All Articles Tagged "rupaul"

Considering The Offensiveness Of The Word “Tranny”

May 29th, 2014 - By Charing Ball
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Source: Logo

Source: Logo

Do words founded in offense, maintain their original definitions or is it possible for those words to evolve into new, non-offensive meanings?

Just to be clear: this is not about the N-word. We have already had that discussion many times before and quite frankly I’m sick of it. So let’s move on and explore that particular question from the perspective of a new contentious word. More specifically, the word, “tranny.”

If you didn’t know (liar!), “tranny” is a slang term. For what? Well, that’s where the debate comes in.

According to some transgender activists, its a word used chiefly to negatively slur folks, who are cross dressers, transgender, transvestites and transsexual, transvestites or cross-dressers. And it is a term, which recently has turned RuPaul Charles into a polarizing figure for a portion of the trans-community.

In addition to the regular use of the word “tranny,” Charles’ “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has been particularly called out for one particular segment in the competition drag show, entitled “She-Mail,” which we know is a play on the derogatory gay slur, She-male. According to The Advocate, both incidences have sparked outrage among some, who thought the language used to be transphobic including former Drage Race contestants Monica Beverly Hillz and Carmen Carrera.

Last week, Charles went on WTF With Marc Maron Podcast and, among other things, responded to the accusations, saying that the word “tranny” doesn’t bother him and that he actually embraces it. He also said that the charges against him have been levied unfairly by “fringe people” outside of the transgender community were the ones stirring up trouble, “to strengthen their identity as victims.”

According to this article in Salon, Charles was not done giving the business to the fringes and went onto Twitter to again blast off about the policing of his language. More specifically, he writes:

Forget an outside threat, the “Gay Movement” will eat itself from the inside out. Orwell’s book “Animal Farm”: The pigs didn’t really want a revolution, they just wanted to BE ‘Farmer John’ The absurdity! It’s as if Jay Z got offended by Kanye using the word “Nigga” It’s not the word itself, but the intention behind the word. Trust! @LogoTV hasn’t “distanced” itself from me, not while I’m still payin’ the f%kin’ light bill over thereI’ve been a “tranny” for 32 years. The word “tranny” has never just meant transsexual. #TransvestiteHerstoryLesson I’m more “offended/hurt” by the misuse of the word “community” My intention is to always come from a place of love, but sometimes you just have to break it down for a motherf%ker”

That last line is just a bit of real talk. However, Cristan Williams, trans historian and editor-in-chief at the blog TransAdvocate, sees Charles frankness a bit differently. Instead she chides Charles (and also belittles him by calling him a “fa**ot”) for not acknowledging how the context for a word changes when applied to the mainstream, and often hostile culture and goes as far as suggest that the drag star is being a wee bit hypocritical in how he chooses to police anti-gay slurs. As Williams notes:

However, when the then 26 year old Amanda Bynes wrote, “Follow me on twitter you fa**ots!” RuPaul blasted Bynes tweeting, “Derogatory slurs are ALWAYS an outward projection of a person’s own poisonous self-loathing.”But, for RuPaul, tranny is somehow different. When Lance Bass apologized for his use of tranny, Rupaul said:The majority of people who use both tranny and faggot mean it as a slur. Moreover, these are the slurs people use when they are murdering us. When the non-trans gay man, Neil Patrick Harris said his deep voice sounded like a tranny to a largely cisgender heterosexual audience, what and more importantly, who was the heterosexual cisgender audience laughing at?”

Transgender black woman Llerret Jazelle writes on the blog of the same name, is more direct in her accusation that Charles is being a hypocritical, particularly noting:

RuPaul is a menace to our community and I will stand for it no longer. I don’t care how much he has made drag and gender variance a mainstream sensation. At the end of the day, he pokes fun at a subset of his community to gain public prowess. RuPaul is not in it for the community anymore but for the money, fame, and controversy. Drag is an art form that saved the wellbeing of so many young boys and girls who felt trapped in a state that didn’t allow them to express every facet of themselves. Drag is and was about the drama and alter ego’s. Drag was accessible to any person who wanted to be someone they couldn’t be everyday. Ru has made drag a mere economic pyramid – he’s on top and all of his minions follow suit and their earnings and celebrity help to increase his own. He cares not about the art (he doesn’t even do his own hair and makeup), what it stands for, or his community because if he did, transphobia would not be something he’d advocate for.”

