The last few months have been major in the world of Rupaul’s Drag Race. Back in June, we got official confirmation that Season 11 was in the works, then the announcement All-Stars 4 was happening, a first-ever Drag Race Christmas Special and most recently the highly anticipated All-Stars 4 cast reveal. Excited Drag Race fans are eagerly indulging in all of the new queen content, picking teams, posting photos, conspiring about who will win and whether Shangela will finally get a crown. The most important and celebrated aspect of these announcements, however, has been the confirmation that Gia Gunn and Kylie Sonique Love, two transgender women, will return to the show.
They won’t be the only trans queens to have been featured on Drag Race; Sonique was the first queen to come out during the show with Peppermint, Stacey lane Matthews, Carmen Carrera, Jiggly Caliente, Monica Beverly Hillz, Jinkx Monsoon who identifies as non-binary, Kenya Michaels and Gia following in her footsteps of being out during or after the show. All these queens have been accepted and loved by the Drag Race fandom and sisterhood alike. However, Sonique and Gia Gunn’s ionic return makes them the first fully transitioned queens to feature on the show. Both have transitioned since their Seasons and now live their lives as trans women.
Given the controversial comments made by Rupaul earlier this year regarding trans queens, as well as the general discrimination against the trans community, the lack of visibility and opportunities for trans people, their casting is a BIG deal.
Mama Ru sparked hurt offense and disappointment when she stated in an interview with the Guardian back in March that she wouldn’t let a fully transitioned transgender contestant on her show. ‘Peppermint didn’t get breast implants until after she left our show; she was identifying as a woman, but she hadn’t really transitioned… 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.’ This viewpoint didn’t go down well with pretty much anyone, with many former queens, trans people, activists, fans and allies condemning Ru for insulting and invalidating a group of people who have always been a huge part of the drag industry, as well as blatantly discriminating against her own community.
After immense backlash, Ru made matters worse with some further offensive tweets before apologising. She wrote on her Twitter ‘I understand and regret the hurt I have caused. The trans community are heroes of our shared LGBTQ movement. You are my teachers.’ She then added: ‘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.’ Implying no discrimination against transitioned queens had ever taken place.
People weren’t so believing or forgiving.
Despite the apology, Ru’s comments left a sour taste in people’s mouths. They were uncomfortable, angry and disillusioned that one of the biggest icons in the LGBTQIA community was perpetrating the type of discrimination the rest of the world had been engaging in for years. Her comments felt like a step backwards and a kick in the face to a community who has been fighting so hard for trans rights.
What became obvious to me and so many other people watching this unfold, was that the only way Ru and the Drag Race production could make it up to the community, to reverse the hurt and offense that had been done was to move Drag Race forward by showing that charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent was all that truly mattered. This meant casting and celebrating trans queens on the show, whether fully transitioned or otherwise, binary or non-binary.
Eight months later and here we are.
When the All Stars 4 cast announcement was made, Gia Gunn posted to her Instagram that she was excited to be living as her authentic, true self and to be sharing this chapter of her life with the world, before later highlighting the importance of her casting. “For many years I lived as a cis gay male to now a trans woman who performs in drag. It never dawned on me before as a drag queen but since transitioning I realize that my trans sisters & brothers have been left behind & this is unacceptable! One of my main goals for 2019 is to change this and bring visibility to those who are open!” Iconic trans drag queen and performer Aurora Sexton also spoke out about the casting on her Instagram stating “As a trans woman that has made a full time living and lengthy career since I was 15 years old out of being a drag performer, I’m happy to see that our contributions are finally being recognized on one of the biggest platforms available to our community.” She elaborated“At a time when we need more representation than ever in public forums for trans people, I applaud @thecastingfirm @rupaulsdragrace and @worldofwonder for seeing us and recognizing that our “drag” is valid too.” This sentiment has been echoed by thousands, applauding the show for finally taking the step towards more trans inclusion.
After so much controversy and discrimination against trans people, especially this year given the current political and social climates around the world, the importance of bringing back Gia and Sonique to Drag Race is immense and unprecedented. Displaying the talents of two incredible, transitioned transgender women on such a large, international platform will only benefit the community moving forward. Though we are still in a time of heavy discrimination and repression when it comes to the LGBTQIA community, the next Season of All-Stars and the Drag Race Christmas Special will hopefully help to further represent and celebrate trans people, to give trans women the credit they deserve and show Drag Race viewers and the wider world what many of us have always known- trans women have been and will always be a major part of the Drag Industry despite any comments or arguments to the contrary.
Written by guest contributor Ashleigh House.