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April 5, 2014

GLAAD, Logo finally issue statements addressing concerns of transphobia of RuPaul’s Drag Race

By Mari Brighe
@MariTheTNF

 

Image: RuPaul's Drag Race, Season 6 Episode 4 screenshot of four of the reality show's contestants holding up signs saying 'She-Male' and 'He-Male' for a show segment RuPaul introduced

Rupauls contestants yucking it up after being told they will be using a transphobic slur in determining whether a person is a ‘real’ woman or a psycho case

Drag icon RuPaul is no stranger to criticism, particularly over his continued use of transphobic slurs on his popular TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race which is produced by the LGBT-centered Logo cable network. However, in March, he ignited a firestorm of backlash from within and outside the trans community by featuring a mini-game entitled “Female or Shemale,” on the show. Despite criticism of the segment echoing loudly throughout the web, the voice of the largest LGBT group for media advocacy, GLAAD, was nowhere to be heard.  On March 29th, 12 days after the segment aired, GLAAD finally issue a statement on the issue:

The morning after the segment aired GLAAD staff reached out to Logo and shared our own concerns, as well as the feedback we heard from the trans community. We also talked directly to the producers of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

The mistakes made in this segment should not be repeated. Words are important and have tremendous power. Since 1999 we have stated in our Media Reference Guide that anti-trans slurs are defamatory:  “These words only serve to dehumanize transgender people and should not be used.” The network and the show’s producers heard that from us – and from those of you who spoke up.

Addressing the criticisms from many advocates that GLAAD was slow to respond to issue, the organization claims that engaging in education and dialogue took priority:

Some writers and trans advocates questioned our entire commitment to trans people because we did not post about this issue on our site immediately. Why was there not an immediate post? We know from past experience that dialogue and education are the most effective ways to create substantive and lasting change in the media, and today’s statements are the beginning of new conversations with this network and this show.

However, the official statements from both the producers of Drag Race and Logo itself were lukewarm and non-committal to any changes going forward, and contained no apologies for their usage of the transphobic language. The Drag Race producers claim they “are newly sensitized” to the issues:

We delight in celebrating every color in the LGBT rainbow. 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,

Logo’s statement simply states that the concerns have been heard:

 “We have heard the concerns around this segment. We are committed to sharing a diverse range of  trans stories across all of our screens and look forward to featuring positive and groundbreaking stories of trans people in the future.”

A check of Logo’s press releases and current website provide no acknowledgement of the conversation with GLAAD, nor does the official website for RuPaul’s Drag Race.

On the same day the statement from GLAAD was posted, board member Jennifer Finney Boylan wrote an extensive personal statement on the situation on her own blog. In it, she adds that Logo made further commitments to GLAAD in their dialogue:

 “More important to me is a commitment LOGO made that is not reflected in their public statement—- that they are not going to using the word “t——“ on any of their programming again, going forward.  It will be GLAAD’s responsibility to hold them to their word.

They’ve also committed to putting an end to other anti-trans language on their network.”

However, Boylan, too, is not heartened by the official statements given by the Logo and Drag Race:

 “But this statement  did seem to me to be something of a non-apology, and that leaves me dispirited.  “Newly sensitized” is great— but you had to not be listening very hard to trans women in the first place to have produced a segment like this and been blind to the way it would be received.”

Buzzfeed LGBT’s Tony Merevick recently pressed spokesman for Logo for a public statement regarding their commitment to eliminating anti-trans language from their programming, but the network representatives stuck hard to the party-line and refused to make a confirmation of the commitment made to GLAAD.

It does appear, at least, that GLAAD has at last been moved by the critical voices among trans advocates, and has not featured Drag Race in its daily “What To Watch” post since the controversy erupted.

Given both Logo and Drag Race’s quiet, ambivalent non-apologies, and RuPaul’s lengthy history of transmisogyny, it will be interesting to see if any real changes do occur going forward, and whether GLAAD will continue to press a key media partner like Logo if their commitments turn out to be little more than lip service.


Editor’s Note

On March 31st, former Drag Race contestant, Carmen Carrera wrote:

Although 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.

After Logo and GLAAD issued their statements, the Drag Race ran their segment, “You’ve Got She-Mail.”


