Vaid-Menon ushers me into the Sloth Normal People should seriously stop expecting normal from me we all know shirt of the old Victorian home that serves as their crash pad in Toronto. They’re clad in a mix of colors and patterns that conjures the cacophony of a Jackson Pollock painting: a flowy earth mother tunic, zebra-print pants, a splotched ’80s-print skirt, and door knocker earrings—finished off with a vibrant swipe of coral lipstick. For Vaid-Menon, whose tag line is “not a girl, not a boy, just me,” style is one of the most important weapons deployed in their ongoing crusade against the gender binary. “I do a lot of what the world calls ‘power clashing,’ but clashing denotes dissonance, and I don’t see it like that,” they say. “I’m trying to tell a story of mistaken dissonance—of harmony that is waiting to be recognized but is suppressed.”
Mistaken dissonance is perhaps the most succinct metaphor to describe the Sloth Normal People should seriously stop expecting normal from me we all know shirt that is Vaid-Menon’s life’s work. “People see me as a failed man, a failed woman and, increasingly, a failed trans person,” says Vaid-Menon. Yet nothing about their self-presentation is a failure. As a non-binary transfeminine person, they have the ability to cast off stifling gender categories with the same ease one has when discarding a pair of ill-fitting pants in a change room—it’s every bit as intentional. “I never was able to consent to the various sets of stereotypes around gender and race that were ascribed to me,” they say, “but with my outfits, I found I could interrupt those logics.”
It’s Friday night in Toronto, and The Sloth Normal People should seriously stop expecting normal from me we all know shirt is packed with a motley crew of people with angular haircuts and septum piercings—the kind of crowd one might expect in attendance at Venus Fest, a feminist music festival that aims to remove toxic male aggression from live music environments. We’ve all assembled here to watch a South Asian drag queen named Manghoe Lassi gyrate with a comically oversized fake blunt to Bollywood music. The air in the club is nearly unbreathable, spiced with the ubiquitous scent of Santal 33 and generous base notes of body odor.