It goes without saying that RuPaul’s Drag Race has given an important platform to the drag community. Since its inception in 2009, it has featured over 100 queens, crowned twelve winners, and spawned countless music, television, and film careers for drag queens. Trixie Mattel and Katya from Season 7 now have their own YouTube series-turned TV show on Viceland, Season 5 runner-up and All Stars 2 winner Alaska appeared on VH1’s Scared Famous, and Season 6 runner-up Courtney Act just won Celebrity Big Brother UK. Like any reality TV show, it has its production flaws, but it has to be acknowledged that it has given an important light to drag culture and what it means to the LGBTQ+ community. At the same time, it needs to be understood that not every type of drag is represented on the show, and that there is a lot more to drag history than RuPaul. From Shakespeare, to Stonewall, to Rocky Horror Picture Show, and Paris is Burning, there is a lot of history behind drag and its community to learn.
There have been contestants on RuPaul’s Drag Race with different gender and sexual identities, which makes it seems like it is a safe space for any queen in the community. In a recent interview with the Guardian, RuPaul made it very clear that he does not see it as a space for “bio queens”, cisgender women or trans women. “Drag loses its sense of danger and its sense of irony once it’s not men doing it, because at its core it’s a social statement and a big f-you to male-dominated culture,” said RuPaul in the interview. “So for men to do it, it’s really punk rock, because it’s a real rejection of masculinity.” When asked about Peppermint, the show’s first openly trans queen who made the top four on Season 9, RuPaul stated: “Mmmm. It’s an interesting area. Peppermint didn’t get breast implants until after she left our show; she was identifying as a woman, but she hadn’t really transitioned.” And when asked if he would accept a contestant who had: “Probably not. You can identify as a woman and say you’re transitioning, but it changes once you start changing your body. It takes on a different thing; it changes the whole concept of what we’re doing. We’ve had some girls who’ve had some injections in the face and maybe a little bit in the butt here and there, but they haven’t transitioned.”
With these comments, RuPaul is completely shutting out an entire group of transgender and gender non-conforming people from not only his show, but his entire platform. This is extremely detrimental to the LGBTQ+ community, especially coming from someone so powerful and respected by the mainstream. RuPaul is projecting this viewpoint, in 2018, to a world that is already transphobic and skeptic of the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. These exclusionary words are trans violence in action, and with 55% of all reported LGBT homicide victims in 2016 being transgender women, and 50% being transgender women of color, we must fight back on these words. How can someone who rose to fame and fortune due to the LGBTQ+ community turn right back around and alienate part of it?
This past week, RuPaul received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. While this is an amazing accomplishment for him and the community, by being the first drag queen to have a star, we need to shine some of that light onto the queens who have spoken out against RuPaul’s transphobic comments.
Peppermint, Gia Gunn, Monica Beverly Hillz, and Carmen Carrera are all openly trans women who have competed on the show.
SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL DRAG QUEENS. SUPPORT THE TRANS COMMUNITY. VOTE AGAINST TRANSPHOBIC CANDIDATES AND LAWS.
GLADD’s list of transgender resources for crisis, organizations, and more can be found here.
Words by Kristen.