Inspirational LGBTQ Vegan Spotlight: Kai Rose – Learning What it Means to be Vegan is a Lifelong Process

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Kai Rose! I’m queer, 28 years old, and currently live in Denton, Texas. You can follow me on Instagram @yokaipup!! I’m always looking for more queer and vegan friends, so please DM me!

Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity and Pronouns

Pansexual – I’m Gender Non-Conforming/Transmasc/Nonbinary, and use They/Them or He/Him pronouns!

When did you first realize you were trans?

Realizing I was trans took a very long time. Accepting I was trans took even longer. When I reflect on my childhood through what I know now about myself, peculiar memories surface that seem to scream, “YOU WERE TRANS THE WHOLE TIME! How did no one notice? Especially you?!” But education on trans people in Texan public school in the 2000s was non-existent, I had no trans people in my life, and because I’m gender non-conforming and don’t really ‘get’ binary gender, I never matched that classic trans story of “I always knew I was a [binary gender]”.  It’s truly remarkable how much more visible trans people are in American society now, compared to the mid-2000s when I first saw a trans man interviewed on an edgy cable show called Taboo. But here are some key childhood memories that feel very On Brand Trans to me: in elementary school, I decided to don an imperial mustache and a fuchsia-striped puff-sleeved blouse to give a long presentation as Sir Walter Raleigh, to the widespread acclaim of the other second graders. (My take on his English dialect was heavily inspired by Basil Stag Hare from Brian Jacques Redwall series, so you can appreciate what a huge nerd I was. As someone who essentially minored in Dialects in college, I now look back on my attempt with deep embarrassment.) When I neared puberty, my mother sat me down to discuss the changes my body was about to undergo. I started sobbing and hid in a closet. (Childhood has a funny way to foreshadow future life events.) I remember hearing girls in the middle school gym locker room warn that if you slept in your bra, your breasts wouldn’t grow bigger. I always slept in my bra after that. (It didn’t help- I ended up with DDs.) In high school theatre, I desperately wished I would be considered for male roles because I thought they seemed far more fun to play. In my anguish over not being able to audition for Sweeney Todd’s titular character, I exclaimed at the lunch table that I wished I was a gay boy, so I could still dress fabulously but get to play male roles. (There was a figurative record stop, then everyone laughed at my good good goof. I learned not to bring that up again. I now know that your sexuality has nothing to do with your gender expression in fashion.) In college, I was cast as Viola in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and I bound my breasts for the first time (Viola dresses as her presumed dead twin brother for most of the play).  Binding felt right. I had played male and non-feminine roles often in theatre, but Twelfth Night was the first time I was able to explore being truly masculine and I felt exhilarated and empowered. But I still didn’t understand I was trans yet. It wasn’t until after college when I saw transmasculine people on Tumblr that I realized what all those feelings meant. I felt a deep longing to look like them. I started reading about trans people and nonbinary people online and realized what my lifetime of feeling disassociated from my body and gender meant. I was trans. But I still didn’t know what to do with that realization.

When did you come out?