However not everyone in the trans-community is ready to snatch Charles’ crown. As transgender writer Malek Mouzon penned recently for The Huffington Post, the trans-community is pretty diverse including class, race and gender identities. But yet the conversation around the word “tranny” is mostly coming from “voices coming from people who don’t look like me or any of the trans people I grew up with.” It should be noted that Mouzon is black. She also writes that the policing of language only helps to “breed confusion”about who is and isn’t allowed to use them. And more specifically asserts:

Moreover, it’s important to be conscious of when we are cherry-picking issues and avoiding larger initiatives in favor of small, hollow victories — like toppling a Mozilla CEO. There are loud voices in our community that say that these campaigns against the more “unseemly” or “unconventional” facets of our community are a way toward broader social acceptance. It’s not. It’s the way toward even more infighting, fragmentation and ultimately dissolution. It empowers those who truly demean and threaten our community. I believe that when we’re faced with those kinds of threats, there are smarter battles to be fought than a media campaign against a word that has given many disenfranchised trans people a way to create community and show solidarity. #Tranny”

Also a supporter of #TeamTranny is female impersonator Lady Bunny, who writes:

 “I think there are a few militant trans women who have started this mudslinging and I’m sorry that Ru backed down. The same people who would bash a trans in a dark alley would probably also bash a drag queen or someone gay. I wish we could stick together as a community instead of in-fighting. Because the gay/trans community’s real enemies aren’t RuPaul or people who say tranny — it’s the people who would physically bash us. And it’s the well-funded national organizations whose agenda is to deny our right to marry and for equal opportunities for housing and employment. Fight the real enemy — not the gay community, which has always been the most accepting of trans. I scratch my head thinking how are these trans people going to use gay community centers, counseling, protection and parades, transition out of our community, and then jump back in to police our speech?”

What I find most interesting about this entire exchange is how familiar it feels. I swore this wasn’t going to be about the N-word, but in some ways it is. As this is really a question about language in general. And how words have history, can oppress and do matter. And as large swarth of folks do the work in creating their identities on their own terms – at the same time that the mainstream culture begins to embrace fragments of said oppressed group with very little context – the questions of usefulness of certain oppressive words will continue to spark plenty of debate.

As an ally, I don’t know what the answer is. And I’m not for certain I am in the position to even make that call. But personally, I am not going to use it anymore. One thing I see now from following this conversation is just how not right or appropriate it is to co-opt a word that has so much history and significance to a community I have so little connection with. In short, it is only respectful. I mean, if it were white boys and girls and the N-word, we would want the same courtesy and considerations. Right?

Where Are All The Drag Kings In Popular Culture?

May 20th, 2014 - By Charing Ball
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Drag King Dred on the left and Mildred on the right. Source:

Drag King Dred on the left and Mildred on the right. Source:

Why do we love drag queen but not kings?

No seriously, what is about the pageantry of women, which makes it a much more viable art form than the impersonation of men.

In an article for the Advocate entitled, Will RuPaul Ever Crown a Drag King?, Daniel Reynolds kind of raises the question, when he discusses the lack of king representation on America’s most beloved (and only, right?) drag show competition, particularly writing:

Tonight on  RuPaul’s Drag Race, RuPaul will crown either Adore Delano, Bianca Del Rio, or Courtney Act as America’s Next Drag Superstar. As fans know, these three drag queens are very different performers: the 24-year-old Delano is youthful and hip; Del Rio is seasoned and sharp-witted; and Act is a glamorous entertainer who has consistently dazzled the judges with his drag transformation.

But as different as these candidates for the crown are, they have one thing in common: they are all gay men. While the cast of RuPaul’s Drag Race has been historically diverse in terms of race and ethnicity, the show remains primarily a gay man’s competition, with the notable exception of Monica Beverly Hillz, who was the first to come out as a transgender woman while a contestant.

At the reunion show’s taping earlier this month, The Advocate asked contestants of both present and past seasons if Drag Race was ready to have a drag king, a woman who dresses to resemble a man. Unanimously, the answer among those asked was yes.

