originally published 2/22/19

the day after being called a tranny in this outfit i had a photo shoot. i saw this dress, still stained with the tint of their laughter, discarded on my living room floor like a fruit rind…or an ex. it reeked of both fear & sweat, pungent, unforgiving. perhaps it was a whim (or death drive) but somehow i decided to bring it with me. touching it: i felt their loneliness. their shame. there is a magic to navigating the world in this body: i see things other people don’t see: exit signs, gestures, denial. i listen to the biographies of objects: stop signs & metro cards. there are libraries in every nook & cranny in this city, tomes in every look. in minutes i can establish the energy in a room & whether i need to leave it. this is how i have survived: by sensitizing myself to everyone & everything. when i walk outside i have to decipher the invisible tongues of thousands. is this stare curious or lethal? is this invitation genuine or genocidal? in split seconds i traverse universes. so when the camera invited me in: i surrendered to the ritual & found myself smiling on the other side. reclamation is turning destruction into joy. joyous in my pain: i find it impossible to hate the people who hate me. i love them & worry about them, their gum recession, their dysmorphia, the ways they have mistaken misery as masculinity. disgust comes when the boundaries of life & death are unsettled. it is directed to us not because we symbolize death, but because we symbolize life. they have marked us for death — but in their squalor, we find glamour. we proliferate it! we birth it! we reproduce it! it overflows from us: gorgeous & grotesque, seeps out of our pores into the garments into the words onto the streets so that there is always a trace of us there, lingering. the reason they want to kill us is because when we are alive we remind them that they are dead. but i, i have learned how to make communion with everything: you, a dress, this body hair cursive written all over my skin: a love letter to me, a love letter to you: “hi my name is alok. i am alive. are you?”

portrait by bronson farr