Since I’ve discovered my queer identity in many stages, I can remember key moments where I tested people’s reactions after obsessively researching my identity possibilities. It started small, like when a conversation about trans people came up with my long term boyfriend. I was maybe 21. “Not that I would, this is totally hypothetical, but would you still be with me if I transitioned?” “No.” (I looked past that red flag and dated him for increasingly miserable years after that. Learn from my mistake and summon the courage now to say you be deserved to be loved for who you are, not who people want you to be.) After that, I had a deep fear that no one would love me if I decided to transition, and it delayed my decision significantly. So I took baby steps. As casually as possible, (though I remember shaking slightly and my pulse heavy) I said to my best friend Lizzie over lunch: “Yeah, I don’t know, I just don’t really feel like a girl, you know?” She was super chill about it and said she’d support me, whatever I wanted to do. We’re still best friends. Shortly after, I told my parents I was trans- that I felt overwhelmed with the expectations of being a girl- that I was nonbinary- but I didn’t know if I wanted to transition yet. They didn’t really understand- their limited understanding of trans people was limited to binary transition. But publicly, I was still pretty closeted, and I just suffered in silence while people used she/her around me and used my birth name because I didn’t have self-confidence and didn’t want to bother people by correcting them. After years of panic attacks and feeling deeply depressed, I dumped my boyfriend, came out online as trans, asked people to call me Kai, and requested they/them pronouns. I spent another year in this limbo, with people sometimes respecting my requests, but often not at all. Non-binary people often face disrespect and are ignored- because the binary is so established, a simple request for different pronouns can be interpreted as a huge frustration. I often met either a complete disregard for my request or outright aggression. After a year of fighting to be respected as a non-binary person, I was exhausted by the erasure. I felt that my only option to alleviate my increasing dysphoria was hormone replacement therapy. I finally revealed to friends and family that I was going to transition and was met with an astonishing amount of support. I was 26.

How did your closest friends and family react?

Being queer can be a spectacular thing, full of celebration and community and love. It can also be terrifying, especially if you’re alone in your identity. Like a flickering candle floating in a churning ocean, it can be a struggle to burn brightly when the only thing around you can extinguish your light. I was surrounded by dark waters for years with hardly a glimpse of flame. Much of what delayed my decision to transition was a lack of support from people immediately around me- I felt powerless and often allowed myself to linger in abusive relationships and situations because of a lack of confidence. After significant loss and trials, I’d had enough. I dumped my social circle, started working on my self-worth and confidence, and took time to heal. The candle needs to feed its flame to survive but struggles to survive without help. Finding queer friends online and off- seeing people fighting their own fights to burn brightly and succeeding- has filled me with energy and hope. Visibility is a powerful gift. The visibility of others has inspired me to be visible in turn. It inspired me to finally make the decisions to claim my own power, and that power has changed hearts and minds around me. My parents initially struggled with my decision to transition but vowed they would try to understand and accept it. They allowed me to move back home to save money for top surgery. We went to family therapy to help facilitate conversation (I highly recommend this, especially if your family is the type to postpone difficult conversations indefinitely. A specific discussion time and a third party to moderate helps immensely). After a year back home, and a lot of work from all parties, my parents have become very accepting and I’m proud to say my mother intends to march at our local Pride and offer Mom Hugs to queer people that don’t have a supportive mother.

What lead you to veganism? How long ago?

I’ve always been a deeply empathetic person and loved animals, but I don’t recall a specific reason why I asked my parents if I could be a vegetarian when I was a teenager. I don’t think I knew much about the meat industry at the time- I just had a gut feeling eating meat was wrong. But because they were already making special diet considerations because of my celiacs, (I’ve been gluten free since I was 14) they refused. When I left home for college at 18, I immediately stopped eating meat. I tried several different experimental diets at first- raw veganism, sproutarian, fruitarian, etc.- but eventually settled on a 98% vegan whole food diet, cooking fully vegan at home but occasionally consuming dairy products when eating out. I had this 98% vegan diet for several years until I realized my body was rejecting the little dairy I was consuming and making me feel ill, and I came to terms that it was deeply selfish to continue supporting the dairy industry, even as little as I was. So I became fully vegan! This was probably four or five years ago, and I haven’t looked back!

When you first went vegan how did you phase out your non-vegan food, clothing and other items?

My transition to veganism was slow. I knew I wanted to be a vegan for life but I had to unlearn a lot of conditioning from childhood, and that took time! I made slow changes to modify or remove animal products from my life, and as I continued on my path, I learned more about how many products actually are derived from or benefit from the suffering of animals. Because I’m gluten free, most meat replacement products are derived from gluten and I couldn’t eat them. I never liked meat much anyway, so removing it from my diet was easiest-  it’s wondrous how much protein can be found in plants! Recent vegan products are absolutely delicious, often far better than my memory of animal products they imitate! I don’t miss cheese (choose cultured nut cheeses and butter like Miyoko’s Creamery, they’re incredible) or ice cream (coconut or cashew are often the creamiest milk alternatives, others can be ‘icier’ in texture)! You can easily make your own creamy sauces with soaked cashews (blend soaked cashews, salt, and lemon for a great sour cream!) and umami can be added to dishes with fermented products like miso or smoked salt. There are so many exciting things happening in vegan cuisine right now!