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  • chandra

    does delphungus omally troll the internet all day just hoping that she can find something to go on about? surely you can find something more offensive than rupaul on tv. that is not even basic cable. maybe just watch the daily news and see what is going on around the world. to accuse others of hate when you seem to project your jealousy/envy/vitriol on gay men and drag queens is a hypocrisy. you cannot lump an entire community together, as you clearly do not speak for all trans. if someone is trans and is a sex worker, wants to work with the gay community, or god forbid is “hollywood” and is pretty and has some type of career in entertainment, then they don’t count. just because you can’t doesn’t mean they can’t. you clearly aren’t very involved or informed with a broad spectrum of gay men and drag queens, in fact, you seem to make all your conclusions on rupaul drag race comments. you do realize that not all gay men and drag queens watch drag race or care about it, and that there are much more offensive things on broadcast television. the most transparent is when you claim to not know about “drag” culture, yet state that they are making a mimicry of women and are on stage with their “low” voices. you must realize, or maybe not, since you do not seem to have many friends, that drag queens who are performers are not the majority of people who do drag. many people do not limit their gender expression to being on the stage if they are on one at all, and for performers, the majority are paying homage to women, not making a mimicry of them as you suggest. (seriously??) it is how some people feel the need to express themselves, and it doesn’t matter in which the frequency they do it. it is not for you to judge or decide that someone is less than you and faces a battle less than yours because they only wear their “mask” on stage. you seem very bitter that many of these men, drag queens, transvestites, and androgynous men and women can pass as biologically female much easier than you, without effort, and many people do have high voices naturally. without a stitch of makeup, many androgynous people can get along without a second look on the street. seriously, do you just start rubbing your penis anytime there is is something online to be an “activist” about? (online only :)) and that is in quotes because it seems you start creaming your sensible full brief panties anytime there is anything to write a 5 part 10 paragraph comment on, using every scrabble word you can think of. that is one way that i believe you do represent unity. everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual identity, and iq, can agree that you are annoying, irritating, humorless, and annoying. oh, i said that already. annoying! oh, and seriously, the military? why are we at war? why did the Bush cabinet start the war? why are we occupying another country? let’s not focus on that. the military treats gays and women how? let’s not focus on that. you’re a veteran! you should be proud if you served a tour of duty in afghanistan and killed some children in collateral damage. but no, let’s focus on the real evil. rupaul’s drag race! we (your 14 Facebook friends…and dropping) look forward to your rupaul’s drag race season 9 audition tape. just kidding bitch! but you don’t have a sense of humor 🙁 start an online petition and DEMAND you get my show taken off the air. but i don’t have a show. oh crap, what are you going to complain about?

  • Friesjones

    Anyone positioned to possibly gift him with a packet of pretty glitter? He does like shiny pretty things, after all…

  • Cat MacKinnon

    “Newly sensitized”? Bullshit. We’ve been calling out RuPaul for throwing around trans-harmful phrases ever since this show started airing. His response has always been what amounts to “I don’t give a shit”. He’s kind of a self-centered asshole. LOGO has aired several trans-positive stories and shows in the past, so I find it pretty damn difficult to believe that they didn’t know this sort of thing was offensive. I think they finally just got tired of hearing people complain, so they issued a non-apology just to try and shut people up. I actually kinda find that more insulting than RuPaul’s transphobic schtick.

  • Delphi Omally

    If drag queen gay male RuPaul continues to keep his middle finger elevated in our direction by continuing his public exercise of transphobia, which indications are that he will, then I see no other option but to conclude the following:

    (1) this is one gay male who is not only unfriendly but a publicly-declared enemy of the trans community.
    (2) he is far, far more stupid than one could possibly imagine—no one can every truly rationalize an “innocent” way of using the word “she-m*le”. No one. Not me, you, or FoolPaul.
    (3) already, so much damage has been done that FoolPaul’s lack of judgement in having chosen this word as part of his show, particularly since he is a part of the LGBT acronym, is no longer a matter of credible dispute.
    (4) I am one who holds no LGBT group….let me repeat this…..I hold no LGBT group in any elevated regard and so GLAAD or Carmen whomever……has something to say…..means nothing to me. If they are unable to wield power to stop FoolPaul from his “innocent” portrayal of “she-m*le” over mass media, they prove to me once more how impotent they really are.
    (5) for FoolPaul, born male means always male…..the closest thing to being female is well….to pretend to be one….no damn wonder he sees us the same way.

    As far as LOGO,,,,,,,,I don’t watch much TV……I have no idea who or what this is…….a network? What the hell does “newly sensitized” mean? Let me guess: “Oh dear me oh my. Them “she-m*les” over yonder are all throwing a hissy fit because you know what? They really think that an innocent word—“she-m*le”—has the slightest thing to do with them……..why we just learned something new! All this time we thought it referred only to drag queens!!!” Yaaaaaaaa riiiiiiiiiight. puleaze stop this insult to our intelligence. Your sensitivity is showing…….NOT!!

