13 trans Drag Race icons who opened doors and left us gagging
RuPaul’s Drag Race would be nothing without its trans queens.
Fans were instantly hooked when the first episode of season 14 introduced the world to Kerri Colby and Kornbread “The Snack” Jeté, two of the show’s fiercest queens yet.
Kerri Colby instantly sashayed into the RuPaul’s Drag Race hall of fame when she arrived in the werk room wearing the colours of the trans flag. Kornbread left fans gagged with her hilarious quips and her iconic looks. You might have guessed by now, but we’re already obsessed.
There was mild controversy when Gia Gunn implied that she’d “opened the doors” for Kerri and Kornbread. She’s one of Drag Race’s most iconic trans queens, but she’s far from the only one.
“There’s a trans girl on Drag Race because we all fought for a trans girl on Drag Race,” wrote Carmen Carerra. And she’s right.
In 2018, there was widespread backlash and anger within the fan community when RuPaul said he “probably” wouldn’t admit a trans woman if she had already started undergoing gender affirming treatments.
Trans queens had competed previously. Among them was Kylie Sonique Love, who came out as trans in her season reunion, and Peppermint, who shared her truth with the other queens in the werk room, competing openly as a trans woman. But queens like these were the exception.
RuPaul’s words – and later apology – led to something of a revolution in the world of Drag Race. The show has since begun to embrace trans queens openly, celebrating their contributions to the art form – without which, there would be no drag.
As Kerri and Kornbread wave the trans flag in season 14, we take a look back just some of the legendary trans queens who came and conquered on Drag Race.
1. Kylie Sonique Love
No list of trans drag icons would be complete without Kylie Sonique Love, who stole our hearts on season two and later came back with a vengeance on All Stars.
Kylie was openly trans in her personal life when she appeared on season two of Drag Race, but she only opened up about her gender identity on that season’s reunion episode.
Luckily, that wasn’t the last we saw of Kylie Sonique Love. She returned for the sixth season of All Stars in 2021 – and she went on to win the contest in what was a history-making moment for the show. That remarkable victory made her the first ever out trans woman to win on the US version of the show.
2. Stacy Layne Matthews
Stacy Layne Matthews instantly amassed a massive fanbase when she appeared on season three of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Sadly, the self-proclaimed “country queen” didn’t last that long on the show – she was eventually sent home in episode seven, but by then, she had already left her mark.
Matthews came out as trans after her time on Drag Race, and she later made a cameo appearance on All Stars season four.
3. Carmen Carrera
Also competing on season three was Carmen Carrera. The New Jersey queen wowed fans with her runway looks, but she was later eliminated in episode 10.
The following year, Carrera came out as trans. In the years since, she has forged a successful career for herself as a model and trans rights activist.
Crucially, she also helped drive change behind the scenes on Drag Race. In 2014, Carrera called out RuPaul and Drag Race for the use of the term “she-male” and the transphobic slur “t****y”. Her comments led to those offensive terms being dropped from season seven onwards.
4. Jiggly Caliente
Jiggly Caliente was the breath of fresh air RuPaul’s Drag Race desperately needed when she landed on the fourth season of the show.
Her outfits might not always have been top notch, but her humour and her heart cemented her as one of Drag Race‘s biggest icons.
Jiggly didn’t come out as trans until long after she competed on Drag Race. She opened up about her gender identity in 2016, and later starred on the groundbreaking FX series Pose.
5. Monica Beverly Hillz
It’s hard to forget the incredible moment Monica Beverly Hillz came out as a trans woman to the Drag Race judges.
Just two episodes into season five, Monica wasn’t doing so well – the judges weren’t impressed with her performances, describing her as “sad” and “disconnected”.
Those comments led to Monica tearfully explaining: “I’m not just a drag queen, I’m a transgender woman.”
Sadly, Monica was eliminated the following week. We still wish she had gone further in the competition and had gotten the chance to unleash her talents upon the Drag Race runway.