Don’t spoil it for me as I have yet to watch the season (Netflix taught me). But I do have to agree, it is weird that the kings would be excluded from participating. I mean, Rupaul and the producers couldn’t even throw in a token male personator, just like they do the plus-sized contestants?

Our appreciation for impersonation (and the larger discussion of LGBTQ acceptance) is still in its infancy stages, however there is no denying that as a society we do have a preference. Just look at pop culture: RuPaul is likely the most famous drag impersonator, possibly of all time, but he is not the first. Sylvester comes to mind. So does Divine from Hairspray and Lady Chablis from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. There are films and documentaries about female drag impersonation, including TOO Wong Foo (how you doin’, Noxeema Jackson?), The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and of course Paris is Burning

And it is not just our films and in music but in other areas of entertainment, like comedy. How often do we see male comedians impersonate women for a joke compared with comediennes, who rock the grizzly beard in mockery of men? It is a rare occurrence and I’m actually drawing a blank thinking of one serious comedic performance of such. And it is not like there aren’t any male impersonators around to choose from – I don’t know by name personally any (however here is a list of nationally recognized 28 drag kings to aide us all on our discoveries). But that’s because the mainstream, including the mainstream-accepted LGBTQ communities, have failed at giving adequate and equal platform, which is my point…

I would like to think it is just a matter of aesthetic because women tend to have more clothing and accessories in general. I mean, who would you rather play with: Barbie or Ken? But a dress, a beat face and a tuck alone, does not a drag queen make. It’s really about performance. And as a culture, which is heavily (and in some respects subtly) patriarchal, folks are just not comfortable with seeing manhood mocked. Or as Kathryn Hobson, Ph.D points out in this essay, entitled, Performative Tensions in Female Drag Performances:

“[Judith] Halberstam, one of the foremost theorists of female masculinity, argues that drag kings perform a parody of masculinity that subverts dominant notions of hegemonic masculinity as something that is natural, but there is little that is natural for masculinity or femininity, men or women. Masculinity is often seen as naturally occurring, the norm for gender from which femininity deviates

(Nestle, Howell, and Wilchins). Halberstam critiques the naturalization of masculinity and argues that

masculine gender is not natural but, like femininity, is a performance of adopting masculine signifiers and constantly reiterating them (Female Masculinities). For drag kings this may occur in binding breasts (or having them removed), adding facial hair (or allowing one’s facial hair to grow), cutting hair or finding ways to make it appear shorter, and also comes in the form of adding or alluding to a phallus, whether a sock or a soft-packer. But drag kings also use physical gesture and embodiment to signify masculinity— something as simple as smoking a cigar, taking up a lot of stage space, moving smoothly, swaying to music, (lip-synch) crooning into a microphone like a lounge singer, grabbing the crotch or placing audience members’ hands on their body, or placing their body parts onto audience members. Alexander notes, “The drag king’s performance is a performance of absence—signaling what is not there magnifies the potency of what is; an organic masculinity”

Once in a blue moon, the mainstream will make room for male impersonation but usually that comes by way of mostly heterosexual women, who are known more for their glam than their grunt. Performers like Ciara, Madonna and Beyoncé, have all donned the flannel cut-off shirts and Levis and speculated about what it would be like to be a boy, but their performances were more tongue-and-cheek – and likely meant to titillate menfolk than actual mock or impersonate manhood in general. The one exception is Lady Gaga, who did an amazing job as Jo Calderone at the 28th annual MTV Awards. But that of course is an exception.

If we can welcome analysis, mockery and appreciation of femininity, as seen through the eyes of the opposite gender than there is no real reason why we are incapable of critiquing masculinity in the same vein. And considering that there are just as many definitions of masculinities as there are femininity, there is so much there to critique. Can you imagine a single contestant on Drag Race, transforming from a American cowboy to a Masai warrior from Kenya to Drogo from “Game of Thrones” – and all of the versions of manhood in between? What about lip-sync for his life to M.C. Hammer Turn This Mutha Out? There are so many scenarios, which could work to both offer the same level of critique of manhood while also being entertaining for those, who only wish to indulge in the pageantry. And while RuPaul has made great strides in giving platform to the drag community, he still fails in some respects at insuring equality even within these queer spaces.



