World media applauded when Canadian Women’s Football team won a gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, especially elated about Quinn, an out non-binary and trans player in the team.
But at the same time, countless women of colour, especially black women, were slammed by mostly white players to get tested to prove they were women because their natural testosterone levels were “too high.”
Former Polish sprinter Marcin Urbaś wanted Namibian sprinter Christine Mboma to take a gender test because, according to Marcin, Christine “ran so fast.”
Marcin said, “She (Christine Mboma) has the parameters of an 18-year-old boy. At that age, my PB (Personal Best) was 22.01, and she has done it in 21.97 in Tokyo.”
Indian-American non-binary and transfeminine activist, performance artist, poet, and a Stanford graduate at the top of their class, Alok Vaid-Menon uses their poetry and fashion to mock the frivolity of this gender binary.
Talking about Indiana’s Bathroom Bill on The Man Enough podcast, Alok argues how unjust and “eugenics” based the law is. The Bathroom Bill, according to Gay Nation, classifies “someone with XX chromosomes to use the men’s bathrooms, or for someone with “at least one Y chromosome” to use the women’s bathrooms” a misdemeanor.
Alok says that this emphasis on biology is a “smokescreen. [...] This is eugenics. Because what eugenics does is it uses the rhetoric of science to justify political and social choices of inequality.”
As Alok talks extensively in their book and on podcast interviews, just 2021 saw a dangerous number of anti-LGBTQ laws passed throughout the world. Hungary “banning the depiction of homosexuality” to people under 18, and America passing more than 17 laws discriminating against the queer community, and blocking safe access to reproductive healthcare.
These laws put tremendous pressure on already marginalized communities. Under the guidelines outlined by the Reduced Inequalities and Partnerships Sustainable Development Goals, global institutions need to create safer and more accessible communities for all netizens, especially for the ones hit hardest by the ongoing COVID pandemic.
That’s why breaking through the gender binaries and creating a community that acknowledges and respects the basic fundamental rights of all people is vital.
“Sexism is not science. Homophobia and transphobia are not science. In fact, science says that gender and sex are human constructions, are ways of aggregating the messy distribution of being a body into socially ordained categories as a way to make political claims,” says Alok Vaid-Menon in the Man Enough podcast.
Even biologists across the world argue that this binary distinction is not factual. People have a complicated expression of genes.
“Yet just like gender isn’t binary, our biology isn’t binary either: it, too, exists on a spectrum.” - Liza Brusman, Molecular Biology, University of Colorado.
To challenge this rigid binary, Alok uses their fashion to be hypervisible in a society that relishes on disappearing, using brute force and systemic unjust laws, the ones who do not fit into the category of male or female.
Talking about gendered clothing, Alok gives a brief history lesson at The Business of Fashion. They explain that in the 20th century, the “Three Article Law” forced people to wear at least articles of clothing “associated with our assigned gender otherwise risk being thrown in jail.”
Rather than fighting this fight with violence, Alok wants people to use radical compassion. They want to rephrase the conversation around trans-rights with the question, “are you ready to heal?”
Alok wants people to understand the transformative and liberating power of art.
Alok, in an interview with Shivani Persad, says “What I learned was that in art we can name the things that we aren't allowed to say anywhere else. There was something so thrilling and transformative about that, it made life worth living.”
Alok believes that people who are violent against trans and non-binary people need to be compassionate with themselves.
In their book, Beyond the Gender Binary, Alok narrates an incident at a grocery store. A man asked them “Why do you dress like that?” and after a few moments, walked a bit closer to Alok and said, “It’s just that . . . I used to wear skirts and dresses when I was younger.”
When Alok asked them why did that person stop wearing dresses, that person was left speechless.
Alok then asks the reader, “How do you express pain when you can’t even locate the wound?”
While discussing this incident in The Man Enough Podcast, Alok adds, “You don't even have a language to articulate a wound. So you don't even know that you are hurting and that you are bleeding.”
“(O)ur siblinghood is about survival. Every time I’m feeling impossible, I reach out to my trans family. And we inhabit that pain together. It doesn’t make it go away, but it certainly makes it more bearable,” says Alok Vaid-Menon in an interview with Vogue India.
Alok talks about the lack of safe spaces and lack of understanding and compassion in people in their poem Funeral at the Kommune India Spoken Fest 2019.
“They rather put us on a drag show and laugh at us than listen to us. We are most acceptable when we are entertaining you and not educating you,” says Alok Vaid-Menon in the Man Enough podcast.
Alok often posts edited images of themselves on Instagram, wearing clothes that show their body hair. They add comments of people asking them to shave, some even commenting “if you shave...u will look like women.”
Read Alok’s book, Beyond the Gender Binary to understand the gender binary and learn about the overwhelming support for a gender spectrum from the scientific community.
Visit Alok’s website to read their blog posts and poetry highlighting their experiences as a brown transfeminine non-binary person.
Check out The Trevor Project to find countless ways to help LGBTQ people.