6. Jinkx Monsoon
The winner of season five, Jinkx Monsoon is one of the all-time Drag Race greats.
After winning the crown she shared with the world: “My gender does not fit into the box assigned to my genitalia. I lie somewhere between the lines.”
Jinkx has gone on to carve out an incredible career, performing to crowds around the world. And as far as Drag Race goes, we have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of her.
7. Laganja Estranja
There are few queens quite as memorable as the season six icon Laganja Estranja. Her werk room death drop and her catchphrases immediately cemented her position as one of Drag Race‘s most meme-able queens.
In June 2021, Laganja proudly revealed that she was a trans woman, vowing that she would no longer “live in fear”.
“There are so many other women around me who’ve inspired me to come forward today, and it’s because of their fight and their struggle that I’m able to really do this and say that I’m nervous, but I’m not scared,” she said, shortly before returning as a lip sync assassin.
8. Gia Gunn
Also on season six was the absolutely memorable Gia Gunn, whose catchphrases and on-point style earned her a huge following.
Gia may not have made it all the way on Drag Race – she was eliminated after going head to head with Laganja in a lip-sync battle – but she has made a huge career for herself since.
In 2017, Gia revealed that she was trans. She later emerged as one of RuPaul’s biggest critics when he suggested that trans women who had already undergone gender affirming treatment shouldn’t be allowed on the show.
Gia later appeared on season four of All Stars, however she was eliminated after underperforming on Snatch Game.
Peppermint was a breath of fresh air when she burst onto the show’s ninth season.
She had it all – the style, the grace, the humour – and she well and truly secured her place in the Drag Race hall of fame. She eventually finished as runner-up to the icon that is Sasha Velour.
Peppermint came out as trans in 2012, and she spoke publicly about her gender in 2016, one year before she appeared on Drag Race.
Aja arrived like a storm into season nine of RuPaul’s Drag Race – she tragically bowed out in ninth place, but she later returned for season three of All Stars, proving that she has some serious staying power.
In 2018, Aja came out as non-binary, and in December 2021, she revealed that she has come to realise that she is a trans woman.
She launched a crowdfunder at the time to raise funds for her gender affirming treatments, writing: “I have lived my life as non-binary since 2018 and have recently began to identify more with the feminine aspect of my identity.”
11. Gigi Goode
Another Drag Race icon who came out as trans after her time on the show was season 12 star Gigi Goode.
Goode first came out as gender-fluid two years ago, but in a video posted to Instagram in August 2021, she revealed that she had come to realise she was also trans and non-binary.
In the heartfelt video, Goode opened up about how the pandemic had prompted her to think about her gender.
“On Drag Race, which was almost two years ago, I came out as gender-fluid, which I still very much identify with,” she said. “I would say that I’m leaning more towards the non-binary side of that.
“If the world hadn’t shut down, I really wouldn’t have to process it further.”
She added: “I do identify as a trans, non-binary person, but I prefer she/her pronouns.”
12. Bimini Bon Boulash
There have been many non-binary queens on Drag Race seasons all around the world, but Bimini Bon Boulash made an impact like no other.
The self-described “gender-bender, cis-tem offender” won fans on Drag Race UK season two with their humour and heart, and educated the masses on what it means to be non-binary in a touching werk room chat with Ginny Lemon.
They were a worthy runner-up to Lawrence Chaney, and have gone on to become one of Britain’s most prominent – and vocal – pinknews bimini
This list wouldn’t be complete without Gottmik, the season 13 star who made history as the first trans man to compete on RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Gottmik – who uses she/her pronouns when in drag – instantly gripped fans with her effortlessly subversive style and top-notch comedic skills.
While Gottmik ultimately bowed out as a runner-up, she managed to command the attention of Drag Race fans everywhere. She has a huge following online and her future is bright – and it’s not hard to see why.