Petition Started To Have RuPaul’s Drag Race Star Be A Victoria’s Secret Angel

November 7th, 2013 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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 Alberto Reyes/

Alberto Reyes/

Any other RuPaul’s Drag Race fans in the house? If you’re one, I’m sure you remember Puerto Rican firecracker Carmen Carrera (she was a part of the group that called themselves the “Heathers”). Carrera was pretty awesome at creating her costumes and was known for showing off her bootylicious backside in competitions. Since the show ended (she was sent home), Carerra has signed with Elite Model Management and began her transition from man to woman. Obviously Carrera has acquired a large fan base, because one of her fans made the decision to start a petition to have her be chosen as a model to walk in the ever-popular Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which is taping on December 10.

“This petition is for Victoria’s Secret to seriously consider taking Carmen Carrera on as an angel. By making Carmen the very first trans supermodel, you will help to end femmephobia within the LGBTIQQA community, but also it will show the entire trans community that you embrace them as your patrons.

If you watched Carmen at the Marco Marco runway show at LA Fashion week this year, then you know she has what it takes to be a Victoria’s Secret Angel.”

By the way, the acronym stands for (Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Questioning and Allies). So far, the petition has already garnered more than 25,000 signatures and a lot of support from folks who believe that it would make a major statement and let people know that, as one who signed put it, “all people are capable of being beautiful regardless of gender identity.”

Carrera caught wind of the petition and shared her feelings about the effort on her Facebook page: “I just want to say THANK YOU soooooo much to the fans who started this petition! I love you guys! Let’s share it and make it MAJOR!!!”

Before you give the side-eye to such a possibility of this woman being the first transgender model in Victoria’s Secret history, know that since doing RuPaul’s Drag Race, the 28-year-old New Jersey native (born Christopher Roman) has been in W Magazine and most recently walked in the Marco Marco fashion show during LA Fashion Week earlier this year. She’s been doing big things lately. But does she have what it takes to get her wings? Should she “shantay” or “sashay away”? Let us know what you think below.


15 Of Our Favorite Celeb Drag Queens

October 29th, 2013 - By Deron Dalton
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Monday nights are all about “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and the lost season — a revamped version of the show’s first season. We’re sure last night was no exception. After five seasons, spin-off series and much success, the show has MadameNoire thinking about the best male performers out there who are (and were) able to pull off over-the-top female personas. It’s one of the most entertaining (fun, sing-along-y, campy, comical and satirical) parts of gay culture. So ladies (and fellas) put on loads of colorful make-up, long eyelashes, a wig so big it would give Diana Ross a run for her money, pump up your bosoms, put on your most sparkling gowns and put on your highest heels and click through this slideshow of our favorite celebrity drag queens who dance, lip-synch, act and strut with fierceness. These cover girls have been working!



There’s no one better way to kick off this list than the queen of all drag queens. The best things about RuPaul are her fierceness (before there was Beyonce, there was RuPaul), beauty, strength and ability to werk no different than any supermodel. RuPaul rose to mainstream fame in 1993 with her hit single “Supermodel (You Better Work)” and her debut house/dance album, Supermodel of the World. After becoming a famous actor, talk show host and reality TV show creator (“Drag Race”). We can say RuPaul has been working like a Cover Girl.

You Better Werk! 10 Life Lessons From RuPaul In (Mostly) Gif Form

July 30th, 2013 - By Veronica Wells
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Three words: You.Better.Werk. RuPaul has been inspiring us to be fierce and fabulous since the ’80’s, even though many of us didn’t catch wind until the early ’90’s. Either way, this little piece of advice isn’t the only jewel RuPaul had for us. Check out some of RuPaul’s most inspiring quotes on the following pages.

Out & Proud: Gay/Bi/Lesbian African American Celebrities

February 27th, 2013 - By Nicole Akoukou Thompson
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For years, there has been media speculation concerning the sexuality of celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Queen Latifah, Eddie Murphy, Johnny Gill, and more recently, Raven Symone. The trip out of the closet has been a long one for African American celebrities, evident by the fact there aren’t nearly as many out and open black celebrities as there are white. We don’t often see black celebrities walking around, publicly showcasing their love like Sex and the City’s Cythia Nixon and her girlfriend; Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi; or Elton John and David Furnish. That isn’t to say that there aren’t any out African American celebrities though. In fact, we’ve got an entire list of proud gay celebrities.



