In my culture we often joke that we never smile in family photographs.

You see there is no need to smile because
‘The photo’ is simply a transaction,
A ritual we perform to document an event like
Family is some sort of timeline we are creating together in public

Today my grandmother is turning somewhere between 84 and 86 years old.
We do not know her actual age because her father made up a date on her birth certificate so she could be more marketable for marriage.

So today I am celebrating the fact my grandmother was born -2 
and somehow managed to survive.

We spend hours deciding our outfits for the photo.
Grandma wears an elegant black sari
I wear a shirt and jeans.
Sit up a little bit straighter as the camera flashes.
Take record of this moment.

Sometimes I believe not smiling is an act of defiance
It’s a way of acknowledging and documenting the silence that glues my culture together like
Do not mention: that he prayed for a son and got her instead.
Do not mention: how he could not tell the difference between ‘bottle’ and ‘woman.’
These routine acts of violence, rendered invisible,
That allow ‘family’ to develop on the other side

I come out to my grandmother when I am 18.
There are no photos to document this event because
In my culture coming out is not a moment,
It is a smile smudged on a photograph, you must understand,
It is an ocean swallowing us back.
It is all of our portraits weeping.
It is a family unraveling at the seams.
It’s not so much that we never talk about it again,
It’s more that the silence speaks for us

You see in my culture we have learned that
there is no difference between ‘silence’ and ‘violence’
We inherit both from our men.

My grandmother only starts painting in her late 70s,
When I watch her make art I realize this the first time
she has ever used her hands to make something for herself.
Eventually pen and paper turn into brush and canvass
turn into paintings scattered across the house like protest signs
turns into the person she sacrificed for ‘woman’
turns into the “what if”
turns into the “too late”
Sometimes she asks me to sit next to her as she names her pieces.
She holds one she made with a sponge from the kitchen says,
“This is my rage.”

You have to understand
My culture relies on an underground economy of rage,
How we hate our men so much that sometimes
We even hate ourselves for them:
Call it ‘gender’ for short

In my culture eventually a baby
turns into a child
turns into a gender
turns into marriage
turns into house
turns into mother
turns into servant
turns into regret
turns into repeat.

When I start purchasing women’s clothing I am 20
years old and it is the first time in my life that I
look in the mirror and do not see the very man
I grew up terrified of staring back.

Can I show you what
it means for an entire body to be a wound?
Can I tell you what it feels like to
Watch a gender rewind itself?

I put on a dress and turn into that old photo of my grandmother
turns into “what if”
turns into me deciding to show her who i am
turns into me leaving the house
turns into a man on the subway
turns into his questions
turn into the disgust
turns into an entire train staring and doing nothing
turns into him telling me to go to hell
turns into a beating heart
turns into there is nowhere to escape in a moving train 
turns into exiting the car at the next stop
turns into walking to grandma’s apartment
turns into her telling me i dress this way to draw attention to myself
turns into her blaming me for my own violence
turns into isn’t gender always about being blamed for your own violence?
turns into there is nowhere to escape from family

turns into me sometimes i believe her
turns into me gifting her man for her birthday
turns into this family photograph

how gracefully we perform
the silence;
how if you look
hard enough we are mourning
all of the violence that has been
done to us both 
in the name of gender

This evening my grandmother calls me the biggest disappointment in her life.
I recognize this is not my own gender oppression, it is hers:
You see, I come from a long legacy of women punished by men
Who continue to push the man inside of me.
How good it feels for the hurt to hurt someone else.

I understand.
In my culture
transgender is not an identity
It is a tactic of survival.
It is a way of escaping from the men who control our hands to do their work for them
It is the journey that all of us take to reclaim our bodies from the genders that stole them from us.
It is my grandmother’s paintings.
It is the first time in her life that her worth is not evaluated by a meal or a man 
It is me doing this for myself
It is the first time in my life that I am making something out of all of the rage that surrounds us

So I refuse to call her transphobic
I will not blame her for her own violence
Instead, I will join her in not smiling in this photograph
And there is solidarity in this silence,
And there is resistance in this refusal to pretend
that we are something we are not.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 
this is an original poem by alok vaid-menon of please consider supporting the artist

Submissions are now open for the annual experimental film and video screening program, Monitor 11. Monitor is dedicated to the presentation of experimental short films and videos by and/or about South Asians from Canada and around the world. We invite independent and innovative short films and videos that explore the aesthetic and form of the moving image and its relation to narrative. Monitor encourages new, experimental and risk-taking work that challenges the viewer’s active engagement.

Submit By November 3


This morning, Jane escaped police custody while being transported to a court-mandated therapy session. She was found by Hartford police this afternoon and is reportedly being taken back to state custody. At this time the exact conditions of her detention are unknown.

