RuPaul: Sashay away from trans issues.
In its current 11th season, RuPaul’s Drag Race is a definitive gay reality TV show. Creator, host, and established drag queen RuPaul Charles is a gay icon...
But RuPaul has a history of making uninformed comments other parts of the LGBTI community. From using slurs like tranny and shemale, making belittling comments on women’s bodies, and now claiming trans women drag queens wouldn’t be welcome on his show, we’ve seen the nastier side to this superstar.
Despite this he’s successfully pushed equality and artistic boundaries, but let’s address his latest comments in article ‘Drag is a big f-you to male-dominated culture’ and I’ve got some of his own advice in writing this:
“My intention is to always come from a place of love, but sometimes you just have to break it down for a motherf%ker.”
Don’t you hate when someone opens their mouth on something they have no experience on? When someone thinks a trans woman is just plastic surgery, they aren’t even talking about our gender. Or when he jokes about us taking identity too seriously, when the mainstream will often not take our identity seriously.
RuPaul, stop speaking on trans issues and identities. Instead, let's listen to experts and people with experience.
Ru started being criticised by the trans community by using the slur tranny in her own drag performances for years, before being continued by queens on his show.
He continued making crude jokes and putting down trans identities, seemingly using this to create controversy and popularise his brand.
Whilst it’s important to separate the identities as they are different, there’s no need to create hostility between the overlapping communities.
He again took criticism for segment “Female or Shemale” (season 6), humiliatingly asking contestants to judge whether body parts are biological women or not.
Ironically, Ru tries to convince us that someone who’s transitioned to womanhood wouldn’t be welcome on drag race.
Even those new to watching drag shows will often ask if the performer is a boy or a girl, showing the flexible nature of drag and gender.
Drag is about messing with expectations. If you try create the expectation trans women don’t belong - you’re creating the reason they will.
Referencing performer Peppermint (season 9) in the article, RuPaul says “you can identify as a woman and say you’re transitioning, but it changes once you start changing your body… Peppermint didn’t get breast implants until after she left out show.”
However, while Detox (season 5) was open about her plastic surgery and breast implants, they received no similar criticism - and shouldn’t. Both performers bodies should be celebrated.
This hypocrisy doesn’t help Drag Race or the trans community. Drag isn’t about policing bodies, but pushing their limits. How tall can my heels be, how big can my hair be, where should my eyebrows end? Enhancing bodies with plastic surgery is simply the next step.
On the other side, transgender people get medical procedures because they are transitioning - not to make them transgender. Self-identification will always come before any social or physical changes.
In response to the heat aimed at him, RuPaul doubled down on his justification of excluding trans women from his show.
His twisted comparison of trans people and athletes who use steroids returns to his history of using controversy to promote his media presence. Even post-apology for his continued remarks, the tweet remains a crude reminder of this pattern.
Whilst Peppermint was the first openly transgender contestant, not every contestant identifies as a cisgender man. Many previous season’s queens have responded to RuPaul’s comments:
The thing is, drag and trans identities have only become delineated from each other in the past few decades. Homophobic societies didn’t acknowledge the difference between a fag or a tranny or a drag queen - we were all outcasts.
Some drag queens identify as women. Many trans women came to their identity through drag. Our communities are historically and culturally intertwined, and personally, I am thankful for how drag pushes gender boundaries.
But being a drag queen doesn’t give you a free pass or experience or expert qualifications on trans lives. I hope RuPaul continues to use his show to elevate LGBTI people, and that his media presence follows quickly.