With Monica Beverly Hillz coming out as trans on RuPaul’s Drag Race on February 4, it was seen as a good-news-bad-news moment by much of the trans community.
While we celebrate our trans sister taking such a huge step in her life, the irony of the moment wasn’t lost on many of us in the trans community.
She was coming out as trans on a show in which its creator has a contentious relationship with the trans community, and has repeatedly uttered problematic transphobic comments.
The trans community also has a love-hate relationship with the drag community as well for the rampant transphobia and misogyny in elements of that world.
That’s why many of us in the trans community (myself included) refuse to watch or support Drag Race. But I also realize there are enough people who do regularly tune in to the show to where it has now survived on LOGO for five seasons.
So taking into account that Drag Race has a large viewership who could use a little Trans 101 education, it’s time for the trans community and our allies to take this opportunity Monica’s coming out presents us to put a major dent into the long held myth that drag queens and trans women are exactly the same.
So what is the major difference between a trans woman and a drag queen?
A trans woman is someone born in a masculine body at birth with a feminine gender identity and expression that lives full-time in the feminine gender role. They may seek gender realignment surgery, counseling, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and other medical procedures to facilitate the process.
That is light years difference from a drag artist who generally loves everything about being in the masculine gender role, blanches at the thought of genital realignment surgery and have no desire to present as female except on stage.
There are and have long been trans women like Monica who perform in the drag world for various reasons. Some do so because they simply enjoy the experience of being on stage and the confidence boost it provides.
Some do so because it’s a job that helps them earn the money to pay for their hormones, other medical procedures to perfect their feminine presentation and eventually get to the point where they can have genital surgery.
When the performance is over, trans women who are on that drag stage wipe the excess stage makeup off their faces, hang up the beaded gowns and gaudy costumes and head outside the club in their regular clothes and stripped down makeup to live their everyday feminine lives in a world that is indifferent and in many cases hostile to them.
And far too often some of that hostility directed at trans women comes from people in the same-gender-loving (SGL) and non-transgender communities. It also manifests itself in terms of discrimination and off the charts levels of violence and death aimed at us.
It has long been an irritant to African-American trans women that non-transgender people will easily let the ‘she’ pronoun slide off their lips for a RuPaul, Madea or any assorted drag queen but can’t bring themselves to do the same for a trans woman in their midst who is living her everyday life in the female gender role.
Trans woman does not equal drag queen. It’s past time for people to get that fundamental point and give trans women the love, respect and codified human rights as members of the community they deserve.*
– Monica Roberts
Monica Roberts, aka the TransGriot, is a native Houstonian and a trailblazing award winning trans community leader. In addition to participating in a long list of panel discussions and speaking engagements to various colleges, groups and conferences over the years, in January 2006 she founded the award winning blog TransGriot.
*Originally posted on nbjc.org. Cross-posted with permission.