Student Reflections on Alok Menon

Alok Menon, Beyond the Gender Binary

After the overwhelming student response to the Alok Menon webinar on Feb. 5, 2021, the GLBT Center highlights two reflections from students who attended. We hope that these reflections serve as a call to action from other campus partners. Our students are best served when the campus as a whole, and not just the GLBT Center, pushes for speakers who are LGBTQ+ people of color who approach equity and diversity with depth. We welcome suggestions for future speakers and partnerships.

“A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to attend a webinar with the speaker Alok Mennon. I had seen a few interviews and articles about Alok Menon, so I was so excited to read their book Beyond the Gender Binary. The book was amazing and something I’d recommend everyone to read at least once. First and foremost, what I enjoyed was getting to read from the perspective of someone who identifies as nonbinary. There have been pieces written here and there about nonbinary people written by cisgender people and while those can be informative, I think that it’s important to actually hear from the people in question. There was another excerpt in the book that stood out to me. Alok brought up the issue of tolerance vs. acceptance and full acceptance vs. conditional acceptance. It made me ask myself if I was tolerant or accepting of issues. That then caused me to go even further to ask if my acceptance was conditional. I’m proud that I’ve grown as a person and glad I was able to take the time to reflect, thanks to the book. 

“In the short time we had with Alok, they highlighted the unimportance of gender as a whole. At least that was my takeaway from that part of the conversation. Alok said that when people try to define what makes a scientific biological male or female, most arguments boil down to reproduction. They go on to say that gender should not be defined as what someone has or lacks because it is more than that. Which truly comes full circle to their book Beyond the Binary. Getting to hear Alok speak about the book in addition to reading it truly allowed me to hear and fully understand the point. More than just understanding, I was able to reflect and consider how I can continue to challenge myself and how I think.”

— Alyssa Brown, BSW (bachelor’s of social work) intern

“I’m still piecing my brain back together after Alok’s mind-blowing talk a couple weeks ago. Their words and concepts flowed out of their presence like a thick beam of white-hot sunshine. Their words echoed all the truths and connections that arrived, rattling inside my mind for the past two years as my transness came into my awareness and I began to actively fight against the dominant paradigm for a collective “heaven on Earth” existence that I don’t see anywhere around me yet, aside from thrilling glimpses.

“When I heard Alok speak about our transcestors and how we continue to dream ourselves into existence, opting out of “template culture,” a new-to-me term they coined, I felt deeply affirmed, emboldened and proud to be trans and nonbinary. Over the past two years of realization, I began dedicating myself to my self-actualization and autonomy with zero compromises. Alok’s words are the company I craved in this journey. They believe me. I believe them. I’m so grateful for their unrelenting devotion to authenticity and for using their growing platform to uplift and liberate the collective. It’s working.”

— Jay Schnaak, MSW (master’s of social work) intern

Send Us Your Ideas

Is there an amazing speaker you’d like to have on campus who addresses intersectional experiences, authentic liberation and change-making? Email the GLBT Center at with ideas.

Photo credit, top: Penguin Random House, YouTube, “Inside the Book: Alok Vaid-Menon (Beyond the Gender Binary)”