Written by Siliziwe Mapalala
Embarrassingly, I have only recently stumbled upon Alok’s work, when watching an episode of Getting Curious with Jonanthan Van Ness. The statement that caught my attention was when JVN was asking Alok what they think it is about non-binary and trans people that threathens the systems of power. You know, just a casual chat amongst friends. Alok’s response was so clearly, evidently and anointedly spot on, responding just as casually that “[w]e represent possibility. We represent choice, being able to create a life, a way of living, a way of loving, a way of looking that’s outside of what we’ve been told that we should be.”
So I immediately looked for them on social media and followed. I soon realised that it was not a chance statement or a fake deepness from which Alok spoke, but there was authenticity, education, experience and a celestial gift that backed up their speech. Now for those who don’t know, Alok is a poet, comedian, and public speaker, who has also authored the books Femme in Public (2017), Beyond the Gender Binary (2020), and Your Wound/My Garden (2021). Being a bit of a fan girl, I immediately jumped on purchasing the tickets to their show when I saw on IG that Alok would be performing a comedy set, being ushered in by Kwaai Diva singing and Dzaddy’s Lotion on the decks.
Stepping into Breezeblock Cafe that Thursday evening, I was overwhelmed by the turn out – our community did not disappoint! I enjoy people watching when I occasionally leave my nest, and I am especially delighted when attending an event with queer people, because I know someone wil be there dressed to the nines and requiring us to step our pussies up.
Now I had listened to a number of Alok’s talks where they speak on gender issues and recite their poetry, but I did not know what to expect from a comedic front. Alok did not disappoint, Alok told jokes (in case you are not sure, Alok and Joke rhyme).
We were blessed with a mixed media of comedy and poetry, Alok flowing from one to the other in a drop of a hat. We found ourselves in hysterics as they spoke of #protectjokesfrommeninpants, to literal shedding of tears as they recited a beautiful but brutally painful poem about the loss of their grandfather. The emotional yoyo did not end there, because again we were taken through the self-deprecating humour of Alok meditating; seeking for the door (not sure where it leads), to asking the deep question of why trans lives are under constant threat, to abruptly finding the door.
I found myself most moved when Alok pleaded with the trans and non-binary folks in the audience, assuring them that they are the light to the world, and encouraging them to hold on a little bit longer. So much of that evening was an experience I wish I could bottle up to replay whenever I have doubts or feel hopeless, because the words shared by Alok – the piercing poetry as well as the hearty jokes – brought hope.