I’m a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race and, I dare say, a fan of RuPaul, the performer, as well. I find him to be a very talented performer. But more importantly, I find his show to be a bastion of wholesome goodness. The values that are the basis of the show - integrity, disclosure, and kindness - are all important and rarely seen on most reality tv shows. RuPaul appears to be fair and just in her role as Queen of her Drag Queendom.
Recently, it was brought to my attention that there are some trans people who object to RuPaul and to drag queens, in general. The argument, as I understand it, is that drag queens confuse people about trans folks. That the general population who watches Drag Race or goes to drag shows are confused about the difference between drag queens and trans folks. And that this is, somehow, drag queens’ doings.
One trans person I crossed paths with was so vociferous in her condemnation of RuPaul that I felt almost personally attacked. And I definitely did not feel safe talking to this person. I wouldn’t say she made the space feel unsafe for me particularly, but she definitely could have made the space unsafe for others who overheard her. Which brings me to the topic at hand: Safer Spaces for Everyone.
If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I have a beef with the idea of ‘safe spaces.’ I think that the expectation that a space is safe from anything that could possibly interfere with a person’s comfort is unrealistic and oppressive. I was recently introduced to the term “safeR spaces,” which I like much more and which I feel is more do-able. But even so, safer for whom?
Is it as important that I feel safe in my adoration and support of RuPaul as it is for the RuPaul condemner to feel safe tearing RuPaul down? Is my safety as important in a safer space as hers? I have a feeling that many people would say that my feeling safer is less important because I am not as oppressed as a trans woman is. But is that really the barometer we want to use to determine what a safer space is? Whomever is most oppressed gets to be catered to the most? I hope not.
I’m thinking that safer spaces has to mean something other than censorship and rejection or condemnation for ideas that are offensive to some. Safer spaces should aim to make space for people to hear each other out, civilly and respectfully. Safer spaces should aim to make everyone’s opinions accepted. Safer spaces should aim to support EVERYONE, not create a pecking order of vulnerability and oppression.
I do think it’s problematic that there is confusion between drag queens and trans women. But I don’t think it’s solely drag queens’ faults and I don’t think it’s solely trans women’s faults. I think it’s our lack of community. I mean, we’re talking about trans women condemning effeminate gay men who dress up (some of them) like women. Really? Do we really want to be this fractured and silo’d in our small corner of the world?
And as to RuPaul using the word “tranny” to describe himself: I think it’s a little bit irresponsible of him not to at least acknowledge that the word is derogatory to some people in the trans community. However, as he explained (and I believe him), he was referring to the transvestite community which uses the term freely and without negative connotation. When does that part of the “community” get to be recognized and acknowledged for who and what they are and how they feel?
How about we make a rule to respect everyone? Simple? Not really. Because one person’s respect, is another person’s offense. More about respect next week.