India Willoughby doubles down on ‘drag phobia’ remarks on Celebrity Big Brother
News broadcaster India Willoughby has repeated claims that she has a phobia of drag queens on Celebrity Big Brother after a performance by Drag Race queen Courtney Act.
Trans news broadcaster India Willoughby was slammed by Celebrity Big Brother viewers after claiming to have a phobia of drag queens on the show – even though photos surfaced on social media of her at Pride events alongside drag performers.
On Tuesday night’s show she hit out at drag queens again – after housemate Shane Jenek, who is better known for performing as Courtney Act, helped a fellow contestant, Apprentice star Andrew Brady, to transform into a drag queen for a performance task.
After a two hour makeover, Jenek revealed their work to a delighted group.
Willoughby said: “This is going to freak me out guys, I’ll just be honest before it turns up.
“Just so you don’t think I’m being funny… I don’t know if you know I have a bit of a phobia about drag queens. My heart is racing. As long as he doesn’t pester me… and it’s nothing personal against Andrew.
“I’ve got my shades on, I’m going to shut my eyes.”
She threatened to boycott the task, saying: “I’m just conscious I don’t want it to look like homophobia because it’s not that. It’s just the drag act…”
Willoughby later voted for Courtney as the best performer, however.
Answering questions earlier in the show about gender identity and drag, Courtney Act, now the favourite to win Celebrity Big Brother, said: “She’s alright with me because we’ve had a talk. When I first came in she said she felt uncomfortable… I think the thing she struggled with is that people might see me and see her and think that we are the same thing…
“She’d never identified as a drag queen. Drag is more performance-based, hers is about gender identity. She was never a ‘man’ but she had a male body.
“The process normally for somebody like her is that you’d start wearing women’s clothes and then you’d go to the doctor and get hormones. I feel very comfortable with my body; I’m a man. But if gender is a spectrum from man to woman, I feel like I’m more in the middle but on the male side. And she is a radical conformist when it comes to gender. She is as close to womanhood in her mind as one can get.”
After ‘Betty Swollocks’ was unveiled earlier in the week, the 51-year-old stormed away from the room and began to cry – pinning her distress on her “drag phobia”.
“It did [upset me]. Why? I’m a woman, not what [he thinks] a woman! Not a man. A man walked into the room in a dress, and everyone laughed at it.
“I’ve got something called gender dysphoria, which you can only resolve with medical attention. Someone coming in dressed that way, freaks me out.”
Willoughby then compared drag to blackface, adding: “Transexual people have suffered over the years, a lot of laughter. Probably like the old days when the black-and-white minstrels put on a show… Obviously, black people would find that offensive.”
The comments sparked outrage among her fellow housemates, with Brady calling her a “f***ing d***head”.
Malika, another housemate, was also angered over Willoughby’s response.
“Everyone should not have to stop their fun because of one person,” she said. “Male, female, transgender, gay, bisexual, lesbian — whatever the heck you want to be. Be a zebra. No-one has done that. If I had a phobia, I’m not looking for permission. I’m getting out of there.”
Online, similar outrage was expressed over her comparison between drag and blackface.
“India’s credibility as a human being was over the minute she compared drag to blackface. I have no words. How can someone be so ignorant, speechless,” one person wrote.
Another said: “Did India really just compare the black and white minstrels to drag queens ? Oh dear oh dear.”
“She’s coming across anything but fabulous. Attention seeking, nasty piece of work with a grudge against the world. Not doing any good for the trans community,” a third added.
Others branded her a “disgrace and a hypocrite” and a “big delusional ball of nonsense” that was making the other contestants “on egg shells”.
She was also criticised as photos taken from her Twitter account showed that she had socialised with drag queens in the past.
The photos, which were taken at Harrogate Pride with some drag queens from the collective Haus of Dench, also contradicted Willoughby’s claims that she had never been to a Pride event.
Sharing screenshots of the photos, one CBB viewer tweeted: ” It’s amazing how India has an incredible phobia of drag queens. I’ll just leave these here…make of it what you will…#cbb #cbbuk.”
Since entering the house, Willoughby has been at the centre of a number of controversies, including her flippant dismissal of gender fluid people.
“For people like me, it’s not a part-time thing and not a choice”, Willoughby said.
“That word ‘transgender’ can mean anything from RuPaul to someone who’s Bob one day and Barbara another day, and I think that cheapens the seriousness of it”.
The RuPaul’s Drag Race season six runner-up identifies as gender fluid when not in drag, but uses female pronounces when performing.
Viewers have also defended Willoughby after she was misgendered by two other housemates, Ann Widdecombe and Rachel Johnson.
Willoughby quipped that her mother named her after her favourite restaurant, an Indian.
Ann Widdecombe responded: “I think he’s pulling your leg.”
India snapped back quickly: “I do beg your pardon.”
Later in the episode, Willoughby approached Widdecombe to address the incident.
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“I just wanted to say I know you misgendered me earlier today,” she said. “That’s fine.”
Widdecombe tried to defend her actions claiming that if the house had not been discussing Willoughby’s transition so much she would not have misgendered her.
“It’s not a big issue,” Willoughby continued. “You know it hurts trans people when that happens, but it wasn’t deliberate.”
To which Widdecombe agreed that “it certainly wasn’t deliberate.”
Further controversy was caused by a clip from Celebrity Big Brother’s Bit On The Side showed that Rachel Johnson also used the male pronoun in reference to Willoughby.