Many wonder why Jane…

Excited to announce that we will be performing at the International Queer Arts Festival in New York City. Get your tickets before they sell out, but in the mean time watch this interview about the upcoming show.

native informant


the first time i was called a terrorist was in 5th grade
i remember my mother telling me that she didn’t
want me to go to school because
white people did not understand the difference between
a hindu and a muslim
to them we were all brown
and that was enough evidence for the american flags
that sprung up overnight like an allergic reaction

this is the story of a generation:
we who hit puberty the same time the
planes hit those towers
fumbling in the remains 
inheriting an endless war as a bed time story
our bodies stolen
from us by the headlines that taught
us that we, man
we, brown,
we criminal


one of grandma’s favorite stories she’d tell us growing up
was that when grandpa took her out for their first date
she refused to eat a single bite because the cook was muslim

after coming out i used to joke whether it would anger her
more if i married a man or a muslim woman.


there is a woman who looks like my grandmother weeping on a stage.
she tells the story of her son shahawar matin siraj
how the FBI paid native informants to spy on muslims after 9/11 
to plant dissent and use it to justify the global war on terror.

one of them targeted her son.

over night he was abducted and taken to prison.
it has been over ten years.

i want to call my grandmother
tell her about him and the more than 1,000 brown men
who looked just like me growing up
that were kidnapped from the streets in 2001 
and put in planes flying away from new york city
to be detained or deported

but i know that she will not believe me
because she believes in america
and will hear a muslim name
and what could be more
incriminating than that?

it will not matter that we speak the same language,
because our tongues are severed by a partition
silent and painful,
like a gaping wound
mistaken as mouth


a group of white liberals dress a puppet  in a suit and paint him ‘brown’
call his college essay about growing up a minority ‘articulate’
give him a pat on the head every time he says something right
like: racism is in the south / racism is in the past / racism is prejudice
take photos of him for their view book
tell him his religious garb is ethnic and beautiful
share him like an upworthy article. 
give him extra points for using creative english like:

tell us how you were “wounded” by the slurs
(while we send a drone to pakistan)

tell us how “violent” it was for your classmates to mistake your identity
(while we stop & frisk them in jackson heights)

tell us how “militantly” you worked to get where you are today
(while we send officers with guns to break in their homes)

convince the puppet to run for political office
ghostwrite his speech about realizing the immigrant dream
watch him deport thousands back to the middle east
watch him send troops to follow them there
watch him kill his own
watch him not care.

what does it feel like to be a model minority victim?
what does it feel like to have a white man touch you
(even though he’s pulling all your strings)?
what does it feel to be brown and beautiful
for once in your goddamn life?
do you ever look back to where you came from?

do you ever look where they are taking you now?
you brown, when convenient
you brown, when resume
you brown, when you want white,
look white, do right, do white,
“what does it feel like to be a solution?”


seconds to tear out
all of the sutures in your skin

1 - white supremacy has always relied on the telling of certain victim narratives over others
2 - racism is not just a cultural attitude, it is an economy of violence
3 - hindu upper caste indians earn more income on average than whites in this country
4 - muslim south asians are now the poorest minority group in new york
5 - who profits from being vague? from solidarity for the sake of salary?

which means that i am sitting in an auditorium weeping
along with this mother who could have been mine
because i am thinking of all the ways that i am not her son.

thinking about the distance
between a bully and a bullet,
a slur and a sentencing,
a plane and a prison.

thinking about these two forms of class:
how one of us was sent to a private cage
and the other to a private college.

thinking about how so many of us have been taught to name the ways that we have been hurt,
but rarely take the time to name the ways we do harm.

how easy it is to wear words as shields like
call me brown 
not brahmin, not bourgie, not bigot

so tonight i am calling my grandmother and all of
the rest of us in this country who
put american flags on our lawns,
english on our tongues,
put on islamophobia like a skin whitening cream
the same day they put you in jail
and called it justice

so i will keep calling her back when she hangs up
even though our people continue to be hanged
so i will keep calling until you are free.
until we are all free
from our own
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 
this is an original poem by alok of please continue supporting the artist

when a birth certificate hijacks a body and tells it to speak or forever hold its peace

we must ask:

what would it mean to say
that i was assigned brown at birth?
(& then came ‘man’ as the punctuation
mark after)

what would it mean to say that
after 9/11
my ?
became ! 

what would it mean to say that
the war on terror made me trans?

would you believe me if i told you
that i woke up afraid of myself?

would you believe me if i told you that
i have spent the past decade
flying away from man because
he brown
he !

would you accept me if i told you
that my identity is the inhale
yanked exhale
the trauma
yanked body
the violence
yanked gender ?

would you accept me if I told you
my gender came from violence?

because sometimes i wonder
if there would be gender if there
were no violence.

sometimes i
wonder if there would be body if
there were no trauma.

sometimes i
wonder if there would be brown
if there were no plane.

last weekend i smiled
when the security guard
patted me down

i wonder
if he was searching for my

i wanted to shout “wait – you are right —
i am concealing a weapon down there”

how we no longer attempt
to translate violence into

how we have found ways
to make their !
? itself

how good it feels
to have them fumbling
in the darkness
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 
this is an original poem by alok of please consider supporting the artist.