With clothing, I initially continued to wear thrifted vintage leather, reasoning that I wasn’t contributing to the leather industry’s demand, but ultimately I realized that wearing skin is actually pretty horrifying, even though we normalize it, so I stopped wearing leather entirely. It also took time to realize that some of the body care products I used were either tested on animals or had animal derived ingredients, so I changed to certified vegan and cruelty-free products. It took time to readjust!

Do you make any exceptions?

I never make any exceptions- after you don’t consume animal products for a while, they can make you very sick. If my food is contaminated with animal products of any kind, even a very small amount, I get sick! I find it fascinating that something I used to eat can now make me violently ill, but I can eat a fruit I’ve never eaten before and be able to digest it with no issues at all!

When I cook for my family I always cook vegan and gluten-free and I bring a vegan/gluten-free dish to events. I care a lot about introducing and serving healthy vegan food to people that tastes delicious! It’s been remarkable to see relatives that were adamantly anti-vegan enjoy my food and take multiple helpings. Delicious and healthy vegan food is real and can transform people!

Do you believe we should show children the process of how animals are turned into meats?

Care should be given to introduce the reality of the meat industry at a proper age- I’m not an expert in child development and therefore unsure of the ideal age to introduce such a difficult and likely frightening reality to children. Ideally, children would not be conditioned from a very early age to consume animals and their natural empathy would not be hardened by animal consuming adults, so when the time did come to be introduced to the meat industry, they would be able to perceive how cruel it is. But even if many children ape their parents’ resistance to veganism, exposing children to the meat industry in pre or elementary school would be transformative to the generation, and I believe the amount of meat consumption would decrease significantly. However, subsidized animal products are legally required to be served to children in preschools and grade schools across America, and the animal industry’s lobbyists would be a huge hurdle to overcome in establishing this precedent in public education. I worked as a cook for a preschool and you wouldn’t believe the amount of dairy milk we were legally obligated to serve to the kids! They of course had no idea about the reality of the milk industry and its efforts to condition them at an early age to consume dairy. The animal industry is deeply entrenched in the American educational system, and it would take major political change to overturn this power dynamic.

What does being vegan mean to you? F

I grieve over the loss of any life, no matter how small, and try to live my life as free of death as possible. I will not kill anything, even a mosquito drawing blood from my arm- I have a deep feeling of regret for any life that has been lost due to my actions, and I believe every living thing has a right to life. I even feel guilty pulling weeds! I try to embrace intersectionality in all areas of my life- being queer and being vegan has encouraged me to consider all marginalized life as part of a greater whole. Institutionalized discrimination and power imbalance condemn billions of lives to suffer for the success of a few. How can we decide that one life has value over another? It’s an impossible thing- there will always be situations where we must choose. Life is a series of Trolley Problems- there will always be situations in which we must sacrifice some lives for others. But we can choose what will result in the least suffering possible. Intersectional veganism to me is the consideration and collaboration of all marginalized lives that suffer under supremacist institutions. It’s about making the effort to understand and combat those institutions together.

