The Signal

Serving the College since 1885

Monday April 15th

‘Beyond the gender binary’ with comedian and trans activist Alok

<p><em>Alok shared their experiences as a non-binary person in America (Photo by Victoria Gladstone / Editor-in-Chief). </em></p>

Alok shared their experiences as a non-binary person in America (Photo by Victoria Gladstone / Editor-in-Chief). 

By Victoria Gladstone 

Queer icon and public figure Alok came to campus on March 4 for their show “Beyond the Gender Binary with ALOK,” where they gave a hilariously insightful performance about being a non-binary person in America. The event, hosted by the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies department, was the first in a series celebrating Women’s History Month on campus.

Alok Vaid-Menon, best known for their trans activism, is a comedian, public speaker, author and actor who travels the world giving talks that combine comedic commentary on society and personal experiences that shaped who they have become. They were recently featured in a cameo on the Peabody-award-winning series, “Sort Of,” where Alok worked with Bilal Baig playing Sabi Mehboob, a gender non-conforming and south Asian individual.  

In the opening sentiments of the performance, Alok brought up a conversation around biology, saying that telling a trans person they cannot change biology is hypocritical. They further made the joke that they respond with “nice haircut,” poking fun at the idea that anything can change a human body’s “biology.”

Alok went on to explain that the “biological” truth is not that gender is being erased from society; it’s that everything must die. 

“From the perspective of death, most of living is just stand up comedy,” said Alok. “All of the absurd antics that we do to waste our precious time on Earth, like hating on another, we forget at the end of the day we are all beautifully and biologically immortal. And on your deathbed are you really going to still be upset about who used they/them pronouns?”

Triota, the WGSS honor society, co-sponsored Alok’s event along with the deans of Arts and Communication and Humanities and Social Sciences, the Indian Student Association, the Cultural and Intellectual Community Council, PRISM, and the Barbara Meyer Pelson ‘59 Chair in Faculty-Student Engagement

Senior Psychology and WGSS studies major Rachel Guloy is one of the co-presidents of Triota, and one of the attendees at the event that felt Alok’s presence brought diversity to campus. 

"The show itself was excellent and incredibly clever and entertaining, and allowed us to hear from a South Asian trans perspective, which is not something that we often are able to find on campus,” said Guloy. “Watching Alok talk about their lived experiences also forced the audience to confront the discrimination that trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people experience, as well as how racialized this discrimination was.”

Alok’s performance addressed the gender norms within society and commented on them in a lighthearted manner, toying with the idea of what a young person may or may not wear depending on their gender assigned at birth.

"They were able to playfully point out how ridiculously gendered our society is, but also force us to confront the pain of losing family, all within a few minutes,” said Guloy, alluding to Alok’s heartbreaking story of losing their grandfather.

Along with Alok’s show, the WGSS department will be hosting an alumni panel on March 22 as the next event in honor of Women’s History month. 


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