. All I have to say is that if I had that many shirts on, I would pass out from heatstroke. Admirable on every level.

  32. This is what mental illness and inbreeding looks like. Total clown 🤣🤣🤣🤣 lololol

  33. This person is so beautiful and sweet and pure, and kind and gentle, and intelligent, and so so talented and unique and their voice is so powerful. I just wanna be their best friend.

  34. AWesome story, stay strong, as a woman who just happens to be trans, i'm far simpler, since coming out my spiritual side has come forward cause i'm not hiding or trying to be something i'm not and really never was. I'd rather read, look at art or do yoga or meditate. So my style is simple so i can focus on those things, but i love your fashion.

    Your story hits me hard, growing up in a small conservative town, i didn't know why i was different, and when i finally did encounter the none binary i had responsibilities and was fearful i'd loose that so i kept myself in the closet, eventually take a belt to my own neck, and so glad i failed at this one thing in my life i set out to do. Life is so much more amazing, i agree with everything you said, but i am at the point of going i am me, and i am a she-her-hers-miss, i am daughter and i am a sister, and i don't take shit and think pink is not weak but beautifully strong.

    thanks for sharing and keeping strong alok you rock, for me i want to change parts of me and thats my choice, rock that sexy beard if thats what you choose and respect those whom choose what they want even if its not your choice, just respect and love one another.

  35. women DO do patriarchy everyday without realizing it. even feminists

  36. HI Alok, LOVE most of the things you said, your philosophy behind it. But sorry to say, are you playing the two extremes of the binaries to catch some attention ? which you try not to be bind by? the long hair VS the chest hair? the boot cut VS the skirt? You are projecting your internal struggle and spread it like this is what the world is needed (your personal truth/reality i bet) I know you won't like criticism with a Leo Rising. Present your truth as a victim enables u to be a Lion in the jungle? So binary

  37. You're an exhibitionist. You cannot choose your sex: one is born a man or a woman. you are a man, as evidenced by your big hands, beard, moustache, hairy body, deep voice, shape of your face and body. You are not a woman and will never be.

  38. You should NOT be using female safe spaces. We have them specifically to protect us from men. We are NOT doing patriarchy. You are an entitled male and, if you were the least bit respectful of women, you would not use our bathrooms. Use the men's bathroom. You are big enough to protect yourself. You're a gay man, not a woman.

  39. Woowwww this actually made me reconsider getting laser hair removal for my facial hair as a trans feminine non binary person, they made me realize that indeed I have no problem with how my body is, but how society perceives it and categorizes it as something inherently male, and that why I want to transition is to pass socially and feel more safe within this cisheteronormative society.

  40. What is your gender exactly?? You are failing both that is all I can see.
    Stop creating your own genders you stupid freak, there are only 2.
    I dont like it that people call you a terrorist that is wrong.
    But what you are doing here aint right either.
    Children are gonna see you and get confused and I honestly dont want my children seeing or hearing you.
    I will treat you like a normal human being if I ever met you but you need serious psychiatric help.

  41. Dude I’m so sorry but you don’t look like a woman and you make women uncomfortable because you look like a man and you’re giving trans people a bad name

  42. Alok has been incredibly active for quite some time. They've inspired me to embrace all aspects of my own self. They are such a gift

  43. To a person without spiritual discernment this man may sound like a genius or "deep"; however to someone with spiritual discernment you understand that it is unfair to expect someone to agree with the lie you want to tell yourself on a daily basis. If you feel a certain way about your gender and body it's your choice, but your choice ends with me. I do not have to look at you and call you a woman when I see a biological man, if you can convince someone you are the opposite sex because of looking the part then a stranger has no control over that, but I will not profess a lie, nor will I be bullied into a lie because a person can't accept the truth of what they see when they look down at their genitalia. You can speak eloquently and be articulate, but a lie is a lie whether you live it or believe in it.

  44. alok says everything to the point and that's why i love them so much!

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