Alok and Janani / by Tiph Browne

For me being non-binary and femme are identities that I have taken upon myself to provide more coherence to my body and my experience. I’m not sure why I am this way, but I know that I like it.

-Alok, 23, They/Them

 

I’m a fashionista, cultural worker, and community organizer. I have a lot of feelings, rage, and indigestion.

I think that being a hairy, South Asian, male assigned-at-birth person means that I’m always racialized as male. For me being non-binary and femme are identities that I have taken upon myself to provide more coherence to my body and my experience. I’m not sure why I am this way, but I know that I like it. I know that I am part of a revolutionary legacy of trans feminine people of color who have been at the forefront of anti-colonial movements. I know that being femme on my terms allows me to experience less dysphoria, more happiness, and makes me want to wake up in the morning. I know that it’s really hard and there is constant threat of violence, but I believe that being myself and expressing myself on my own terms is more important.

Foundationally gender norms are about whiteness. Being a racialized person is already a form of being genderqueer(ed) non-consensually. As trans feminine people of color we learn that the world isn’t really here for us. As a class, racially, and an educationally privileged person, my proximity to violence is much less than working class trans people of color (specifically Black, Latina, and indigenous people). I have never been physically beaten or assaulted because of my gender. Most of the violence I experience is street harassment, constant erasure and invalidation, mis-gendering everyday, etc. If I’m going to dress more coherently “femme,” then I have to safety-plan with my friends and community to make sure that I can navigate the city safely. I’m constantly gawked at in public and people shout all sorts of things at me. Most of the time I’ve learned to dull it out, but there’s still that lingering fear and threat of violence. So there are some days when I just don’t have the courage to present myself in the world. I’ve really taken to creating and carving spaces in my life where I can express myself fully and not have to worry about the public gaze, but that’s always difficult.

 

 

I’m an awkward multidisciplinary nerd. I think being shy is political and I appreciate holding silence. Sometimes I think I’m too weird for the world to understand.

-Janani, 23, They/Them

 

I’m an awkward multidisciplinary nerd. I think being shy is political and I appreciate holding silence. Sometimes I think I’m too weird for the world to understand.

On a personal level, I try to do an assessment of how I’m being perceived and what that’ll mean. I’m not in the same proximity to violence as others in my community because of various privileges I move through the world with. On a broader level, I think being trans/gender non-conforming as a brown person is an opportunity to frame a solidarity politics that resists other regimes that uphold and create gender: prisons, detention, war, environmental destruction, settlement, and displacement. I think there’s an impossibility that’s been created for South Asian gender nonconformity in diaspora through colonialism, post-9/11 racism, and assimilation. Heteronormative ideals have been part of a certain segment of my diaspora’s assimilation into the West. So I think people just are surprised to see South Asians in the US who are freaky, weird, strange, and gender-peculiar.