Alok Menon

Alok Vaid-Menon is a poet and efficiency artist who campaigns on trans visibility with daring, vibrant portraits on social media. However they’re typically trolled for the best way they appear.

Once I advised my household I used to be trans, considered one of their preliminary reactions was, “However you are so bushy! It is going to be so troublesome to take away all of your hair to be a girl, so it is best to simply quit.” They have been zeroing in on my physique hair because the barrier for me to be seen as female.

Individuals nonetheless have a restricted understanding of gender as binary. Trans shouldn’t be all the time about being a person and a girl – society is fixated on the concept trans individuals solely wish to develop into a person or a girl however they do not actually examine the opposite potentialities of gender identification.

Once I began to transition I might attend a trans assist group the place it was protected to speak about our experiences, work out pronouns and stuff. Once I would come carrying stereotypically “male” garments, individuals can be confused, they’d discuss to me as if I used to be a person. Once I wore a gown, they handled me like a girl, “Okay, you are considered one of us.”

Some individuals on the group would say, “If you wish to be taken significantly as a trans particular person then you might want to take away your physique hair and begin a medical transition.”

These feedback have been upsetting as a result of I’ve already skilled a lot unsolicited recommendation in my life. It damage that even inside this neighborhood that was alleged to be supportive, there was nonetheless this policing of gender and wonder norms – that in some way it is unattainable to be female and bushy on the identical time.

I nonetheless get that very same type of “concern trolling” in feedback on my social media. Individuals genuinely assume they’re serving to, however I want they might assume, “Why do not I ask that particular person what they want from me?”

Alok Menon

The primary time that I realized that I used to be alleged to hate physique hair was once I was 10. My older sister was 13 and grew a bit hair on her arms. In some way it grew to become everybody’s enterprise as to how she needed to take away it. My aunties all had recommendation about waxing and threading for eyebrows.

I began being actually acutely aware of hair wherever on my physique. I used to be 11 when delicate, downy hair grew on my higher lip. I stored begging my dad to let me shave my moustache. He refused and I used to be devastated. I used to be ruthlessly teased in school for being a bushy child. My classmates would say that I used to be an “animal” or that I used to be soiled.

I began to sneak razors belonging to my sister and my dad. I might seize alternatives to shave within the lavatory once I had some privateness. No-one had taught me easy methods to shave and I used to be too afraid to ask to somebody to point out me, so I might be shaving within the flawed course, with simply cleaning soap and water, getting horrible rashes. I used to be itchy and uncomfortable however I could not cease.

I might do it within the bathe and attempt to cover the proof from my members of the family. I might shave even when there wasn’t really any hair to shave, as a result of in my thoughts I felt like I may see hair on my physique.

I wore full-length garments so no-one may see my physique hair, and I might keep away from going swimming. Even after I began to shave, I stored myself coated up as a result of I did not need my bullies to know that they have been really affecting me.

I used to be 10 when 9/11 occurred and the general public harassment was actually intense. I grew up in a small city in Texas the place my Indian household was within the minority. Individuals referred to as us terrorists. As soon as somebody mentioned, “Why did your individuals do that to us?” Out of the blue having a little bit of facial hair on our brown pores and skin implicated us as suspicious and threatening.

Alok Menon

The day of my 13th birthday was a very huge day for me as a result of my dad mentioned I used to be lastly allowed to shave. I do not forget that second actually clearly, I felt stunning, and that I would slot in with my white classmates. And it labored as a result of my classmates handled me considerably higher as a result of it was like out of the blue I used to be regular and never scary.

In highschool there was this whole turnaround, out of the blue everybody was impressed by my potential to develop a beard. I even joined a bunch referred to as “Beards for Peace” the place we talked about being anti-war – I used to be voted “Most Environmentally Pleasant” as my beard was now typically seen as extra “hippie” than threatening.

I would not completely rule out eradicating physique hair, I simply actually need it to be my determination.

We’ve been taught such a restricted narrative of what it means to be stunning. White, hairless, skinny our bodies are held up as an ordinary of magnificence, however they’re an exception and don’t replicate nearly all of individuals on the earth.

Physique hair mustn’t gendered. Everybody has a little bit of physique hair in other places and in several quantities. How can one thing so pure be so violently and painfully policed?

The physique hair-removal advertising individuals have quite a bit to reply for. If we began to just accept our physique hair, then all these razors, lotions, wax strips would not be so in style.

I like to the touch my physique hair, it is comforting, it is like my very own heat blanket. I like to see a little bit of hair peeking out of the highest of my gown. I consider it like an adjunct. It is simply one other factor to go together with my outfit and my look.

Alok Menon

However there are huge penalties for selecting to take care of my physique hair as a trans particular person.

Whenever you’re gender nonconforming, you are by no means protected from bullying. There are not any areas the place I can really really feel at peace. I might be harassed on the street, escape right into a restaurant, be stared at in there, go into the lavatory and somebody will make a remark there.

There’s a essential distinction for trans individuals between being made seen and selecting to be seen. Visibility is the explanation we expertise violence on-line and public. The reality is, each single day I get hateful messages from trolls on my social media.

It is terrifying to obtain such abuse. Research have discovered that trans individuals have extraordinarily excessive charges of post-traumatic stress dysfunction from fixed harassment.

It has made me extraordinarily anxious and I continuously really feel threatened. It implies that even once I’m alone or amongst associates, I nonetheless have traces of stress. Anxiousness will be painful – it has had an affect on my physique, manifesting as power ache and joint ache.

I really feel compelled to be artistic with a view to launch this stress and anxiousness.

Once I do portraiture, I’m creating artwork, however I am additionally including to the illustration of trans individuals within the wider world.

I believe it is necessary as a trans particular person to boldly occupy public areas, as a result of society is attempting to erase us.

Once I make myself seen, I’m making a useful resource for different individuals. By seeing me, somebody on the market will likely be coming throughout a non-binary particular person for the primary time. The reality is that so many individuals do not know it is doable to stay a gender non-conforming life.

But it surely’s liberating for me as nicely. To see myself depicted on this highly effective means is like, “Wow, that is me at my most free.”

Life can be a lot simpler if I eliminated my physique hair. However why ought to I shave to make individuals really feel extra comfy?

Having physique hair and styling my hair up is my means of claiming to the world, “I am right here to remain!”

Alok Menon

Pictures by Brian Vu.

As advised to Elaine Chong.

Discover Alok V Menon on Instagram