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RuPaul’s Drag Race Christmas special makes poignant trans change

Nick Duffy December 10, 2018
RuPaul appears on the RuPaul's Drag Race Holi-Slay Spectacular

RuPaul appears on the RuPaul's Drag Race Holi-Slay Spectacular

The RuPaul’s Drag Race Holi-Slay Spectacular Christmas special made a subtle change to an iconic Drag Race staple to be more trans-inclusive.

The drag reality contest aired a festive special on December 7, with a number of fan favourite drag queens making their return for the occasion.

Among those to appear was Sonique, who competed on Season 2 of Drag Race back in 2010 and came out as a transgender woman at the end of the season.

Sonique makes a comeback on the RuPaul's Drag Race Christmas special
Sonique makes a comeback on the RuPaul’s Drag Race Christmas special, RuPaul’s Drag Race Holi-Slay Spectacular.

The inclusion of Sonique comes after a firestorm sparked by RuPaul in March, when the TV host suggested trans women should not be eligible to appear on Drag Race.

Sonique’s trans identity was not referenced on the special, but Drag Race made one very subtle change to be more welcoming of the female contestant.

“Ladies and gentleman, start your engines, and may the best woman win.”

— RuPaul

Instead of a catchphrase used in nearly every episode of the show to date, “Gentleman, start your engines, and may the best woman win,” RuPaul said: “Ladies and gentleman, start your engines, and may the best woman win.”

The tweak was praised by fans on social media.

One noted: “Ru now says ‘ladies and gentlemen start your engines and may the best queen win’ and that makes me so so happy.”

Others said it was “the only good thing” about the special, which was otherwise panned for its lack of genuine competition and reliance on scripted segments.

RuPaul had said trans women couldn’t compete on RuPaul’s Drag Race

RuPaul was called out in March after claiming that he would “probably not” allow a trans woman to compete on the show.

“You can identify as a woman and say you’re transitioning, but it changes once you start changing your body,” RuPaul said.

“It takes on a different thing; it changes the whole concept of what we’re doing.”

RuPaul doubled down on the comments on Twitter and compared taking hormones as a queen to athletes on steroids.

“You can take performance enhancing drugs and still be an athlete, just not in the Olympics,” he said.

The television personality later apologised for the comments after being schooled on the importance of intersectionality by the likes of former contestants Courtney Act and Monica Beverly Hillz.

Mama Ru wrote on Twitter: “Each morning I pray to set aside everything I THINK I know, so I may have an open mind and a new experience.

“I understand and regret the hurt I have caused.

“The trans community are heroes of our shared LGBTQ movement. You are my teachers.”

RuPaul’s Drag Race has made trans-inclusive tweaks before

In 2015, the show ditched long-running catchphrase “You’ve got she-mail” following complaints from trans people that “she-male” is a transphobic slur.

RuPaul spoke out against the decision to axe the catchphrase, which was taken by production staff.

Speaking to the Guardian, RuPaul said: “I would not have changed it, but that’s their choice.

“Our intention was always coming from a place of love. On paper, you cannot read intention, so it was actually hurtful.

“First of all, drag is dangerous. We are making fun of everything. But when someone doesn’t get the joke or feels offended by it, it’s a lose-lose situation, because you can’t explain a joke.

“It isn’t funny if you explain it.”

In 2014, RuPaul vented about being banned from using the word “tranny” on the show.

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