A long-settled controversy is temporarily back from the dead.
On Thursday, British Vogue tweeted out a news story about an upcoming collaboration between RuPaul and fashion brand Balenciaga. The line includes merchandise like Balenciaga X RuPaul caps, tees, and hoodies featuring spray-stencil lettering, and the RuPaul's Drag Race host also curated an Apple Music playlist for the brand. But, in its initial coverage, the fashion publication used a term that had long been labeled as transphobic by fans of the performer.
"In the sassiest 'shemail' to hit our inboxes this week, Balenciaga announced it has tapped RuPaul for a merch and music collab," the magazine tweeted. The sentence was also the first line of the publication's news coverage. The tweet was immediately the focus of pushback on Twitter and was deleted within minutes, with the story being amended to remove "shemail."
Fans of Drag Race will remember that the first seasons of the show utilized the term to describe the episodic Werk Room messages from Ru to competing queens. While there had existed some backlash to its inclusion for years, in 2015 the condemnation reached a fever pitch — notably following a 2014 segment titled "Female or She-Male." LogoTV forced a change, abandoning the term all together though RuPaul has since said that he "would not have changed it."
In the debut episode of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars season six, there is a wink back to this and this franchise's contentious history with trans contestants. For her entrance, Kylie Sonique Love stepped into the Werk Room and said "You've Got Female." The phrase was a flip given that since her first time competing on the show (which was before Logo changed the segment name) she has come out as a trans woman.
All Stars season six is streaming on Paramount+ now.