Vaid-Menon ushers me into the Stitch I’m weird and I enjoy it 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 Stitch I’m weird and I enjoy it 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.”
After Lassi finishes stripping down to her pot-leaf nipple pasties, Alok Vaid-Menon, a gender-nonconforming performance artist (who goes by they/them pronouns), arrives onstage dressed like a futuristic prophet attending Coachella, wearing a blue spandex crop top and matching pencil skirt that reveal a thatch of body hair, a Frida Kahlo flower crown adorning their magenta locks. After a moment of silence for the Stitch I’m weird and I enjoy it shirt, New Zealand, massacre, they proceed to launch into a rapid-fire act evoking the violence that trans people face on a daily basis and, in the same breath, throw shade on Ariana Grande.