DarkMatter at Mercury Lounge: #ItGetsBitter
I was raised by evangelists. I’ve been secretly hoping for a good church sermon for a couple of decades now, but churches don’t deliver. I seem to only find repetitions on themes, approved sequences of words, with heresy lurking in the corner. I’ve privately thought that when truth speaks, it should be so self-evident as to be inarguable. So I’m letting you know I found my sermon. The truth appeared last Monday night at Mercury Lounge, y’all. DarkMatter took me to church.
DarkMatter is a Brooklyn-based art and activist collaboration between Janani Balasubramanian and Alok Vaid-Menon. The duo is known for its politics, panache and spoken-word poetry along queer/trans South Asian themes. They did two back-to-back packed shows this past Monday at Mercury Lounge, part of their #ItGetsBitter “creative interruption to contemporary queer performance” which they’ve been touring all over the world like some kind of tent revival.
Early in the show, when all the fun people were beckoned to the stage for a full-cast dance break, I stayed put, but enjoyed the moving-images backdrop packed with cultural references, from Teletubbies to Bollywood , Bob Ross and the Charmin bears. I thought to entitle the blog post “Where Teletubbies Meet Trans Femmes.” I was gonna be cute, see? There was the wonderful DJ Ushka, phenomenal host-performer ShaGasyia Diamond, and a number of engaging opening acts (Tina Hanae Miller, Una Osata, Joe Castle Baker). I bumped shoulders with my neighbors in the dense crowd, cradling my beer, when Alok and Janani finally took the stage. Alok sported a soft turquoise jumpsuit and perfect curly bangs. Janani wore flowy pleather and platforms. They were adorable. I was prepared to be amused. Then unbelievable intelligence started exploding out of every word.
I love dense language. I love when truthful words become a stampede, hurtling one over another, a riot of realness, phrases so compellingly logical you can’t unhear them.
There’s a process of watching a narrative taken apart. Maybe you didn’t know that body needed dissecting, but once the pieces are laid out, it’s a monster unborn.
Words included in Monday night’s performance: transphobia, systematic oppression, colonialism, electoral politics, digestive resistance, patriarchy, heteronormativity, 9/11, white feminism, microflora, black, brown, binary.
Humorless? No way, fuck that false dichotomy. Janani’s lilting alto voice offers that “Justin Bieber’s album is the new gay,” because the policy on liking it is “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Alok describes the zombie-movie craze as “selfies for cis white people.” We take one look at our iPhones, and run screaming the other way.
Heterosexuality is “so TBT, the biggest role-play ever, safe-word ‘capitalism’.”
White men have huge…empires. They’re really good at…gentrification.
I’ll attempt to paraphrase: This isn’t about trans people. This is about the world. Origin stories get lost in translation. How dare we tell anyone how to live in their body? As if they hate themselves because it is their choice, not ours. As If they kill themselves because they wanted to, and not because we told them to. The pain is not an accident, it’s the norm. They didn’t cross the gender binary, the gender binary crossed them. Before there was hate there was love. Before there was me there was us. Cis people, it’s our fault. We’re traumatized. We constantly have to be Super Gender, our models are so fucked. Alok and Janani don’t want to save trans people. They want to save white cis people. My hand shoots up. I’m called upon to emit the loudest moan I’ve ever emitted in public.
Alok and Janani, you can count me the choir. Can I get more of you on my white feminist blog? Let’s join hands and pray over false dichotomies and prophesies. Name the date, I’m there, amen.
Hear the call? Follow DarkMatter here, and you can also direct your devoton Alok's and Janani's blogs. If you're motivated to spread the word, you can donate here.
Originally published at www.psycho-girl.com on February 24, 2016.