i haven’t really talked to anybody about this yet, and don’t get me wrong i really loved Jinkx Monsoon as a competitor on drag race
…but it was only when as Jinkx mentioned “gay marriage” on the reunion episode i knew she had sealed the deal. then, and only then. RuPaul has worked very hard to…
EHRMAHGERD DIS SHIT IS TOOO FUNNY YO!!!
Okay. This rant has been a long time coming. Deal. I’m getting on the soap box. I’m gonna belt from the bottom of my lungs, and you’re just gonna have to eat it.
Don’t get it twisted. I love me some RuPaul’s Drag Race. This show has been my guilty pleasure back since season 1, fresh off the heels of Barack Obama’s first election. I’ve been seeing drag queens perform at clubs since I set foot in a gay club for the first time at 17, and truly admire it as an art form; despite it’s shortcomings in self reflection and counterspection (at Oberlin, that’s a word) but that’s a whole ‘nother rant and ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.
My issues stems from the treatment of Latina queens throughout the history of the series. I’m aware that I might catch some flak for this but here goes anyways. Latina queens are consistently shafted and get the short end of the (lip)stick, pardon the lame pun. They have been present in every season thankfully, and they have presented some of the more memorable characters, but I feel like the odds are not only blatantly stacked against them, but also in a more surreptitious manner. Drag Race paradoxically reinforces and worships at the throne of American culture and fawns over its hegemony. RuPaul, much like most American’s can’t really come to terms with the fact that other people outside of the American English-speaking cultural sphere have their own unique cultures and experiences, and when confronted with these seemingly heretical viewpoints, subordinate said cultures to the mainstream “ideal.” This also continues and is visible in the interaction between a queen from Pittsburgh for example, and a queen from Bayamón. The micro-aggressive behaviors of some anglo queens toward the latinas only reinforces the “less than” status they are afforded not only in the competition, but within the larger constructs of American English-speaking society.
The first overt difficulty in being a dq from puerto rico is obviously the language barrier. This is sort of the elephant in the room. How do you expect a drag queen, who’s art is partially defined by biting wit and scathing repartee, who’s first language is spanish, to have the comfort required with english to be a veritable wigged-wordsworth? It’s more than just language. It has to do with cultural acclimatization. Growing up in Latin America, most people will not be exposed to Diana Ross and the Supremes and therefore have a tangential knowledge of said group at best.
I get it, Drag Race is an American show. It is informed by American culture, we speak English in America; all valid and inherently sound arguments. If that’s the case, then segregate the whole darn thing. Have a “Walter Mercado’s Drag Race” and the tag line will be “con mucho mucho… Amorrrr.” I’d rather the indignity of “separate but equal” than watch the Latina girls basically serve as cannon-fodder over the same critiques every season, namely… “we can’t believe you don’t know who or what (insert stereotypical gay cultural icon) is” or the perennial favorite “we don’t understand what you’re saying” At least in an all spanish show the latina drag queens wouldn’t already have to deal with the added penalty of the language barrier.
Now, the second type of discrimination (yes, that’s what it is) that the latina girls face is less tangible, rather more esoteric; actually downright near invisible. However, to the trained ear, micro-aggression and the delusion inducing drug that is privilege have a way of rearing their ugly heads. Two distinct moments stand out for me.
In season 4, I forget which episode, I actually think it was an untucked, Sharon Needles is talking to Kenya Michaels and at one point literally laughs in her face and says something to the effect of I have no idea what you’re saying, or learn english. DO NOT quote me on that, while the memory may be blurry, it’s still stinging because Sharon was basically asserting her dominance of Kenya as a white male, fully ensconced in the American cultural continuum (while posing as an outsider, as most drag queens are wont to do.) Kenya’s reaction was as legible as a newspaper; she was shut down. She was silenced, stifled. She was ridiculed, made to look dumb, stupid, just because she was from a tropical island instead of a city rusting in the hills of western pennsylvania. Sharon laughed it off and tendered a weak apology because I think even she realized the harshness of her words, but the deed had been done.
As talented, transformative, and Transylvanian as Sharon Needles is, I found her behavior incredibly provincial and small minded and for that I have always harbored equanimity for her, and that’s on a good day. For as much as drag queens love to talk about being on the fringes of society at best, here was a clear example of society’s strictures and hierarchies of power poisoning a space that is supposedly anathema to those very same constructs. Sharon throwing around her white and english speaking privilege was not cute it, was drop dead ugly.
That only got the ball rolling. Last night’s interview with Lyneysha Sparx really broke the camel’s back for me. To make it all worse, it was Ru that this time perpetrated the micro-aggression; my heart is still breaking. RuPaul is the personification of the “other.” Part of his brilliance, as he is so quick to point out, is his ability to transform being a social outcast into cultural currency. However, his comment just sort of left my ears ringing over it’s just plain ignorance and insensitivity.
Asking if Lyneysha had since leaving the show learned a song by Diana Ross, Lyneysha cheekily says no, at with point RuPaul turns to face of stage and yells “Immigration!”
I get it, it was funny. It was rude and tongue and cheek in that way that drag queens are. I know RuPaul did not mean any malintention from this quip at all, but it still hurt because it’s not RuPaul’s story, it’s not her pain. That is privilege.
Puerto Ricans are. not. immigrants. This happens all too often. When justice Sotomayor was being scrutinized by the press I clearly remember newspaper correcting reports saying that her parents were not immigrants, they were migrants. Puerto Ricans have been US citizens since 1917, and this joke, albeit seemingly harmless, is the micro-aggression. A remark here, a joke there, that ultimately reinforces the standing prejudices and unspoken power dynamics present in society. Lyneysha laughed it off, what else was she to do, really.
All I know is that if that would’ve been my ass up on stage in a wig and a dress, I would’ve told a bitch, oh hell to tha no.
Season V champion, Jinkx Monsoon.
Look how fucking orange you look, girl.
REBLOG if you want Jinkx Monsoon to be America’s Next Drag Superstar!