Being part of the LGBTQ+ community but not knowing who RuPaul Charles is almost heresy. I went years without watching his fantastic show RuPaul’s Drag Race, and I honestly don’t know what took me so long.
I knew the connotations of phrases my friends adopted, like “Shantay you stay” and “Sashay away.” Still, there was a fantastic universe that I missed out on for a long time.
But, if life has taught me anything, it’s that not everything that’s late is overdue.
Watching RuPaul’s Drag Race is a Magical Adventure Down the Queer Rabbit Hole
It may sound ironic, but I had to fall in love with RuPaul’s Drag Race to make peace with a part of my identity that I had blocked and repressed — my femininity.
And I call it “ironic” because, stereotypically, lesbians have often been against the art of drag.
For some, while RuPaul’s Drag Race embraces some necessary subversive behaviors, it also “reinforces harmful hegemonic stereotypes.”
Going back a bit further, from the beginning of the gay rights struggle, lesbians often considered drag artistry offensive to women.
In my case, I always felt that everything in life is performative politics, even if I didn’t know much about RuPaul Charles.
And for me as a cis lesbian, that meant rejecting a lot of the ways people typically perform femininity. I refused to wear makeup or tight clothing for years. I wore my hair short. All with the idea that androgyny was a weapon in the battle against machismo.
However, I discovered watching the show that a part of me longed to put on those traditional markers of femininity, to wear makeup, and even, like Bambi, to try walking in heels.
I gradually came to understand that femininity is also a political position and that red lipstick can pack more punch than an election pamphlet.
‘We Are All Born Naked, and the Rest is Drag’
In his decades-long professional career, RuPaul Charles has been disruptive to the status quo in so many good ways. And it’s no wonder this punk rebel ended up using his stature — real and metaphorical — to draw the line with his heel and say, “Enough is enough!” He’s an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and I appreciate him for it.
Part of his activism is his show. RuPaul’s Drag Race has been a haven for weirdos like the one writing this note.
There have been many of us who have avoided the reflection in the mirror for fear of the Borgian perpetuation of monstrosity. RuPaul forces us, with humor and a lot of makeup, to reencounter that reflection. To look at our queer selves and the ways we’ve been shaped by gender norms – whether we’re rejecting, performing, embracing, and/or subverting them.
Now, as I learn the mystical art of applying lipstick at 35, I feel affirmed by the season 15 finale and my adored Sasha Colby taking the crown.
And to my newfound femininity? Shantay, you stay.