Kevin St. John interviews DarkMatter: The performance artists on the racial history of drag, jokes as a means of survival, and leaving room for paradox

From Guernica:

Guernica: So much of your work satirizes the white male cis patriarchy. But here I am, a white cis man, interviewing you. I don’t know what that means, but I want to start by acknowledging that.

Dark-matter-5-topAlok Vaid-Menon: Hopefully, by the end of this interview, we will help you recognize that you’re not cis.

Guernica: Please do.

Alok Vaid-Menon: I don’t believe in men. I’ve never met a man in my life.

Guernica: Okay. Please help me understand that.

Alok Vaid-Menon: I think one of the biggest betrayals that a lot of people don’t understand is that the term “gay” was never about signifying sexuality. When the gay liberation movement started, it was actually about political confrontation of gender as a system, and some of the foundational divides in the gay movement were between gay men who wanted to assimilate into masculinity and gay men who were challenging the very idea of masculinity.

What happened in the gay movement was that trans became the space for gender non-conformity, whereas gay became nice, palatable, assimilate-able. For me, that feels like something imposed on us by heterosexual society—that you have to be men in order to validate your sexual desires, that your queerness is so ominous and threatening that it has to be in a man’s body in order to be understood.

Janani Balasubramanian: I think what Alok was saying with the idea of how we’ve never met a man in our lives, is that manhood is not just an ideal of gender; it also becomes a set of ideals around race, class, respectability, purchasing power, whatever. I’ve never met a single person in their lives who’s rich, has no feelings, goes to the gym every hour, drinks protein shakes all day. This person doesn’t exist.

More here.