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The Gender Binary is Actually the New Fad w/ ALOK

From Audio: How Grateful Are We To Live Beyond The Gender Binary? with ALOK

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station description A weekly exploration of all the things Jonathan Van Ness (Queer Eye, Gay of Thrones... read more
Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness
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Duration: 07:58
ALOK (they/them) is an acclaimed gender non-conforming writer, performing artist, and public speaker who has toured the world exploring the idea of trauma, belonging, and the human condition. They give a very necessary history lesson on the sprouting of the gender binary from colonialism and racism.
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ALOK (they/them) is an acclaimed gender non-conforming writer, performing artist, and public speaker who has toured the world exploring the idea of trauma, belonging, and the human condition. They give a very necessary history lesson on the sprouting of the gender binary from colonialism and racism.
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Yeah, same. I mean I'm actually flying out right after this back to my hometown in texas. So I like to say I grew up in a small town in texas. It was very much home on the range. Okay. So as you can imagine, extremely white evangelical christian straight. And there I was like a brown gender, nonconforming non christian kid. And for me it was always about gender, not about sexuality. I used to wear my sister's clothes. I used to dance to all the Bollywood songs that are local indian dinner parties. I didn't call it drag. It was just me. You know, I wear my mom's clothes. I would make gowns out of all the towels and it was totally okay until I hit puberty and then when you hit puberty, it's like time to be a boy. And I was like, wait what? Like, why are you okay? And then everyone in my family, ever in my community started to shame me for being feminine and I didn't even understand what I was as feminine or masculine. It was about freedom. And I'm coming back up for my 10 year high school reunion actually and it's like a big fuck you to my school into my classmates because I never felt safe there to express myself. But now she's, she's curated all of her outfits, don't worry, this multiple outfit changes. She's a nice practical six inch denim wedge heel that she's gonna wear homage to texas. And I'm really just trying to teach people like when it comes to young, trans and gender, nonconforming kids. Oftentimes they will try their best to destroy us and call it love that. It was the people in my life who said they loved me, who also told me to be quiet. So they loved the masculine form of me and not me. And I think a lot of my poetry over the past decade has been about healing from that. And I think I have, I mean healing is like a lifelong journey, but now I think I'm ready to be more of an advocate for the community because I think so many of us have to destroy the first line in my book of poetry. Is what feminine part of yourself did you have to destroy in order to survive in this world? And I think so many people across genders have to police our femininity in order to be real in order to be safe in order to be desirable. And I want to challenge that. Wow, that's so beautiful. I mean it is, I feel especially in like gay male culture, it's crazy. Oh my God, so traumatic. It's literally so traumatic. But I do think that there are um fringes where it's starting to open and become more supple and gorgeous and feminine, Like even just in our ability to be like, to voice your attraction to like, non binary people and to see um like just to see like the lack of fun, it's like, like that's what it's about, it's about fun, actually, it is just like the it's like such a rigid um I don't know, I just think that like, the way that we celebrate masculinity and femininity is so rigid, so rigid, you know, it's ridiculous because they say that we have a disorder for being gender nonconforming. But I think the real problem is society's understandings of men and women like this. People are having to live up to a completely unrealistic standard where you're not allowed to have emotions if you're a man and you're not allowed to be competent if you're a woman and that needs to be challenged. And I think what I'm really trying to do in my work is to get feminism to catch up to the reality of gender, which is the problem is not just male supremacy over women. The problem is that we divide people into men and women to begin with. And for me, what feminism is actually about is people should have the autonomy to determine their own gender expression, what to call their body and who they are. And I think that that scares people because I mean, I'm sure you get this when we're growing up as kids were taught. If you add all express yourself a little bit past a point, then you are just disposed of your too much. And I think to be a general conforming person is to always be never enough and to be too much at the same time, oh, they're always policing us, And they're always saying, this is where you belong. This is where you don't belong. And I'm saying done with those binaries, some of those boxes just allow me to live my life. My name is a look, which I loved. Okay, so let's go back to be blog because like texas is in the, okay, so if you're coming up on your 10 year reunion, that means you're like, okay, I'm just doing my math, which if it's not your turn 28. So like, I'm not great hair color. So, alright, Whoever says that I'm great hair color, but I'm only good at adding and subtracting hair color. Not like years, but okay, so, but you're like coming up in the mid nineties, in in texas as a gender nonconforming because I think by the time I was like with my voice and how I carry my body and how I like move and talk, I think I was very gender nonconforming. But with my clothes, like I feel like I was not allowed to. Like it was literally not allowed. Like I could play as much as I could with like tights because I had like an extreme aversion aversion to like buttons, snaps or zippers until like my dad was like, you have to fucking wear umbro shorts and jeans to school like you. And and also I just think I was like scared, like I was scared to like dress how I really would have naturally mean. Already realized by the time I was in kindergarten and first grade, like wearing like scarves to make yourself look like kristi Yamaguchi from your mom's scarf collection was like frowned upon. Um But so you were rocking that at school. I was rocking that until Maybe like eight or 9. Which is so strong and brave. Like I would not like I like I did at home. I definitely was choreographing to like Vanessa Williams, her entire album. Like Yes, like I have beautiful like lyrical dances to all that me. It was a dream. The girl remember that. He loves me. He loves me not he loves me, he loves me and I love it. I love the album so much just to listen to it. Would you remember that? Not too good off track. And then we'll go back to general session when we were young. She was really when you were young which is really important. But remember that one song that was like say La vee, you will say, you know, I love it. I honestly, music has just taken a downturn from there. Like that was the highlight. Well, I mean if you like john McCain was still bringing in pretty hard, you know? Um Yeah, so the thing is like I grew up in an indian family and I think that's important because we have always had gender expression outside of the Western binary for like thousands of years is gorgeous. Can you give people a detour into that? Totally. 100%. So a lot of people think that this whole non binary thing is a new fad and that irritates me so much because actually the new fad is man and woman. That actually there have been people outside of the Western gender binary for literally thousands of years and there still are, so where I'm from in India, actually, we have a long documented history of hit tras of our bunnies have copies of all these words to describe people outside of male and female. Is the first, the first one you said is that H. I J J. H I J A R A H. I J. R. And weren't those baby Georgina is minding their own business and when Britain came in. Isn't that the because I think I just read about this in BBC. Yes. Yes BBC just did a great, great story on this. So a lot of people don't know this history so I'll break it down for people who do so when the british A. K. A. The origin of all my issues, my life came into my country and it wasn't even a country at the point because the nation state came with them too. The first one of the first things they did is they criminalized clear people. So they did two acts. One was the sodomy law which was recently repealed section 377. And the second actually was a unique ordinances law which singlehandedly criminalized gender non conforming people. So what they would do is they would forcibly strip transfeminine gender, nonconforming people sell their clothes and make them wear men's clothes. And this is a tactic of colonization. We've seemed to have forgotten. It happened here in the United States as well, where indigenous people were forcibly assimilated into man and woman. So indigenous men had to cut their braids. Indigenous women had to wear dresses that we took a very european white gender binary and we impose that on to people of color, indigenous people. And so for me, when we say that non binary is a new fat and like actually that's racism because this has been around for a very, very long time, it might be new to white or european consciousness, but black and brown people have had this for a very long time.
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