WASHINGTON, April 17, 2014 — RuPaul recently sparked controversy for transphobic language and a particularly offensive segment called Female or She-male.”
Many in the transgender community lashed out at RuPaul, but I felt sorrow, and his inability to issue an apology to the trans community for his offensive remarks while hiding behind Logo’s breaks my heart.
Being the Trans niece of an amazing drag Queen and singer Figueroa, I cheered at the appearance of RuPaul on the music scene. Not a trans woman, but blending and blurring the lines of gender; I celebrated RuPaul for his living truth and making money off it. Where so many artists were still hiding in closets and living double lives, here was a Drag Queen making waves in ways not seen since the 80s.
Then he launched RuPaul’s Drag Race, and suddenly homes all across America had a weekly visit from a drag queen.
As a mentee of the infamous DC Drag Queen Xavier Onasis Bloomingdale, I was thrilled to see a black drag queen succeeding.
My feelings changed after hearing transphobic words on the show. Even worse, instead of humbly apologizing for any offense given to a part of society that helped, and continues in many spheres help, to bless RuPaul with success, he attacks trans women further and accuse us of being too sensitive for calling him out. Following suite, many within the gay cisgender community who follow him uttered the same sentiments.
This leads me to write about something that has nagged me for some months now: trans phobia within the gay community.
As a child, I saw Trans Women and Drag Queens work in tandem; there was a common sisterhood between the two that saw trans women and drag queens fighting for one another. They both felt the pain of being marginalized and in that pain they formed a bond that assured both would look out for one another.
I understood very early on the different between Drag Queens and Trans Women. Drag queens were men who dressed as women; Trans women were women within a different body context.
My idea of the support drag queens and trans women gave one another was confirmed when I began to be mentored by the amazing Xavier Onasis Bloomingdale and saw the way she and my trans sisters, who also performed, supported and loved one another.
Then I began to hear things and see things within the cis gay community that didn’t sit well with me. I saw the way trans women and drag queens became sources of mockery instead of forms of celebration. I watched as the desire for Gay Men to be seen as men formed a certain distain for womanhood and femininity. The hyper masculine man became the ideal, and like so many marginalized people within colonized communities, that man became the thing everyone wanted to aspire to be. As a result, drag queens and feminine men became the enemy of that quest for perfect manhood.
I often find myself correcting people about the “T” word and having to defend why said word is not steeped in the positive notions around Transsexuality but in fetishization. As Trans women continue to struggle to be seen as more than simply fetish object to be loved in secret, trans culture continues to push towards shifting the vernacular that is found acceptable in describing us. The T word and the S.M title both have been used to divest us trans women of our sexual and sensual self, take away our humanity, and somehow suppose that we are not “real” women.
In a place where gay cisgender men are now gaining more and more rights, many have forgotten the roles that trans women, drag queens, gender queer, and gender non conforming people had within the historical relevancy of LGBTQ culture and Stonewall. Often Trans women are at the fore front of helping to fight for the rights for our cisgender gay male brothers and to see the responses to the apology by logo (for RuPaul Drag Race Transphobic language and segment) has saddened my heart.
Because trans women have fought so hard for the rights of our brothers we ask now that as they gain more and more mainstream acceptance that our gay cis brothers will stand with us. That they will understand it is not their right to determine what mainstream society can call trans women but it is our choice to determine what we calls ourselves and how we are portrayed.
For so long our presence has been the hidden truth that no one wishes to acknowledge. We are simply asking our gay brothers to work with us to fight against the indignities done to us by those none marginalized.
Being an African, Cuban, Cherokee trans woman, I understand how sometimes to gain acceptance certain marginalized groups will attempt to appear as “Non Threatening” to main stream society as possible. This is normally done by allowing for mainstream society to set the rules of what is acceptable for us to be. They determine what is right and the marginalized community will sometimes punish those who mainstream society says doesn’t “fit” that criteria; often harming allies and loved ones in the process.
We forget the “It gets better” campaign and instead become the bullies so many of us had to fight against as children. We begin to beat up on our sisters and brothers who ask to be treated and spoken about with dignity instead of mockery. We scold each other for asking to be treated with humanity instead of enmity.
I did not appreciate the apology from logo because I also understand leadership. RuPaul has a huge following and huge platform. RuPaul’s life is based around imitating glamorous womanhood and instead of respecting trans women, Rupaul chooses to treat us as if we have had no hand in assuring his ascension.
RuPaul has influence and should use the influence to create awareness around trans women’s plights and our struggle for rights; not be a part of the same systems of oppression that systematically works to keep all marginalized people at each other’s throats.