RuPaul's Drag Race unveiled its new crop of contestants for season 12 last week. And once again, the cast is composed entirely of cisgender men.
Transgender inclusion has long been a point of controversy for the VHI reality series. While several notable transgender contestants emerged from the Drag Race universe — among them, Carmen Carrera, Jiggly Caliente, Sonique, and Monica Beverly Hillz — only Peppermint was an out trans contestant, on season 9. Gia Gunn also competed on All Stars 4 after coming out but noted in a follow-up interview that she felt "completely disregarded" by RuPaul and the show during the experience.
While the absence of transgender contestants is no surprise for Drag Race, what is surprising was the pushback from multiple alumni of the reality series in response to the casting.
After congratulating the season 12 queens on Twitter, Detox turned her ire to the show for the lack of diversity. “Enough with the feigned inclusivity. Time to start putting your money where your mouth is," the All Stars season 2 runner-up posted Thursday along with the hashtag #AllDragIsValid.
Detox was far from alone in her beliefs. At the time of this article's publishing, the tweet had received over 1,000 retweets, including one from Carrera. The trans contestant from season 3 notably took RuPaul and the show to task for transphobic language in 2014 and has long been an advocate for greater inclusion on the world's most prominent drag platform.
Carrera claimed that her own career was hurt due to an "inside job" from Drag Race depriving her of a platform and fans. She also went on to say that RuPaul's exclusion of trans contestants is an "evil use of power," comparing the drag queen to "the Hitler, false prophet, anti-Christ of the LGBTQ community."
When the 34-year-old model received pushback for comparing RuPaul to the head of Nazi Germany, she defended the remarks as a metaphor "to make you feel something" about "the eraser of a safe space for trans people to thrive" in a world where members of this community face physical violence and a staggering death toll.
Aja, a nonbinary performer from season 3, likened this erasure to a form of workplace discrimination. In a series of tweets last weekend, they said this exclusion all the more "wrong" due to the history of drag being "pioneered" by trans people.
"Preach," Peppermint said in a retweet. Aja added on the social media platform, "Don’t say you support drag if you think only male dressed as female drag is valid."
In an interview with Metro U.K. prior to the casting announcement, Sasha Velour — the genderqueer winner of season 9 — advocated for greater inclusion in drag.
"I think the question of whether drag itself needs to contain, and have space for ... drag kings, and queens, and AFAB [assigned-female-at-birth] drag performers, the question’s already answered. It’s absolutely, yes," Velour said.
"Will Drag Race make room? I don’t see it. But can there be other platforms that showcase a more full and truthful view of drag? Absolutely," continued Velour, who praised the drag competition Dragula for crowning drag king Landon Cider as its winner last season.
Velour has good reason to believe Drag Race will not change. RuPaul sparked a storm of controversy in 2018 when he told The Guardian that "probably not" allow a transgender woman who had undergone gender-confirmation surgery to compete on the reality show. Following the backlash, he went on Twitter to issue a rare apology for "the hurt I have caused. The trans community are heroes of our shared LGBTQ movement. You are my teachers.”
He added, "In the 10 years we’ve been casting Drag Race, the only thing we've ever screened for is charisma uniqueness nerve and talent. And that will never change."
However, RuPaul’s statement about Drag Race’s casting process — the only requirements being charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent — contradicted views expressed in past interviews. In 2016, for example, RuPaul told The Advocate he would not allow drag kings — female drag performers — to participate in the show.
“If a female were to do drag, it loses the irony,” RuPaul said. When asked why drag kings would not be cast in the future, Ru explained, "If you mix it up it's like trying to make a Mac computer compatible with a PC. … They don’t really mix.”
Two of the performers on season 12 appear to side with RuPaul in posts that have resurfaced on social media. In what appears to be a Facebook post following the host's anti-transgender remarks in 2018, Aiden Zhane said RuPaul is "entitled" to air a show exclusively about men in drag. "Trans women and queens alike are getting booked more than ever thanks to RuPaul. He doesn't owe anybody shit," the resurfaced post states.
Dahlia Sin, who comes from Aja's drag family, also came under fire for being exclusionary in a social media conversation circulating Twitter. "Some of my closest friends are female performers. I just don't see it for [Drag Race] that's all," the comment stated.