RuPaul Finally Stops Being Quite as Transphobic on Drag Race

In Depth

LOGO TV has apologised for airing an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race with a “female or she-male” segment and regular appearance of the “she-mail” introduction to each of the episodes’ challenges.

Ire has been building among many in the trans community, as well as with concerned allies, over RuPaul’s continued use of the transphobic language. And that language long predates the current incident which has finally led to RuPaul being called out by a large group of fans, activists, even former contestants like Carmen Carrera. By far, one of the most disturbing aspects of RuPaul’s transphobia is his unabashed defense of his use of “tranny” as a cisgender gay man who does drag.

Unfortunately, big names across the LGBT community constantly reaffirm him and those with his views:

Nearly a month after this incident, LOGO TV finally issued this apology:

We wanted to thank the community for sharing their concerns around a recent segment and the use of the term ‘she-mail’ on Drag Race. Logo has pulled the episode from all of our platforms and that challenge will not appear again. Furthermore, we are removing the ‘You’ve got she-mail’ intro from new episodes of the series. We did not intend to cause any offense, but in retrospect we realize that it was insensitive. We sincerely apologize.

Let me be pretty clear, I hate these terms. I am deeply offended by them. I’ve said as much in agreement with another writer who has taken aim at RuPaul’s naked transphobia. I do not and cannot agree that just because cisgender gay men who do drag are sometimes mistaken as trans women and called these slurs allows these men to reclaim what is not theirs. I have spent a lifetime being called “faggot” and “faerie” and yet I do not claim these words as mine, because I am not a gay man. While I am the immediate target of these words, it is a case of mistaken identity. I am not within the group the slur is supposed to insult. My harassers are simply that ignorant that they do not know the difference.

I’m critical of “reclamation theory” and I am very careful what words I choose to use. Call me a dyke (a word I routinely use myself among my lesbian and bisexual identified lady friends, be they cis or trans) and I’m probably going to be pretty pissed. You can’t say it, but I can, because I am a woman who is romantically and sexually interested in other women. If I wanted to reclaim “tranny” and “she-male,” I probably could, but why the fuck would I ever want to do so? I have no desire to try to turn them into something empowering or badges of honor. I’m not capable of it, and it would disgust me to even try.

Cisgender gay men, drag or not, cannot reclaim words which they have received as slurs only because of cases of mistaken identity and the ignorance of the bigots who spew the words at them. RuPaul and drag culture in general are wrong for trying to do so, because with the mainstreaming of cisgender gay male culture, the representatives of this culture are looked to as experts on anything and everything queer. Cisgender, straight society can easily be misled into thinking these terms are acceptable when they are not.

LOGO’s apology comes too late, but I suppose it is better than nothing. Yet, I don’t want to hear from LOGO. I want to hear from RuPaul. I want him to express his sincere apology for appropriating these words and I want to hear him pledge to do better by actively working to expunge these words from drag culture and society’s perception of it.

Image via Getty.

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