Gender non-conforming Alok Vaid-Menon shares powerful message after onslaught of abuse ‘telling me to die’
Gender non-conforming performance artist and LGBTQ activist Alok Vaid-Menon has spoken to PinkNews about the abuse they receive, after getting “thousand of comments telling me to die.”
The 26-year-old shared an emotional post on their social media channels on Wednesday, detailing the abuse they are constantly subjected to – and asked people to help them in, “creating a world that celebrates gender non-conforming people of colour.”
Vaid-Menon wrote: “Over the past few week I have been receiving thousands of comments telling me to die, that I should kill myself, that I am disgusting and make people want to vomit, that I am a man/a monster/chewbacca, all because I had the audacity to say that I won’t remove my body hair to fit society’s expectations of beauty & gender.”
They continued: “[I’m] taking a second to think about all of the trans & nonbinary youth looking at these comments & witnessing how disposable this world treats us, the impossibilities of gender non-conforming life.”
Vaid-Menon makes up one half of trans performance duo DarkMatter, which often focuses on South Asian themes in their work and also includes Janani Balasubramanian.
The transfeminine artist, whose work includes FEMME IN PUBLIC, a collection of poems about queer experiences, finished the post by adding: “I need your help in creating a world that celebrates gender non-conforming people of color. we cannot do this alone. It’s terrifying out here. I cannot do this alone.”
Speaking to PinkNews, Vaid-Menon explained why they made the post and spoke out about the “pervasive” abuse – at times physical – they receive.
“Part of the way transphobia works is that trans women and gender non-conforming people are always expected to be ‘fabulous,’ ‘resilient,’ and ‘strong’ – we are made into inspirational symbols and metaphors, and often not considered in our entirety,” they said.
“This prevents people from acknowledging the state of emergency that we are in.
“I write posts like the one I shared for several reasons: to push against this reductive representation and shed light on what’s actually happening to me and my communities, to ask for help in defending gender non-conforming people like myself, and also to process the pain for myself.
“Writing and art making have always been strategies to externalize the violence and harassment I experience – to get it out of my body and heal.”
Describing the abuse they receive, Vaid-menon said: “It takes different forms online and offline but a common denominator is disgust and victim-blaming.”
“Complete strangers tell me that I am a disgrace, disgusting, and a freak of nature.”
Vaid-Menon, who studied at Stanford University, also spoke about an incident in which an image of them was made into memes, which ” received thousands of shares of people laughing at me and insulting me.”
“All of this abuse of course is deeply emotionally and physically taxing – I have to live in a constant state of anxiety and fear which is a lot to bear.
“But I know that this is not actually about me, it’s about other peoples’ projections, insecurities, and anxieties.”
The campaigner said that their art “allows me to process what’s happening and keep going.”
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They continued: “I am routinely verbally, physically, and sexually assaulted just for navigating the public as a gender non-conforming person.
“People take photos of me without my consent, shove me, spit on me, laugh at me, and insult me simply for walking down the street.”
“In the past I have been physically attacked and groped by random people on trains and on the street.”
The performance artist said that gender non-conforming people are at a “basical level…still fighting for our existence,” and called on campaign groups addressing gender based violence to use inclusive language.
They also encouraged others to support organisation that specifically support trans and gender non-conforming people, praising the work of the Trans Justice Funding Project, Diversidad Sin Fronteras, and Southerns on New Ground.
Vaid-Menon is urging others to confront discrimination against gender non-conforming people, saying “people have the ability to end violence and harassment by refusing to be a bystander.”
They added: “When you see gender non-conforming people getting harassed in real life, help out. Don’t just watch, do something. Let them know they’re not alone and that you have their back.”