our train is delayed and i am late for lunch
with a boy i like because he makes me feel
less lonely and that seems like a sufficient
definition for love these days
in this city where it is possible to be surrounded
by the warmth of millions of apartment lights and
still feel cold

the lights turn off.
and it’s one of those moments
when we are forced to look up from our screens
and remember that we exist outside of them

they tell us that someone jumped in front of the tracks
that he died upon impact
so we just sit there in silence
as they remove his remains.

and some part of us
is happy because this,
this is the first time we have
felt like part of something greater than ourselves in a while
in this city where sometimes it takes
an accident to remember what the purpose of a
body is to begin with.

when the train starts up again
the woman next to me starts complaining
and asking why he didn’t do it at home
how he could have saved us the trouble and time
by taking a bottle of pills before leaving the house
how selfish it is to delay others with your death

and i want to hug her
say: “remind me the purpose of this arm”
want to love her
say: “remind me the purpose of this heart”

but you see this is america
where people scatter on streets like discarded leaves –
only touching accidentally as we
land on these cities we grew up circling on maps
saying  “remind me happiness”
and somehow convinced ourselves they did
the same way we believed in the borders between
countries so well that we built a wall around
them: called it ‘mine’

this is america
where pain is a ritual we are required to conduct in private:
an elaborate symphony on mute

call it “he died in his sleep peacefully”
(as if the stroke did not tear him to pieces)

call it “he lived to be eighty six years old”
as if he didn’t hate himself for at least thirty of them)

call it “accident”
not no healthcare

call it “casualty”
not calculation

in america:

death is a distraction.
it is thirty of us sitting together underground on a subway train
unable to hold each other and weep so instead
we sit in silence and wait until we can move again
back above ground
into the light
and forget how much death must be in the soil
to grow such 

i want to text the boy above ground waiting for me, ask:
"have you ever been to a funeral with complete strangers?"
but instead i look at the woman next to me, the one
who told a dead man to die more considerately and
i remember that to live in america is to attend
a funeral with complete strangers:
how many ghosts does it take for a cemetery to call itself a country?

to live in america is to blame the
dead for their own death, not
the country for creating the very
conditions that already killed them
before they caught up and
made things more clear

which is why when i tell the
liberal who wears words like ‘diplomacy’
and ‘democrat’ that i will not pay his taxes
because i do not want my coins to cause carnage
and he calls me a terrorist
(i understand)

which is why when i tell him
that i do believe in monsters who come
out at night, call them ‘men’ for short
and he tells me that i only dress femme because i want to be bashed
(i understand)

which is why when i tell him
that the very women who started our movement
are still being murdered in the same cities where
men are getting married and calling it momentous
and he gasps: “that happens here? in america!”
(i understand)

the ways we have been taught
to apologize for our sadness.
to blame ourselves for the hurt.
to erase the violence.
to numb the pain.
to normalize the death.
to wake up in the morning and
deny that sometimes when the
train crawls into the station that
we may see a pill in its place.
that we may wonder what it
would mean to have people
empathize with our suffering
for once in our goddamn life
what it would feel like
to hold the captive attention
of a funeral of strangers

so i want to embrace to this woman on the train
and say: “i am afraid too”
say: “remind me trust”
say: sometimes this silence feels like the highest pitch of screaming.
say: i understand. say: these past thirty minutes were the first time i have
been forced to publicly grieve death in a long time
and there is something
beautiful about that
say: what if we stopped moving more often,
took a second to
absorb the pain,
let it fill us a little less empty.

but instead i will sit here and wait until the train starts up again.
i will exit the car without saying goodbye to her.
i will walk up the stairs to the boy outside with the smile that makes me feel less lonely.
i will apologize for being late.
i will not have the words for a type of loss that is so distant it is intimate.
after lunch later i will get back on the train.
i will remember.
i will soon forget.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _  _ _ _ 
this is an original poem by alok of . please consider supporting the artist

"We want to know what would it actually look like to make a queer revolutionary practice that was relevant to people of color and didn’t just think of race as some "intersection" but rather as central to the way we think about politics around gender and sexuality."

Our friends over at Signified made a short film about us (DarkMatter) check it out! ~*





We wanted to take a moment today, on the heels of India Day (‘Indian Independence Day’ on August 15) to acknowledge the violent and often glossed over history at the foundation of the Indian nation-state and continues to pervade India’s politics. The rise of Hindu Nationalist power over the past several decades has been fully contingent on the maintenance of caste-based violence, Islamophobia, and patriarchy. India today has become one of the world’s largest military powers, and complicit in the occupation of Kashmiri land as well as the channeling of military & financial power to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This, again, is related to India’s Islamophobic positioning as a ‘safe’ alternative to a ‘dangerous’ (read: Muslim) Pakistan. Viewing Gandhi and other figures central to India’s founding as ‘nonviolent’ totally erases histories and present-day realities of caste.

Indians in diaspora cannot understand our participation in oppression without an understanding of caste, and a subsequent commitment to challenging the normalization of casteism and Hindu Nationalism (Hindutva). Upper-caste Hindus in particular cannot narrate our histories as only ones of being ‘colonized’ people without understanding caste, religious violence, and militarism. 

DarkMatter (@DarkMatterRage)