Gender non-conforming performance artist Alok Vaid-Menon says this National Coming Out Day, they’re coming out as an ally for the cis white male community.

“You know, it’s really important to recognize the real intersections here are rich white straight cis men. These people are getting erased, okay? So, we got to really show up for them and I’m really trying to be a better ally to the rich straight white cis male community because their tears matter,” Vaid-Menon says.

The University of Connecticut Rainbow Center hosted Vaid-Menon last Thursday to celebrate the annual LGBT+ awareness day. Vaid-Menon is an Indian-American poet and educator who uses performance art and humor to send a message.

“The only way to heal is to hurt. Another sad girl with her story of a world war of a body that we cannot hear because of our own world war of a body. Won’t you tell me, where do all the sad girls go?” Vaid-Menon recites one of their poems.

Alok Vaid-Menon was recently the youngest recipient of the prestigious Live Works Performance Act Award granted to ten performance artists across the world, according to their website. Photo: Ace Ricker

Vaid-Menon criticizes many societal aspects that surround the LGBT+ community including social norms, straight people and diverse culture.

“I found out straight people have drag queens. They’re called politicians,” Vaid-Menon says.

Vaid-Menon says coming out reaffirms the idea that people in the queer community are invisible in society, an idea set in place by straight people. They say coming out allows queer people to become visible to straight people.

“So why should we have to come out? And I think what I’m more interested in is actually saying that maybe the reason they make us come out is that they can say, ‘Oh wow, these people over there’ rather than ‘Oh wow, me,’” Vaid-Menon says.

They say to stop this narrative, the queer community should start pointing at the straight community instead of their own.

As a gender non-conforming person, Vaid-Menon says they want to highlight that although gay individuals have found some equal rights in society, the transgender and gender non-conforming community have still not found the same recognition despite fighting for their human rights.

Vaid-Menon performed about four long spoken word pieces. Afterward, they answered many questions from audience members. Photo: Ace Ricker

“I’m here to let you know that I live in what is called the most progressive city in the world, New York City. Every single day I go outside, I am spat on. I’m laughed out. I’m told to die. I’m pushed down. I’m physically and sexually assaulted. I am beaten, attacked sexually, physically, verbally every single day. Every single day, I have to ask myself, ‘Am I ready to get beaten up? Am I ready to get attacked?’ And then I remember the legacy I come from is trans and gender non-conforming people who have been fighting for everyone even as you see us get degraded,” Vaid-Menon says.

When Vaid-Menon came out to their parents, they say their parents already knew they were queer. They say a big reason for this is because in Indian culture, as well as in other brown, black and indigenous cultures, the people did not have binary ideologies or binary pronouns in their language.    

“What I want you to understand is that people like used to be the healers. People like me used to be holy and celebrated, but the way that you colonize brown and black people is you say the people who are healing you are the enemy.

“So now, the most violence I experience is from my own community and to be both queer and brown is to experience the brunt of homophobia and transphobia from your community not being they’re prejudice but because they’re colonized, right?” Vaid-menon says.

Rainbow Center Program Coordinator Julia Anderson says although those organizing the event did not know exactly what Vaid-Menon’s performance would entail, they were excited about it.

“I think that we get very particular, regimented storylines about what coming out is and it’s good that it’ll be challenged tonight. I think that’ll be good.” Anderson says.

Anderson says the event serves as a way for the Rainbow Center to remind people that it is here to love, support and acknowledge anyone in the coming out process.

Members of the Rainbow Center who volunteered for the event posed with Rainbow Center Director Kelsey O’Neil, Rainbow Center Secretary William Malavé (both far right) and Vaid-Menon (center.) Photo: Ace Ricker

Junior English education major Ailia Rohvar says she thinks it’s important this event is held to support those who are coming out.

“People jump to the conclusion that someone’s straight and if they’re not, then it’s like this huge deal. I feel like they need somewhere where they can feel safe enough to come out because it’s such a huge part of someone’s identity,” Rohvar says.   

According to the Rainbow Center event program, October 11 was chosen because it is the anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

The Rainbow Center will be celebrating its 20th anniversary on October 18.