Drag superstar RuPaul has recently come under attack for use of a word that some consider to be highly offensive. The controversy stems over the drag queen’s free use of the word “tranny” that has found the star of the popular Logo Network program RuPaul’s Drag Race now caught at odds with the very network that airs his show as well as members of the transgender community.
The issue really came to a boil when RuPaul, who has remained silent on the criticism he’s received, was questioned on his use of the word on a recent podcast of WTF With Marc Maron. Comedian Marc Maron asked the performer about his popular show’s continued use of the perceived derogatory word as well as the word “she-mail” that is part of a recurring segment called “you’ve got she-mail” on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
The flamboyant drag queen told Maron that he sees nothing wrong with the implied transphobic “T” word and claims that those who are taking issue with his use of the word are not actually from within the transgender community whom he calls “tough and highly resilient people.” RuPaul says he believes the source of contention on his use of the word comes from those whom he says are on the fringes of the actual transgender community who are “looking for a storyline to strengthen their identity as victims.”
The transphobic controversy with RuPaul has also spilled over into the production of his reality show as Logo television network executives and producers of RuPaul’s Drag Race have gone into defense mode by making alterations to the reality competition show. The “you’ve got she-mail” segment of has now been scrapped from all future episodes of the program. In an effort to stave off any further backlash, Logo television has also gone so far as to issue an apology and a disclaimer that RuPaul’s views and opinions do not reflect the network whose mission is to support all within the LGBT community. Logo executives said they will continue to feature any transphobic rhetoric whether intentional or implied.
RuPaul is not the only celebrity to be singled out for their use of transphobic slurs. Other stars who have made remakes regarding members of the transgender community in the past, and have since apologized, include actress Gabourey Sidibe and comedienne Kathy Griffin who are known allies of the LGBT community. Words believed to be innocent and trendy vernacular can be misinterpreted and misunderstood even by some known LGBT celebrities. Gay celebrities like Neil Patrick Harris and Lance Bass have been schooled by members of their own community for misuse of the “T” word and back in 2012 Bravo executive and host of Watch What Happens: Live Andy Cohen came under scrutiny for referring to members of the band One Directon as another “T” word that is also deemed defamatory, “twinks.”
While spending many years in the underground New York drag sub-culture, the 6’4″ RuPaul Charles would take his drag Glamazon persona and become a mainstream success. In 1993 the drag queen would become a star with the release of the dance single Supermodel (You Better Work). Throughout his career, RuPaul has always maintained a platform of self-love and is known for his free and fluid use of non-gender conforming pronouns. Now caught in this current transphobic controversy, this drag icon and his true allegiance to the “T” in the LGBT community are now being calling into question. While Logo executives scurry to keep the peace with modifying the show, RuPaul says he will continue to do what he’s always done and that is to “sashay” and march to the beat of his own drum.
By Hal Banfield