Trans ’Drag Race’ Contestants Speak Out on Show’s Alleged Transphobia

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Thursday April 3, 2014

Carmen Carrera, who appeared on season three of "RuPaul's Drag Race" in 2011 and came out as transgender soon after, has responded to criticisms that a recent episode of popular reality show was transphobic. Additionally, season five vet Monica Beverly Hillz, who is trans, also shared her thoughts on the controversy, the Huffington Post reports.

In the episode, the contestants competed in a mini-challenge called "Female or She-Male," where they looked at photos of celebrities and guessed if the image was of a "biological" or "psychological" woman by holding up a sign that read, "Female" or "She-male."

Some were offended by the game, saying that the term "she-male" is a transgender slur. RuPaul and the reality show's producers, however, released a joint statement regarding the issue.

"We delight in celebrating every color in the LGBT rainbow," the statement reads. "When it comes to the movement of our trans sisters and trans brothers, we are newly sensitized and more committed than ever to help spread love, acceptance and understanding."

Now, two trans contestants of "Drag Race" have come forward to share their views on the controversy.

Carmen Carrera, who has made headlines for becoming a trans model and for promoting transgender rights on a national level, took to Facebook Monday to address the issue:

"I am certain ’RuPaul’s Drag Race’ didn’t mean to be offensive, let this be a learning experience. I think the show has opened up and educated the minds of many people who were ignorant to the world of drag and has made equality and respect a possibility for those involved, not only as equal beings, but as phenomenal artists. There has always been a huge presence of trans artists in the drag scene. ’Shemale’ is an incredibly offensive term, and this whole business about if you can tell whether a woman is biological or not is getting kind of old. We live in a new world where understanding and acceptance are on the rise. ’Drag Race’ should be a little smarter about the terms they use and comprehend the fight for respect trans people are facing every minute of today. They should use their platform to educate their viewers truthfully on all facets of drag performance art. ?#?SheHasSpoken?"

HuffPo spoke with Monica Beverly Hillz, who came out as transgender during the fifth season of "Drag Race" last year, to get her take on the controversy and to "provide the opportunity to publically contextualize her feelings about the allegations of transphobia on the show."

"After my experience of being on the show, I would say that, to me, the use of the words ’she-male,’ ’ladyboy’ and ’tranny’ are not cute at all," she said. "I have fought, and still am fighting, for respect from society -- to be accepted as a woman and not referred to as a ’tranny’ or "’she-male.’"

She added:

"People don’t understand the daily struggle it is to be a transgender woman. Some days are great and some days I can’t be around anyone because I have so much anxiety, so much on my mind and just feel alone in this world.

After being on TV and coming out, it is very difficult to live a normal life. So when you see a show that you look up to and have been a part of, it kind of sucks hearing them use those words.

I will say that RuPaul and the entire cast and production team were amazing. To this day they still check up on me, so for that I am forever grateful.

However, maybe some things need to be changed about the show, because it’s not just a drag show anymore. We have beautiful transgender cast mates paving the way for all transgender showgirls."