This comedian has been making people laugh since she began her  stand-up career in 1987 at a Coors Light Super Talent Showcase in Washington DC. She got her first big break opening for Chris Rock at Caroline’s Comedy Club, and since then she’s made a career of being an award-winning television and movie actress, stand-up comedian, and writer. Sykes publicly came out on as a lesbian in November 2008 after the passing of Proposition 8 in California.

Debate For Your Life! How The Presidential Debates Are Like Rupaul’s Drag Race

October 17th, 2012 - By T Hall
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By T. Hall

It has become clear from this election cycle’s first two debates that winning the “optics game” – how you are perceived – can be just as important as the presenting the facts. Take, for example, Mitt Romney’s first debate performance: though he was criticized for telling 27 lies in 38 minutes, he survived the next round because he showed an unexpected fervor and zest. These face-offs then become about displaying passion, grace under fire, and an understanding of how to play to the emotions of the American public. In a way, this political pageantry is more “RuPaul’s Drag Race” than “Meet the Press.”  President Obama, Governor Romney, Vice President Biden, and Congressman Ryan are just as catty and dramatic as RuPaul’s ‘squirrelfriends,’ except they are fighting to run the country.

Make up, suits, and flag pins
Like any good drag competition, costumes matter. The candidates must meticulously adorn their bodies to present themselves in the most convincing light. Just as queens strive for “fishiness” (or womanliness), the candidates must give off the air of capability and confidence. The use of makeup (to take off the shine) or tiny flag pins (to display their patriotism) or carefully sculpted hair (Paul Ryan’s shaped up widow’s peak) is no different than the queens of RPDR skillfully beating their faces or selecting their elegant gowns. The candidates must lip-sync for their political lives, and can’t allow dissonant visuals to disrupt their flow. Nobody wants to be the Nixon or DiDa Ritz of the debate – ashy and sad looking. In pageants as in politics, appearance is paramount.

Reading is Fundamental
In a game where no edges are safe, the candidate that snatches the wig fastest wins the fight. That was clear from the first debate, when Romney came out of the gate with lies and wild gesticulations, earning him a post-debate bounce that threw Democrats into a tizzy. Joe Biden’s incredulous laughs and quick take downs of Paul Ryan (“malarkey,” “my friend,” “stop talking about how you care about people”) was nothing but pure, unadulterated shade.  Debate zingers are key, not only because they cut to the white meat of one’s opponent, but because they frame the other guy in an unflattering light publicly and can be used as sound bites for the campaign. Reading is fundamental and these guys have been in the library.

You Be the Judge
If the candidates are the queens, then the moderators are the judges – each one plays an important role in shaping the competition. In the first debate Jim Lehrer showed himself to be an inadequate moderator, and allowed the candidates to run roughshod over him like a Drag Race guest judge that doesn’t hold any weight. Martha Raddatz, on the other hand, was the Michelle Visage of the vice-presidential debate, firm and authoritative enough to pull the queens back together when the conversation got off track.  “So will both of you level with the American people: Can you get unemployment to under 6 percent and how long will it take?” Raddatz asked bluntly. Even though it was easy to assume her political leanings, Raddatz asked incisive, insightful questions of both candidates. A moderator (or Drag Race judge, for that matter) that can regulate and get to the meat of the issues that are extremely valuable.

Ultimately the American public will play the role of RuPaul, determining which candidates must sashay away and which will become the leaders of America. The road to the White House is a long and arduous one, and these candidates must prove that they have what it takes to rule the political runway.

T. Hall is a intellignorant writer based in northern Virginia. She tries not to take herself too seriously, and blogs about original fiction, books and life at


RuPaul Says ____ Looks the Most Like A Drag Queen

January 18th, 2012 - By MN Editor
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When it comes to Drag Queens, who’s more expert than RuPaul? The man has made a living off of transforming himself and being pretty. On Bravo, the famous pretty man let us know which of the Housewives look the most like a drag queen.

Can you guess who it is?

Find out who he was talking about and what he thinks about Madonna v. Lady Gaga at


More on Madame Noire!


Hot Celeb Vegetarians

June 14th, 2010 - By China Okasi
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Have you heard? PETA is having a contest in which you can select your favorite celebrity vegetarian. You can view their list of celebs here, but we have quite a few stunners they just might have forgotten. See our PETA votes, after the jump…

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