By: Marleina Robson, Southern Illinois University of Edwardsville
RuPaul has built his career on being a strong advocate for Drag Queens. He, himself has been in the Drag world for decades. But, over the many years that RuPaul has been in the spotlight; he has said some controversial things about transgender performers. My blog post will talk about this instances and give an in depth look into why someone who has always been a strong advocate for one group, is saying hurtful things about another group.
The Real Ru
RuPaul Charles has been a huge influence in the entertainment business. He has a hit T.V show, he has been a songwriter and singer, and has even dabbled in acting. RuPaul has also been a strong advocate for the Drag community. His show has brought attention to the Drag world, and shown it to others (Vox). A lot of people’s first interaction with drag, has been his t.v show. Although he has used his platform to advocate for the Drag community, he still is not perfect (Guardian). Phaylen FairChild discusses this concept in her journal article “The Problem with RuPaul.” He is an accomplished business man, and has been apart of the drag community, but his bias against the transgender community has been prevalent.
During an interview with the Guardian, RuPaul said that he would not allow a woman who is transgender to be on his show. “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,” said Rupaul during his interview. He believes a transgendered woman would change the concept of drag. Once the woman starts transitioning her body, she will not have to tuck or pad. So critiquing may be different.
On season 9 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, one contestant, Peppermint, came out as transgender during the show. In the episode of the final four, Peppermint is asked on RuPaul’s podcast. During that podcast, RuPaul thanks Peppermint for being so brave. He seems like he truly believes in her, and is so grateful for her to be on the show. And even during the finale, he gave Peppermint a platform to discuss how being transgender and a drag queen have affected her. He again was very supportive of her answer. But, it is because Peppermint had not started to transition yet (PinkNews). Caroline Franke wrote a journal article, “How RuPaul’s comments on trans women lead to a revolt,” She even discusses how Peppermint reacts after hearing RuPauls interview. RuPaul puts on this caring front, but he does not want his show “tainted.” He wants men who are dressing up in drag on his show. He does not want to break the barrier. So if he really is a true activist, wouldn’t he want to help other drag artists and other members of the LGBTQ community?
RuPaul has built his fame on activism. He has made his place in the Drag community, and had gained a lot of acknowledgment for bringing light to the Drag community. Although he has stood for men in drag, and wants gender norms to be broken; he does not stand for everyone in the LGBTQ community. He has said many controversial things, and has hurt people he has known. Peppermint was clearly upset after RuPaul came out with his statement.
If RuPaul would like to continue in his spotlight for activism; he will need to open his eyes to other individual’s contributions. He puts on a front when he is on camera. RuPaul has build a massive career, and should be given credit for bringing light to the Drag community. Although he has succeeded in many positive aspects, he has said many negative things about other members in the LGBTQ community. So, if someone who is apart of this community and apart of drag does not accept other individuals, how can he expect other people to do what he is not also not willing to do?
FairChild, Phaylen. “The Problem With RuPaul.” The Medium. https://medium.com/@Phaylen/the-problem-with-rupaul-34d393975579
Framke, Caroline. “How RuPaul’s comments on trans women led to a Drag Race revolt – and a rare apology.” Vox. https://www.vox.com/culture/2018/3/6/17085244/rupaul-trans- women-drag-queens-interview-controversy.
Peppermints response to RuPaul’s comments: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2018/03/07/peppermint-writes-blazing-op-ed-about-rupauls-comments-on-including-trans-queens-in-drag-race/.
An article about RuPaul’s Guardian interview: https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2018/mar/08/rupaul-drag-race-transgender-performers-diversity.