The LGBTQ+ icon, RuPaul, has become the first ever drag queen to be honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. There has since been controversy surrounding the decision to award him a star after recent comments regarding the prevention of transgender women in competing in his television show RuPaul’s Drag Race came to light. Ru has also come under fire in the past due to his use of transphobic slurs.
Over his long-lived career, RuPaul has done some amazing things for the LGBTQ community. He was the first face of VIVA Glam, a lipstick range by MAC Cosmetics where 100% of the proceeds from the range goes directly to men, women and children affected by HIV/AIDS. His reality television show has also created a platform which has provided exposure to the queer community and launched so many incredible queens into mainstream stardom.
However, some argue that his recent accolade is undeserving due to his comments to The Guardian regarding transgender women. When asked if he would accept transgender women into his competition he replied, “Probably not. You can identify as a woman and say you’re transitioning, but it changes once you start changing your body”, adding that “It takes on a different thing, it changes the whole concept of what we’re doing”. By saying this, Ru is stating that much-loved queens like Peppermint, a famous New York City drag performer who made it to the finals of season 9, would not have been permitted to take part in the show if she had have begun gender affirming surgery because, to Ru, it takes away the true meaning of drag. To many, this is deemed transphobic due to his blatant prejudice towards transgender queens. All Star BenDeLaCreme criticised Ru by posting on Instagram, “My partner of almost three years is trans, and #bendelachrist help anyone who tries to tell him what he can and can’t do”. Reigning Drag Superstar Sasha Velour along with Drag Race alumni Courtney Act and Willam Belli all took to social media to also condemn Ru’s comments, calling for all queens to stand together to stop the blatant discrimination within their community.
This is not the first time that Ru has expressed controversial views towards the trans community. In 2012, Ru defended Lance Bass’ use of the slur ‘Tr*nny’ by stating that he “love(s) the word” when he appeared as a guest on the WTF podcast with Marc Maron. RuPaul also sparked debate in 2014 after previous contestant Carmen Carrera and transgender rights activists criticised the show’s use of transphobic slurs including the phrase “you’ve got she-mail” when making an announcement in the workroom. The show subsequently stopped using the term but Ru was openly frustrated about it and said that offended people were looking to be a victim and were ‘“trigger-happy”.
Ultimately, RuPaul is a leader in the LGBTQ+ community, and his career is undoubtedly built from bending gender stereotypes and rules, so it is somewhat understandable that he has previously made attempts at reclaiming derogatory language and slurs. Nevertheless, his recent comments affirm a sense of hostility towards the transgender community in relation to drag and this must change. Ru knows his power and sphere of influence and so should be more sensible when making comments that have the power to offend so many people.
Fundamentally, RuPaul does deserve recognition in the form of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, purely based on the vast number of things he has done for the LGBTQ+ community. Nevertheless, his recent comments highlight a need for him to use his influence to show, as Peppermint has said, that “gay men do not own the idea of gender performance” since it is a form of expression and art that is not limited to cis men.