RuPaul Charles, the television personality and drag queen behind the RuPaul’s Drag Race franchise, sparked controversy last week when he said he wouldn’t allow a fully transitioned transgender person to compete on his reality show—and he’s not backing down.
Social media erupted with backlash after RuPaul said “probably not” when he was asked in an interview with the Guardian whether a transgender person who had transitioned should be allowed to compete on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Fans criticized RuPaul for the comment, naming Drag Race alum who identify as transgender, nonbinary, or gender fluid.
@SheaCoulee can be added to that list too— shannon (@ang_elfemme) March 5, 2018
news flash sis, drag IS a male dominated culture— rat bastard (@pev_666) March 5, 2018
RuPaul doubled down on his statement on Monday with a tweet.
You can take performance enhancing drugs and still be an athlete, just not in the Olympics. pic.twitter.com/HkJjzXzUGm— RuPaul (@RuPaul) March 5, 2018
“You can take performance enhancing drugs and still be an athlete, just not in the Olympics,” RuPaul wrote. The comment implies that if drag queens undergo sex reassignment surgery or hormone replacement therapy, they’re not welcome on Drag Race, which is often called the Olympics of drag.
Drag queens are often men who perform with clothing and makeup that is associated with women, but many are pointing out that there are plenty of drag queens who identify as trans or as neither male nor female.
Former Drag Race contestants—including season 9 winner Sasha Velour—joined the conversation following RuPaul’s tweet. Many defended fellow trans or gender nonconforming queens.
My drag was born in a community full of trans women, trans men, and gender non-conforming folks doing drag. That’s the real world of drag, like it or not. I thinks it’s fabulous and I will fight my entire life to protect and uplift it.— Sasha Velour (@sasha_velour) March 5, 2018
Trans women were the first entertainers I ever saw in drag & have always been a big part of the industry. To now hear such words of segregation from an icon who has created a world wide community of unity, makes me sad. Is never been LGB so let’s not forget about the T!— Gia Gunn (@GiaGunn) March 5, 2018
Agnes Moore, whose drag name is Peppermint, was the first trans woman to be out before her run on Drag Race. She released a music video for a song called “BLEND” last week and tweeted Monday that the track is “meant to bring awareness to the harsh reality of Trans women while uplifting others into knowing they are beautiful and worthy of respect.”
The release of #Blend by @Cazwellnyc and I is meant to bring awareness to the harsh reality of Trans women while uplifting others into knowing they are beautiful & worthy of respect. Your light is too bright to be dimmed! Never forget that.❤️ #transpride #transisbeautiful pic.twitter.com/xkN7wbEVCa— Peppermint (@Peppermint247) March 5, 2018
In the Guardian interview, RuPaul acknowledged that many drag queens get plastic surgery but maintained that he thinks women who have transitioned shouldn’t compete on his show.
“You can identify as a woman and say you’re transitioning, but it changes once you start changing your body,” RuPaul said. “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.”
People pointed out the double standard of his statement.
But others defended RuPaul’s position.
It’s an analogy HELLO!!! Jesus everyone is so bloody sensitive, it’s his show and his format what he created that we love, it’s for DRAG QUEENS not trans queens or female drag we all know that, get over it already, @rupaul never once said anything negative about trans Jesus!— Jeff (@jeffbosh35) March 5, 2018
The argument makes clear that the exclusion of transgender and gender nonconforming identities in LGBTQ spaces is still a major issue—and even the drag scene, often celebrated for its genderbending, isn’t immune.
Update 7:29pm CT, March 5: RuPaul responded to criticism with two tweets on Monday evening.
“I understand and regret the hurt I have caused,” RuPaul wrote. “The trans community are heroes of our shared LGBTQ movement.”
He added that in 10 years of recording Drag Race, “the only thing we’ve ever screened for is charisma uniqueness nerve and talent. And that will never change.”
Each morning I pray to set aside everything I THINK I know, so I may have an open mind and a new experience. I understand and regret the hurt I have caused. The trans community are heroes of our shared LGBTQ movement. You are my teachers. pic.twitter.com/80Qi2halN2— RuPaul (@RuPaul) March 5, 2018
In the 10 years we’ve been casting Drag Race, the only thing we've ever screened for is charisma uniqueness nerve and talent. And that will never change. pic.twitter.com/0jsyt6MRvO— RuPaul (@RuPaul) March 5, 2018