With season 15 of RuPaul’s Drag Race coming to a close after its grand finale a few weeks ago, there is lots to take away.
Drag is the act of dressing as a different gender, frequently for performance purposes. It has a long and rich history, but it has come under fire from right-wing politicians and activists. The ferociously competitive season was broadcast while anti-drag queen and anti-trans laws swept the nation, putting LGBTQ+ rights at risk. Over the season, the subject would come up frequently, and Drag Race, MTV, and World of Wonder went on to fund and publicize the ACLU’s “Drag Defense Fund.”
In the 12th episode of the season, the queens appeared in a Wigloose Rusical, a remade version of Footloose where a local teacher is trying to outlaw drag. This sparked a significant discussion on anti-drag laws and how they are impacting our world right now. Trans drag icon Sasha Colby shared some concerns during the episode’s confessional. These included concerns about the future of drag and gender expression as well as how new laws are limiting queer individuals from being themselves publicly. Several of the drag-focused legislation are essentially covert attempts to discriminate against trans people. “The state of the world that we live in is so wild. Now they want to outlaw drag and they feel entitled to hurt you,” Colby said in the episode. “It’s such a hard place to be because you really want to be yourself and celebrate who you are. But sometimes you have to be forced to be quiet for pure safety.”
The political backdrop surrounding drag was also stressed in the show’s reunion episode, which includes the cast reuniting after viewing themselves on film to review the season. In support of the participants with Connecticut connections Amethyst, Robin Fierce, Loosey LaDuca, and Jax, state officials from Connecticut submitted a video message during the episode. State Representatives Jeff Currey, Raghib Allie-Brennan, Marcus Brown, and Dominique Johnson, spoke on behalf of the state’s LGBTQ+ caucus and were present with Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz. The four queens, according to Bysiewicz and Allie-Brennan, “showed the nation what Connecticut has to offer,” making her “proud to be from Connecticut.” Queen Loosey Laduca said in response, “I’m really touched by that, actually. I feel like, growing up I didn’t really feel welcome. It’s such a small state, and I think that just shows that we’re really making a difference in the world and I think we forget that sometimes. My favorite thing to do is to go to Pride celebrations in Connecticut,” LaDuca added, “because I see so many kids and teenagers who look up to us and when they see us it makes them feel like their life isn’t going to be miserable. The fact that anything I’ve done can make my state feel like a more welcoming place really means the world to me.”
The Drag Race franchise’s production company, World of Wonder, has established the first-ever Drag Defense Fund, which, according to World of Wonder, was established with a sizable donation from MTV and Drag Race. The fund aids the ACLU’s work on LGBTQ issues. In a statement made public by WOW, Chase Strangio, the Deputy Director for Transgender Justice at the ACLU’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, expressed: “Families, communities, and transgender people ourselves are working tirelessly against a relentless assault on transgender people’s basic freedom and rights. Across the history of the queer community, our art and our joy have been censored, restricted, and criminalized and those pillars of our community are once again coming under attack. We’re thankful for the support of the Drag Defense Fund and are committed to protecting drag performers from these baseless and unconstitutional attacks on their art.”
Although this season was chock full of outrageous lip sync battles and fantastic outfits, its attention to the anti-drag hysteria that is still very much alive and well today is what will make this season such a historical movement for the LGBTQ+ community.
For more information on the attacks against the LGBTQ+ community, visit ACLU.org/dragdefense.