How can one elite subset of one species of ape claim superiority over an entire planet’s trillions of lifeforms? Humans are not alone in using tools, in making art, or teaching skills. We only know a fraction about life on earth and nearly nothing about the universe, and yet we claim to be the most superior life form. A mosquito that bites is a mother bringing back blood to feed her children. An obligate carnivore was born without any other way to survive but to consume the life of another. Nature is flawed and brutal, and most life forms have no other option but to submit to her violence. Humans can choose a better path. We have the ability to thrive on a plant-based diet. We have the knowledge to protect ourselves with plant-based clothing and plant-derived body care. We know how to co-exist with nature and allow her to flourish without stripping her of resources. It may not be as ‘profitable’ immediately, but in the long term, it is the only way for the entire planet to thrive. Capitalist corporations that emphasize profit are poison to the Earth and to people. Even if the product is vegan, if the actions made by the company to procure that product are unethical- I do not support that company. Capitalism is built on the abuse of workers and the unequal distribution of rewards from labor, and ultimately there are very few opportunities to support completely ethical products. It’s impossible to have the time or information to research every product, but one can make a considerable effort to be informed and make decisions that are as ethical as possible within the reality of our lives. One person may not be able to make much of an impact alone, but if we band together and all make ethical choices, we can transform industries. I understand that in our immediate reality, there are many people who do not have the privilege to be vegan. But we can make collective choices in society to increase the education and availability of a vegan lifestyle and help communities and cultures that are dependent on animals to evolve past a culture built on cruelty.

Is it every vegan’s duty to become an activist?

I think every person is an activist for their own beliefs- your actions, no matter how small, have consequences. It is unavoidable to exist and not impact other living beings. How visible and effective you are in doing so varies with your ability and opportunity. There are many different reasons to be vegan and there are many different ways to be active in promoting them. Ultimately, if you exist as a vegan, you are doing a tremendous act of resistance against a non-vegan world. If you can spare the time and energy to do more and help educate others, that’s wonderful. Just be a positive example and others will follow.

How compassionate or empathetic are you towards non-vegans?

I’m patient with people. I know these things take time. But I have struggled a lot with loving people who are resistant to veganism. I hope that everyone I introduce vegan food and lifestyle to will adopt it to some degree, but often people are resistant to changing what they’re comfortable with. I don’t think I could ever have another serious partner that wasn’t vegan or interested in transitioning to veganism, as I think that continuing to eat meat and consume animal products after being educated on the reality of the meat industry indicates a frightening lack of empathy.

Any recommended Vegan books?

The Asian Vegan Kitchen: Authentic and Appetizing Dishes from a Continent of Rich Flavors by Hema Parekh.

Any recommended social sites, blogs or pages?

CollectivelyFree.Org (A truly intersectional community of vegan activists that are from diverse identities fighting together to provide vegan resources and education) (It’s cis-normative and doesn’t often mention trans and nonbinary people, but overall it’s an excellent collection of essays regarding veganism intersecting with sexism and racism)

Do you have a favorite movie or videos or your own media that you want to share?

I love animation and children’s media, and I highly recommend the Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli’s collection of films- they’re not explicitly vegan, but often deal with environmentalist themes and were hugely influential in my appreciation of nature and the value of life. I recommend Pom Poko, Princess Mononoke, and Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind particularly for their depictions of nature suffering from human impact.

What’s your favorite Vegan restaurant?

There are so many incredible vegan restaurants I’ve been to on both the west coast and Texas! Portland, San Diego, and Los Angeles certainly have a huge variety of vegan restaurants, many really wonderful, and often with a healthier theme. Texan vegan restaurants often have more of a comfort food or American diner style, which I lovingly call ‘trash vegan’- a favorite of mine is a vegan grilled cheese stuffed with french fries and jalapenos and dipped in vegan ranch at the much-beloved Dallas/Ft. Worth vegan restaurant Spiral Diner. It’s not healthy by any means but it’s sooo good! Spiral Diner is always packed at any of the locations in the DFW area, filled with vegans and non-vegans alike. Trashy vegan food is a great occasional cheat, but I love vegan food that doesn’t seek to imitate popular food and is an entirely new cuisine. I’ve seen wonderful innovation in vegan cooking that celebrates plants with creativity and panache!

Please share your favorite vegan recipe?

