PART 3: Alok Vaid-Menon, Janani Balasubramanian, and Darkmatter

#blacklivesmatter, activism, ally, cissexism, colonization, coming out, imperialism, non-binary, non-binary people of color, racism, solidarity, trans people of color, transgender, transphobia, white supremacy

TRIGGER WARNING: racism in trans and queer communities, eating disorders (specifically anorexia), colonization and imperialism, coming out to unsupportive families, talking about unsupportive families with racist queer people

See this post (“White Silence and Black Deaths”) for an introduction to the many parts of this post. I feel almost embarrassed to be signal boosting these rad people on my blog–they already have so much wider of an audience. But they are wonderful people to learn from. If you don’t know about these folks already, you should check them out!

Alok Vaid-Menon:

“…[A]s queer South Asians we navigate a complicated cultural landscape where we often are not afforded control of our own narratives. Our telling of personal violence often gets swallowed by white supremacy in the service of its racist and imperialist agenda. This is because the cultural logics that help maintain structural racism are stronger than our individual stories.

When my white peers would hear about the queerphobia I experienced from my people it would give power to a larger imperialist narrative that immigrants and people of color are traditional and conservative and therefore need to be educated or saved (read: occupied and exploited). … They would ask me why I was still in contact with them, why I didn’t just cut my connections….

What white queers don’t understand is that the entire mandate of racist assimilation in this country is about us being forced to give up our culture, tradition, and families. Assimilation has always been about us hating ourselves and feeling insecure in our bodies, families, and cultures. White folks do not understand how so many of us are not willing to leave our cultures for our queerness – how so many of us carry more complex identities than just our genders and sexualities….

My experiences returning to South Asian spaces have allowed me to understand the ways in which white queer politics relies on the expression of liberation as an individual and not collective process. The narrative goes that we are supposed to ‘come out’ (read: leave our blood families) and participate in the ‘movement’ (read: public visibility) and join ‘alternative kinships’ (which are necessarily supposed to be more radical and more supportive than our families of origin). Both understandings of ‘queerness’ and ‘activism’ often rely on us leaving our cultural homes in order to participate in the ‘movement.’…

Janani Balasubramanian:

Like most people on this list, they have so much good work. Here’s a sample of a piece from Black Girl Dangerous.

“I remember being hugely troubled by the language many of the speakers and health educators would use about their experiences: that ‘eating disorders were about power and control, not beauty’.  As if this were a dichotomy. As if beauty were something other than a system of control and domination.  There is nothing shallow about beauty; I have drowned in it. My anorexia had everything to do with affluent white womanhood, something not available to me, but that I was systemically surrounded by.  It had everything to do with heterosexuality: an aspiration for ‘proper and dignified’ white womanhood – that is ultimately desirable to white masculinity.

“I’m willing to wager that the majority of eating disorders are experienced by folks with multiple marginalized identities.  It’s likely that a lot of us aren’t able to talk about it because we’ve been denied representations of ourselves, and been denied in society.  It’s also likely that if we came full circle and really stirred up some conversations about this painful experience in our communities, we would find mirrors in each other.  It’s not that I want doctors to start diagnosing us left and right.  Most of the medical industrial complex isn’t competent enough to deal with our bodies.  Rather, I want us, and our communities, to figure out ways to nourish and hold each other, to make space for our truths.  For whatever ways that race, gender, poverty, disability, sexuality, and whatever else make us too complicated for dominant eating disorder narratives.  If for no other reason, than that we don’t need yet another way to mark marginalized bodies for shame and death.

Darkmatter:

Darkmatter is Vaid-Menon and Balasubramanian’s speaking/performing pair. They say: “DARKMATTER is a trans south asian art and activist collaboration comprised of janani and alok. using poetry & polemic, tweet & tirade DM  is committed to an art practice of gender self(ie) determination, racial justice, and movement building. DM has been invited to perform and facilitate workshops across the world.”

Here are some of their rad videos.

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2 thoughts on “PART 3: Alok Vaid-Menon, Janani Balasubramanian, and Darkmatter

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