DarkMatter, the amazing duo that has been creating waves around the world for their poetry is composed of trans – South Asian artists Alok Vaid-Menon and Janani Balasubramanian. They blew us away with a piece about street harassment faced by gender non conforming people, which we reposted here. They have also been featured on Buzzfeed’s list of people who have revolutionized the fight for LGBT Indians. Check out this short interview we conducted with them via mail.
Q. After the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same sex marriages in the United States, you wrote a blog post citing how there is no gay celebration without trans-violence. What sort of support/ criticism has this stance received?
A. Response usually follows the typical patterns where people with power (white, cisgender) will call us divisive, ungrateful, and naive and people who have been dispossessed by the gay movement will say “obvs.” There are also many responses in-between but I think it’s hard for people to understand that something that’s being celebrated might ultimately be harmful.
Q. To Alok-Vaid Menon: You have detailed through your poetry and blog posts how being a gender non-conforming person means that you have to grapple with violence, ridicule and constant scrutiny with regards to your appearance. How has this melded into the aesthetics/ theme of your work?
A. The stage is one of the only places that I have in my life to dress and present as I am and actually be appreciated for it. My art is necessary for my survival: it gives me a space to talk about the sorts of violence that GNC communities experience and then invisibilize.
we gave our first fashion lecture! talked about how we use our aesthetics as part of our political & creative work as diasporic trans south asians. we even did a critical reading of our Instagram feed ?? A photo posted by DarkMatter (@darkmatterpoetry) on
Q. To Janani B: There is this theme of fantasy in your poetry through elements borrowed from fairy tales, nursery rhymes and dark humour. Could you name a few artists that inspire you or whose poetry you identify with?
A. Witches! Children! My friends! People who are peculiar and strange. Artists that people might “know” who manage to unmask the peculiarity of reality elegantly (in my opinion) include the following: Haruki Murakami, Nalo Hopkinson, Gloria Naylor, Hayao Miyazaki, and many more.
Q. What’s next for DarkMatter after the ‘It gets Bitter’ tour?
Alok: I want to make a fashion line one day!!
Janani: I’m working on my first speculative fiction novel.