I love protein pasta! It’s gluten free and often made exclusively from lentils or beans. It’s absolutely packed with protein. You can create a lightning fast lunch or dinner by salting a stockpot of water heavily and bringing it to a boil. Simmer garlic in high-quality olive oil with smoked salt, freshly ground pepper, chopped tomatoes, lemon zest and fresh lemon juice. When the water boils, stir in protein pasta and turn down the heat. Keep an eye on it and stir occasionally because it boils over easily! After a few minutes test the pasta every 30 seconds for the perfect firmness. It’s almost always far less time than the pasta’s recommendation. Drain the pasta when it’s just past al dente and before it’s falling apart! Chiffonade some fresh basil and mix into the sauce, then toss in the pasta! Delicious! You can add other veggies like broccoli or mix up the sauce with ginger and chilies. Approach cooking as a creative experiment!

Some encouraging words for new Vegans?

Learning what it means to be vegan is a lifelong process, and you should be patient! Being a Perfect Vegan is impossible- we must continually learn to reduce our impact on the planet and live in a kinder way. We should all be working together to improve the way we live and understand how to create a more vegan world! You don’t have to be an expert all at once- start small, like learning a new vegan recipe every week or carefully reading ingredient lists of the prepared foods you consume. Slowly replace animal products in your diet with vegan alternatives or remove them entirely. Ensure the body care products you use aren’t tested on animals or have animal products in them (there are vegan certifications that have easy to recognize symbols on packaging, like the Certified Vegan logo or the Leaping Bunny, which guarantees the product and the ingredients used within it are not tested on animals.) Learn about hidden animal products, like shellac (made from scale insects) on jelly beans (and many other products) or gelatin (made from skin, cartilage, and bones from cows or pigs) in gummies, marshmallows, or pill capsules. Stop purchasing leather goods, silk, and fur. Only buy vegan beer and wine. The list goes on! It can be overwhelming all at once, so be patient with yourself. If you make slow, steady changes you’ll be vegan in no time!

What is the vegan scene like in your city?

I recently moved back to Texas after living for nine years in California, and I was shocked to find how many vegans are now in North Texas! In Dallas alone, there are over a dozen vegan eateries and counting, and I’m so proud of how our movement is growing! A decade ago I could hardly find a restaurant that had vegetarian options, and now there are many local opportunities to eat vegan! I haven’t explored vegan meetups or groups in the area yet, but there do appear to be many local options!

What personal recommendations can you make for people to meet other vegans?

Just by being open about being vegan! I always bring a labeled vegan and gluten-free dish to parties or potlucks to both share delicious vegan food with people, but also to provide my fellow vegans with food! Social situations often don’t have vegan options (but if you go to a party that does cater to vegans, you’re in the right place!) I’ve met tons of vegans by being the only person that brought vegan food- they’re always so grateful and we find an instant connection!

What does living cruelty-free mean to you? Does it extend to the way you as a vegan treat other humans too?

Living cruelty free means to live with a constant awareness of your impact on the world. Suffering is an inevitability of living, but causing others to suffer needlessly for your own survival is wrong. If you have the choice to change the way you live to be a healthier, more ethical one, why wouldn’t you change? When there’s an abundance of cruelty perpetrated by humans it’s easy to feel jaded against the species as a whole and prioritize other animals. But we have to view other people with the same generosity and kindness we would give to a cute puppy! Everyone deserves good will!

What are your favorite Vegan non-food products or companies?

Not that I can afford it, but I’ve been lusting after Brave Gentlemen clothing and shoes- it’s an entirely vegan luxury fashion brand that also emphasizes environmentally conscious materials and ethical labor practices. You can drool along with me at

What is the toughest Vegan item to find that you need?

There are very few vegan gluten free breads that are commercially available- most have eggs. I recommend Little Northern Bakehouse- it’s vegan and has a really great texture!

Talk about a time when you struggled with your Veganism?

