THE TRUTH OF IT ALL IS… I feel like recent remarks and quotes by RuPaul Charles in the recent article in The Guardian have left me feeling frustrated, angry and left a dissatisfying taste of ignorance with a strong trace of disrespect for our community. I hope that you will take the time to read what I have written before commenting, giving opinions. I am not writing this to get a reaction, to cause any arguments or divide us as a community.
For me, I believe that I am fortunate to have been surrounded by trans* entertainers, promoters and more who have helped in shaping the person I am. Sometimes, you don’t truly know the struggle until you’re in it. I have learned so much in being a part of Freddy Prinze Charming’s journey as he found his authentic self, sitting by him and being educated weekly on our show Let’s Have a Fefe. And it would be wrong if I thought that the article that was written was correct or the tweets that followed after were okay or acceptable.
Often I feel like the LGBTQ community, including me at times, takes a back seat on such issues because they don’t want to be involved. The behavior displayed online toward my brothers and sisters of our community was unacceptable and intolerable of a person of the statue that is a face and often times the voice who has become “idolized” in the eyes of our allies, community members, fellow performers and the media.
The Show, the Man and the Role Model
Yes, I will be the first to say that RuPaul has paved the way with RuPaul’s Drag Race in recent years by being on mainstream television with allies wanting to attend LGBTQ events to see how we do it and be entertained by our performances, hosting abilities and being comedic to find that escape from everyday life. Meanwhile, while the show is not said to be an educational outlet, the show presents a learning element that allows others to open their mind and find acceptance, tolerance. Along with this, I now hear straight women saying “YASSS MAMAS!”
Not just a man, an African American gay man should realize that the struggle is real. I know he has struggled and I am not saying he hasn’t and is living the easy life. In such a male-dominated world, I feel like he should be fighting for all to be as equals in dominating this creative craft, skill, and talent – and not just limiting it to men. I know that as a human, RuPaul, is not perfect and makes mistakes but I feel like this article, these online events are not of the charming man that I believe to be brand and role model to many. It’s heartbreaking.
As a role model, I think that it’s necessary for a community that is evolving every day that as the unofficial spokesperson of the community, that RuPaul should be taking the time to not only find out more about his fellow community members, how their living and more. There’s a big responsibility for him to take the education and share it with the world on such occasions as this article published and read by millions who might not be as educated.
As for being a role model for me, I would say from a distance I have admired RuPaul but he has not been the backbone to my success. My husband got me into this has always helped kill my self-doubt and go for most the things that I want. I’ve admired and owe my evolution as an entertainer to such entertainers like Mia Inez Adams, the late Tajma Hall, the late Chantelle Douglas Savannah Stevens, Freddy Prinze Charming and appreciate so much more that have helped along the way in shaping my career. In celebrity terms of the role models: I have always loved from a distance the late Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey and have always thought that I could be the next Oprah Winfrey in drag – show hostess, entertainer, community member and some money would be nice.
Trans and Non-Binary
Now after reading this article, RuPaul has made it clear that anyone that has participated as a contestant on the show had not fully transitioned.
From the article: “So how can a transgender woman be a drag queen? ‘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.’”
Let’s first start by saying that the transition doesn’t start on the outside of the body and is not the sum of the transition, removal or addition of body parts. There have been many who have been on the show who started to meet with a physiologist, started hormone therapy. Therefore they were in transition.
From the article: “Would he accept a contestant who had? He hesitates again. ‘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.’”
The added disrespect came when RuPaul posted online the comment that “you can take enhancing drugs to be an athlete, just not in the Olympics” and other remarks along with respectful imagery to go along with remarks.
Trans* movement vs. Drag Movement
I know that drag is not who you are and it doesn’t define your sexuality, but there are often times people who take on a drag persona as being in touch with their authentic self. It’s a chance to be the individual they want to be. They are trying it on, per se, and making changes, making everything work.
The Show vs. Reality
Yes, I agree that RuPaul’s Drag Race has brought the art of drag and female impersonation to the mainstream. I think that it should just be made to clear by RuPaul and the show’s producers that they are looking strictly for those males who are female impersonators.
FACT: Once upon a time, I made a half-ass attempt to be on the show – and I am not bitter at all – because if it was anyone’s fault it was mine that I didn’t get selected.
The show has displayed the act of cattiness in order to get the ratings… right? The producers put together the pieces of drama to bring us back to watch more. I would say in a way this has been the case in many a dressing room whether is a drag dressing room or entertainers in general – it exists. The part of the show that I think that some perceive is that you need to be that way when you walk into all dressing rooms or interact with entertainers.
Cis-male or female are drag queens or kings?
From the article: ‘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. So for men to do it, it’s really punk rock, because it’s a real rejection of masculinity.’”
Drag is not limited to that of a cis-male person impersonating a female. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to get to what has been labeled the divas or femmes in our community as well as the male entertainers or kings.
Female drag entertainers, though they have to worry about those worries of a cis-male entertainer impersonating a female, they still personify and radicalize the things that it takes being a woman. In fact, they probably go more in-depth in deciding on what they want their persona to reflect on stage, in the community and find themselves in the process.