Transgender activists and LGBT advocacy groups have turned against drag icon RuPaul for his use of words like “shemale” and “tranny” on his program RuPaul’s Drag Race. In an interview with Marc Maron, RuPaul dismissed the criticism as a product of “fringe people who are looking for storylines to strengthen their identity as victims.”
Appearing on Maron’s podcast WTF, RuPaul discussed extensively his childhood, history with performance, and decision to take up drag. Towards the end of the podcast, Maron brought up a controversy that has consumed Drag Race in the past month, as transgender activists and GLAAD have called for RuPaul to self-censor, leading to the cancelation of two segments on the program: a fan message segment titled “You’ve Got Shemail” and “Female or Shemale,” in which contestants had to guess whether a person was a cisgender woman or a transgender woman.
The program has hosted transgender contestants, who released statements calling for increased awareness of hurtful language. RuPaul himself and the producers of the show released a statement in March, stating: “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.”
RuPaul was quick to note that he did not believe the criticism was mainstream within the transgender community. “These are fringe people who are looking for storylines to strengthen their identity as victims,” he explained, adding that “most people who are trans have been through hell and high water, and they’ve looked behind the curtain at Oz and went, ‘Oh, this is all a fucking joke.'”
RuPaul also scoffed at the idea that censoring words would protect maligned communities. “It’s just words, like, ‘Yeah, words hurt me!’ Bitch, you need to get stronger,” he said. “If you think–if you’re upset by something I said, you have bigger problems than you think.”
Maron elaborated on RuPaul’s point, adding, “if you are going to live outside the Matrix, you can’t live by its rules.”
RuPaul went on to compare the “four people who have a Wi-Fi connection, sit behind a computer in God knows where, and deliberately misinterpret our verbage” to the pigs in Animal Farm. “The pigs forgot why they had a revolution in the first place, and the pigs started walking up on their hind legs,” RuPaul noted. “Secretly, they just want to be Farmer John.”
Logo, the network that airs Drag Race, has already responded to RuPaul’s comments and distanced itself as a network from them. “These comments did not come from Logo. We are committed to supporting the entire LGBT community and will not feature any anti-trans rhetoric on our shows,” the network said in a statement.
RuPaul’s Drag Race just completed its sixth season on Logo.