Ever since I stopped eating meat, I knew it was the right decision and I wouldn’t eat it ever again. Sure, I’ve struggled with the people around me not supporting veganism, and it’s often a challenge to find food if I’m with omnivorous people- but those small difficulties are a small price to pay for the feeling of being vegan- both in feeling healthy and in doing my utmost to reduce suffering and my environmental impact on the world.

How has your life been enriched by the LGBTQ Community?

Adversity can unite people, make them stronger, kinder, and more conscious of their interactions with others and with themselves. I’ve met so many LGBTQIA+ people that are genuine and conscientious, and I’m so proud to be part of a community that is so full of good people. The LGBTQIA+ community’s open exhibition of self-acceptance and celebration of what makes people unique has taught me to accept my true self.

What are the common misconceptions about being LGBTQ?

That once you’re ‘out’ as a particular identity, that’s it. Everyone changes and grows in their understanding of themselves as they get older, and some may always know exactly who they are, but most of us do not. And depending on your stage of life, what you feel comfortable with or what’s safe to expose changes. I’ve had many stages of ‘coming out’ throughout my life. In Jacob Tobia’s book Sissy, they propose the concept of “coming out of our shells” instead of coming out of the closet. Staying in the closet is a black and white concept- either you’re in or you’re out, and the responsibility to leave the closet is placed upon the person within it. But the environment is responsible for whether a snail exposes themself or retreats into their shell. If a queer person feels in danger, we often retreat and protect ourselves, hiding our identity to feel safe. It’s on the world itself to change to make queer people feel more comfortable being open about our identities. Queer pioneers can lead the way, but we need cishet people to use their privilege to help create environments that are safe for us.  

Describe the first time someone else read you (for better or worse) as LGBTQ.

Whether it was the extravagant way I often dressed in high school  (just like my gender and sexuality, I played with the whole spectrum, from neon glitter tights to zoot suits to pastel lumberjack) or my eccentric interests, but I was often ‘othered’ by mainstream kids because of my inability to conform. I remember someone starting the rumor I was a lesbian. This was probably 2006 or so, and ‘lesbian’ was generally considered a grave insult by suburban Texan high schoolers- because if you didn’t conform to the popular concept of feminine beauty, you didn’t have social worth, and if you don’t care about male attention, you must be a lesbian. I don’t remember caring much about this ‘insult’- actually, I was surprised popular people were talking about me at all. I was fairly oblivious about the whole accusation, and I think it eventually faded. While I was bullied often, especially in middle school, I didn’t experience a lot of specific harassment for being queer, as I wasn’t out. But I do find it curious I was read as queer by people before I even knew it myself. I recently was contacted by an old classmate that expressed his support for my transition and revealed he had had a crush on me back in high school. He’s now openly gay. And I looked VERY femme back then.  I find that absolutely fascinating, that there’s a hidden connection between queer people, even if we don’t know our identities yet. Subconsciously we can be drawn to each other without knowing why until much later in life.

Who was your first LGBTQ role model or elder, and how did they impact you?

I’ve loved Sir Ian McKellen’s acting since the original X-Men movie came out in 2000 (He played Magneto), and I’ve always been inspired by his life and activism (I was nine years old in 2000 and I can’t recall any other LGBTQIA+ person I loved before him, except perhaps Spongebob). McKellen came out over thirty years ago and has been campaigning for equal rights ever since, publicly being frank about his life and the inequity of queer representation in Hollywood. He’s not perfect, and unfortunately, he’s made some problematic statements over the years. Sometimes he’s learned from criticism, sometimes he hasn’t. But he was one of the first people I was exposed to that was openly gay. I didn’t have any queer people in my immediate life until later, and actors and media were often the only representation available for me as a young kid. So while I acknowledge his faults, I appreciate his visibility in a time when American culture was often hostile to openly gay people.

What is the biggest external issue or challenge facing the LGBTQ community today?

