Why RuPaul is right, again
Season 7 is over
RuPaul’s Drag Race season 7 has just finished, and Violet Chachki was crowned the winner. For the past week I've seen some people complaining about it for different reasons, such as her being too young (22, almost 23), or because she has not the same acting skills as Ginger Minj and so on.
First, I must admit I’m one of the many fans who was hoping for the unexpected turn of events in which Katya would be called to the stage and getting the crown, even without being on top 3, because she’s really the new America’s subversive sweetheart. After she got eliminated I started rooting for Ginger Minj because she’s a very talented big girl and I wanted to see that crown on a beautiful fat girl’s head – and she’s also more experienced, what led me to think that she would be a great spokesperson for LGBT community in general.
But the reality is that I’m very pleased with RuPaul’s choice to make Violet Chachki the new drag superstar, as she’s showing herself as a much more interesting person than the one that appeared on the Drag Race episodes. On her interviews, she presents herself with a refreshing, informal, queer discourse mixed with proper knowledge of LGBT history and the will to make a statement on queerness – what pretty much reminds me of my favorite queen to appear on the Race, Raja.
I enjoy her position against word policing, as she justified, on Advocate.com, that “tranny” is a word with a lot of different meanings (a fact that many people has failed to realize during the whole controversy about it last season) and that “words have power if you give them power”. She owns her opinion using simple words, simple explanations, and this is a very positive trait when it comes to a public person with the power to influence kids and teenagers.
As someone mostly engaged in academic research, I often feel how difficult it is to find young people with enough knowledge about history and culture in order to understand how LGBT and queer happenings aren’t only black and white, nor write or wrong, as well as to realize that there is exclusion, hierarquization, prejudice and separatism inside our own community.
Chachki’s drag is polished, but also fetishistic and, eventually, gender-fucking. What is more, she comes from the Drag Race School itself, a new school that is expanding quickly as the reality show only increases its popularity.
Obviously, as usual, not everything is roses. I’m still waiting to see drag kings on the spotlight, as well as bio queens – not only faux queens, who are much more about aesthetics and being drag-hags instead of questioning and making fun of the status quo.
On drag and performance
Since RuPaul's Drag Race first season things have changed a lot within LGBT community and how people in general are reacting to all this visibility.
Five years ago, trans visibility was not even an issue on social media, and only a few artists were willing to talk about their experiences. To assume a transgender identity was to risk being misunderstood and bashed not only by society, but also by people inside the LGBT community itself. In fact, this risk still exists, but it seems to be decreasing as more and more people speak up about the subject.
Among many complex discussions, tensions, and controversies, the drag subject showed up after participants of the Drag Race began to come out as transgender women, sharing different points of view about the program and how this sudden drag popularity could affect trans activism - both in negative and positive ways.
Because drag queens cross-dress in order to entertain, they are not really considered transgender people, being identified as homosexual cis men. This can lead to a confusion inside a person's head if they are not familiar with the drag universe: many people might seem to believe drag queens want to really "become" women. And as some former contestants speak about being transgender and other come out as genderqueer things tend to get even more complex to the public's eyes.
It is also sad to notice how all those complications sometimes result on trans activists hating drag queens and vice-versa.
Under the spotlight
Having drag queens "infiltraiting" mainstream media - like RuPaul himself did on 1993 - is a way of oppening people's minds, and this is happening at a time when transgender people are also becoming famous and willing to talk about the matter with clarity. Haters aside, it is very important that trans people express themselves and stablish a dialogue also with the drag community so that we can all overcome hate.
Men who engage in drag performance are sometimes victims of prejudice inside the gay movement itself, often because of their efeminate behaviour. Thus, there is another layer of oppression they must face. In this sense, drag is used as a way to overcome this "gender strictiness" and to make fun of gender roles.
Of course trans people face a quite different kind of oppression, experiencing such a hard reality we can't even think how they feel - we can only understand it. Nevertheless, as they move forward fighting for their rights, wouldn't it be better for their cause to have an ally on drag queens and genderqueer people?