'RuPaul's Drag Race' Acknowledges Claims of Transphobia but It Could Be Too Little Too Late
RuPaul's Drag Race committed a sin against its contestants, its viewers, and to the transgender community a few weeks ago when it aired a segment called "Female or She-Male," an offensive little bit that had contestants guess, based on photos, whether they were looking at a cis-gender male or a former contestant from the show. On Monday, a spokesperson from Drag Race issued a statement in response to the "Female or She-Male" debacle that was surprisingly eloquent and understanding— but is it too little, too late?
Besides putting former contestants on display, the term "she-male" caused a firestorm for Drag Race, and two former favorites from the show spoke out about the hurt that RuPaul caused — both Carmen Carrera and Monica Beverly Hillz, who came out on Drag Race as transgender, took a stance against the segment. Carrera and Hillz, rather than reacting with anger, though, opened a conversation about understanding and misunderstanding in regards to transphobia.
Per Carrera, she noted that this should be a "learning experience," and it seems like RuPaul and Logo TV have learned... well, something. The statement they released Monday:
We wanted to thank the community for sharing their concerns around a recent segment and the use of the term 'she-mail' on Drag Race. Logo has pulled the episode from all of our platforms and that challenge will not appear again. Furthermore, we are removing the 'You've got she-mail' intro from new episodes of the series.We did not intend to cause any offense, but in retrospect we realize that it was insensitive. We sincerely apologize.
It's certainly a more sensitive apology than their first, evasive statement, in which the show said they "delighted in celebrating every color of the rainbow," which did not address the blatant transphobia inherent in the term "she-male." Carrera is right — Drag Race has a unique platform to educate the public about the struggles of members of the trans community, and if there is misunderstanding and hurt within that community, how can outsiders begin to understand those difficulties and struggles?
There is a certain power in language, and if Drag Race had continued to use the term "she-male," it's likely that it would have entered the public lexicon. It's great that Logo has pulled the episode and issued a sensitive statement, and hopefully they will address the damage done on an upcoming episode. Otherwise, pretending the segment did not exist and did not do real damage could further the hurt caused.