LGBTQIA+ people around the world fight many different battles, in many different places, and there are innumerable issues that face us. For some, they face an epidemic of homelessness, are challenged finding employment, familial acceptance, respectful medical care, or healthy loving relationships. For others, they fight for their very right to live while in a land that vilifies and condemns them to death. In all of these challenges lies the fundamental lack of equal rights and respect for LGBTQIA+ people around the world. In a world like that, every small act of queer visibility and support is an act of revolution. It often seems like an insurmountable mountain of challenges that weigh on our lives, but if we are intersectional, if we fight together, with strength and determination, we can ascend the mountain.

The biggest internal issue or challenge?

When we live in a hostile environment, we often develop defensive behaviors to protect ourselves. Like a frightened animal that bites their rescuer, when we are in a state of anxiety we can attack those who pose no risk to us- they may even be trying to help us. Understanding the plight of all marginalized lives helps us understand how we are all suffering under the same harmful societal structures. By isolating ourselves within our singular identities, we isolate ourselves from the possibility of solidarity with people that can share our fight. Intersectionality allows us to broaden our concept of community and expand the possibility of overturning problematic power structures. Infighting within the LGBTQIA+ community- for example, binary trans people who exclude gender non-conforming trans people because we don’t fit into the gender binary or cis gay or lesbians that dismiss the queer validity of bisexual or pansexual people, fight only for their specific identities. They feel that people that don’t align exactly with their own identities are somehow threatening. But if they focused their energies on welcoming as many people as possible into the queer community instead of gatekeeping, the queer community would grow and we would more people who have the same fight to fight.

Are there any LGBTQ nonprofits whose work you especially admire?

I’m often encouraged by the massive efforts by the National Center for Transgender Equality, Trans United Fund, and the Transgender Law Center to fight for trans rights and representation at a political and legal level. Lambda Literary is currently the only LGBTQ literary festival and celebrates queer authors and stories in a literary world remarkably limited in queer representation. Locally to Texas, I admire Allgo, which provides cultural arts, wellness, and social-justice programming to empower and celebrate queer people of color. 

Who is your personal Queer Hero?

I deeply admire Alok Vaid-Menon, a gender non-conforming transfeminine POC activist who fights against the gender binary, transmisogyny, and racism with grace and aplomb. Their personal style is creative and radiant, and their writing and spoken-word performance are challenging and inspiring. You can follow Alok at their Instagram @alokvmenon.

Do you have any advice for young queer folks who may still be defining their identity, coming out, or learning how to be their authentic selves in the world?

Patience! There’s no true end to discovering who you are and finding authenticity- if you ever stop, you stagnate. You may even fester into problematic behavior. Nothing ever stays the same- everything changes- even if you leave something alone, it changes with time. Things may be preserved, but that just means they change more slowly. Take your time to explore possible selves and possible futures- nothing ever is truly a waste of time if you learned something from it. I believe a life well lived is one spent in an endless pursuit of self-improvement and kindness, both to yourself and to others.

How are you involved in or how do you give back to the LGBTQ community?

I’ve spent the last year single-mindedly working as much as I could to save money for top surgery (which I finally had on May 1st!) and I haven’t made the time to volunteer or even participate in many queer meetups around the area.  After I recover from surgery I’m planning to start a local queer writing group. I believe writing can be a powerful tool for catharsis and self-reflection, whether it’s journaling, spoken word, poetry, or fiction- and I hope that I can help encourage queer people in the area to find healing in writing. I’m also passionate about sharing healthy, delicious vegan food with people, and I hope to start developing a gluten-free and vegan food booth at the local farmer’s market that will donate a portion of its proceeds to LGBTQIA+, POC, animal, and environmental organizations I believe in. Finally, being visibly queer in Texas is incredibly important to me- if I had been exposed to queer people earlier in my life I may have been able to embrace my own queerness sooner and thrived as a younger person. It can be frightening at times, but every revolution is won by people standing up to their fear and fighting for what they believe in. I want to work to help youth in Texas know that they have worth just the way they are, that they’re worthy of love, and can thrive while being publicly queer. 

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