Gottmik and trans representation on Drag Race – why we're gagged

Ella Porteous 10 March 2021

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of InQuire Media

Image courtesy of VH1

After the disastrous year that was 2020, RuPaul’s Drag Race blessed our screens with its return on New Year’s Day. The Emmy Award-winning series has made its grand return for its thirteenth season, however this year, one contestant has made Drag Race history as the first transgender man to compete on the show.

At just 24, Gottmik (she/her in drag, he/him out of drag) is the first FTM trans drag queen on RuPaul’s Drag Race. Originally from Arizona, Gottmik resides in Los Angles, California, as a drag queen and make-up artist, making a prominent name for herself within the performance industry. Receiving significant praise from the media and the drag community, Gottmik has quickly become a fan favourite for her eye-catching monochrome looks.

Throughout the show so far, Gottmik hasn’t been shy in displaying her body; proudly showing off her top surgery scars as well as openly discussing her transition in the workroom and how this has shaped the drag that she performs. In a recent episode, Gottmik was shown almost tearing up at hearing her parents called her by her boy name, Kade. It is this kind of representation that is extremely important for the trans community, helping normalise the inclusion of trans individuals in mainstream TV shows.

Although the first transgender man on the show, Gottmik is not the first transgender queen to compete. Trans women such as Jiggly Caliente, Carmen Carrera, Monica Beverly Hillz, and Peppermint have all been previous contestants on the show. However, over the years, RPDR has received significant backlash as a result of its lack of diversity amongst its contestants, the majority of whom are cisgender and gay. This also followed RuPaul’s controversial comments in 2018 where he stated that he would not include trans women on the show in the future. RuPaul’s exclusion of trans women received significant backlash from fans of the show and despite quickly backtracking his statement, it has not been forgotten.

Yet, it is not only American Drag Race that has seen contestants open up about their gender identity. In the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK that also premiered last month, queens Bimini Bon Boulash and Ginny Lemon made powerful statements about being non-binary. In an intimate and candid discussion, the two shared a heartwarming moment about coming to terms with their gender identity; bonding over their journey of self-discovery as non-binary. This followed Ginny’s explanation as to why their signature colour is yellow, as it is one of the three colours of the non-binary flag - representing how gender exists outside of the binary. Providing a refreshing and inspiring discussion on being non-binary, the pair expressed the difficulties of trying to find your place in a world where exploring gender identity that everts away from either male or female is still relatively taboo.

Following the episode, many took to social media to praise both Bimini and Ginny for their openness and sincerity on a topic that is rarely discussed on mainstream television. This raises the importance of mainstream media outlets such as the BBC for airing programs such as Drag Race for millions across the UK to see and allowing people to see themselves represented on the screen.

Although all three queens have received significant praise and admiration across the media for their openness regarding their gender identities, Gottmik was recently the victim of transphobic remarks made by Nina Bo’nina Brown, a previous contestant on the ninth season of the show. In a video uploaded to her YouTube channel, Nina provided a commentary on the latest episode of Drag Race, in which Gottmik strutted down the runway practically naked except for pasties and a tiny black dress covering her crotch. In a snide remark, Nina stated that “Of course, Gottmik can wear this and still have curves - oh we know why.”

Nina’s transphobia represents a wider issue of discrimination trans people receive when they don’t conform to the preconceived notions of the gender they identify as, and Gottmik’s femininity and self-expression through drag is an example of this. Drag began as a way to break down barriers and push boundaries on gender and self-expression and omitting trans people from this narrative is extremely hypocritical.

Gottmik’s inclusion within the show is monumentally important for the transgender community, allowing other trans individuals to see themselves represented on TV and providing an empowering message that no matter how you identify, there is always space for you to do what you love.

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