    FoolPaul, if you truly believe that we matter so little that you feel you have license to continue to use the word “she-m*le”……..then you truly are a pathetic Sad Sack…a trans enemy in our midst…..exercising vitriol with a smile……..you can kiss my ass……you fool. By the way this is one trans female who needs not one strand of fake hair or extensions……..I have all my real hair…..no bald head “pretending to look female”…

    ADDED: Sure, it is a matter of perspective and context, not unlike another vitriol-laden word many heard as they became lifeless human ornaments on a tree; with perspective and context every word can be used in a non-malevolent manner. Those who defend the use of this word, such as noted trans pioneers who truly have done much good are defending it based on this perspective and all appears “good”. However, let’s stop this feigned ignorance. Simply typing “she-m*le” into a Google search reveals the other malevolent perspective: from the non-trans perspective, it is equivalent to the Spanish word “puta”….and never comes close to legitimizing the seriousness of gender angst. We ignore this very real perspective at our own peril. Just like the “N” word, this synonym to “he-she” is the last word many transgender females hear as their life is squeezed out of their body. In the tug-of-war that is trans equality vs transphobia, this “S” word tugs in favor of transphobia. Yes, anyone pretending not to know this, far exceeds minimum requirements to be deservedly called a fool.

  • Delphi Omally

    If drag queen gay male RuPaul continues to keep his middle finger elevated in our direction by continuing his public exercise of transphobia, which indications are that he will, then I see no other option but to conclude the following:

    (1) this is one gay male who is not only unfriendly but a publicly-declared enemy of the trans community.
    (2) he is far, far more stupid than one could possibly imagine—no one can every truly rationalize an “innocent” way of using the word “she-m*le”. No one. Not me, you, or FoolPaul.
    (3) already, so much damage has been done that FoolPaul’s lack of judgement in having chosen this word as part of his show, particularly since he is a part of the LGBT acronym, is no longer a matter of credible dispute.
    (4) I am one who holds no LGBT group….let me repeat this…..I hold no LGBT group in any elevated regard and so GLAAD or Carmen whomever……has something to say…..means nothing to me. If they are unable to wield power to stop FoolPaul from his “innocent” portrayal of “she-m*le” over mass media, they prove to me once more how impotent they really are.
    (5) for FoolPaul, born male means always male…..the closesg thing to being female is well….to pretend to be one….no damn wonder he sees us the same way.

    As far as LOGO,,,,,,,,I don’t watch much TV……I have no idea who or what this is…….a network? What the hell does “newly sensitized” mean? Let me guess: “Oh dear me oh my. Them “she-m*les” over yonder are all throwing a hissy fit because you know what? They really think that an innocent word “she-m*le” has the slightest thing to do with them……..why we just learned something new! All this time we though it referred only to drag queens!!!” Yaaaaaaaa riiiiiiiiiight. puleaze stop this insult to our intelligence. Your sensitivity is showing…….NOT!!

    FoolPaul, if you truly believe that we matter so little that you feel you have license to continue to use the word “she-m*le”……..then you truly are a pathetic Sad Sack…a trans enemy in our midst…..exercising vitriol with a smile……..you can kiss my ass……you fool. By the way this is one trans female who needs not one strand of fake hair or extensions……..I have all my real hair…..no bald head “pretending to look female”…

  • Leina Marie Andersen

    With all this hoopla about the show, and the debate it’s caused. It only caused the popularity of the show to go up. The show, and the network won’t change anything. The best thing that the trans community as a whole can do is “Not” watch the show or the network, their ratings will drop and shows like ru- Paul’s drag race will get cancelled. Nuff said

    • Delphi Omally

      Well, pardon me/us for all of this “hoopla”. Perhaps we should all just pretend that nothing really happened after all……..just a bad dream.

    • Kathy11

      Got any stats to back that up?

    • Leina Marie Andersen

      I wish it was just a bad dream, but it’s not and we have to live with this every day. The choice we have though is if we let it bother us, yes it’s a piss off that it happened and yes it’s an injustice to our rights. But so is what is happening to our other brothers and sisters in prison. It’s not right but it will still happen.

  • Friesjones

    The “Female or Sh**ale” game is just as offensive as a game called “N***er or Human?” as far as I can tell.

  • Andrew Kelley

    I have been disappointed in Logo for years. It seems like it is basically the RuPaul network anymore. There are plenty of gay themed movies out there. Award winning documentaries. Music by LGBT individuals. Such a shame Logo doesn’t embrace and support the entire LGBT community. I actually find Phil Robertson less offensive than RuPaul.

  • Diane Miller

    While I appreciate Ms. Carrera’s statement, and I have nothing but respect for Ms. Boylan, I don’t think anyone will be surprised when nothing changes. RuPaul may not have meant to be offensive, but it’s been made abundantly clear that he doesn’t care all that much. If anything, this has been free publicity for him. As for LOGO, as long as they still make money off the program there will be few if any changes. Perhaps I’m being cynical, but I’ve seen this scenario played out too many times in the last 30 years. I do hope I’m wrong, but I don’t expect to be.

    • Maggie Hendershot

      While I share your cynicism, if even fucking Jerry Springer can stop dropping the T-bomb, then RuPaul sure as shit can. He better step up and RuPaulogize, too.

      • Susan Hill

        He has already agreed to stop using it where as RuPaul publicly said any transgender individual that doesn’t like the use of the word can fuck off.