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Trans and non-binary representation in mainstream drag TV

drag queen

Drag is an art form spanning decades, its reason for existing and forms of existence varying over time.

Special collaboration: Alex Simon is an American-born and Montreal-based student interested in LGBTQ+ and trans realities. They themselves being non-binary, they proposed the idea to GrS Montreal of writing articles on their blog TransAvenue.

Once a form of survival for gender non-conforming individuals, it now also serves as a form of expression and entertainment. And while popular shows such as Rupaul’s Drag Race and its numerous spin-offs have encountered issues over the years due notably to lack of inclusivity and its sometimes questionable portrayal of gender nonconformity and femininity overall, numerous transgender and non-binary contestants have graced the stage and set a precedent for future representation. Not all of the contestants mentioned below were openly out at the time of the show’s filming, but all contestants who came out during or after recording have been included. Here is a look at the individuals having competed on RuPaul’s Drag Race USA, Drag Race Canada, Drag Race UK, Drag Race Thailand, Drag Race Holland and Boulet Brother’s Dragula.

*Warning: The following contains spoilers*

USA

Season 1 and 11 are the seasons with the fewest out contestants, with no trans or non-binary contestants that we know of.

Season two brought Sonique, who came out as trans during the season’s reunion episode. Pandora Boxx, who placed fifth on season 2 and was the first eliminated in All Stars 1, came out genderfluid in 2016.

Season three brought Carmen Carrera and Stacy Layne Matthews. Carrera is known for her “nude” style of drag and now works as a model and transgender rights activist. Matthews is known as a country queen who also made a cameo in season four of Drag Race All Stars.

Season four brought three trans contestants: Kenya Michaels, Lashauwn Beyond and Jiggly Caliente. Michaels, standing at only five feet tall, is a Puerto Rican queen who placed fifth during the season. She also survived the mass shooting at the Pulse night club in Florida in 2016. Lashauwn Beyond, who coined the infamous line “This is not RuPaul’s Best Friend Race”, was the second queen to be eliminated during the season. Caliente came in eighth place during season four. She also came out as trans in 2016, and has both a career in music and acting, playing a recurring character on the popular show Pose.

Season five brought three trans and non-binary queens: Monica Beverly Hillz, Honey Mahogany and Jinx Monsoon. Hillz was the third queen to be eliminated during the season and came out as a trans woman shortly before being eliminated. Mahogany was eliminated in the following episode alongside Vivienne Pinay in the series’ first double elimination. She now works as an elected official in the state of California. Musically trained contestant Jinx Monsoon won season five and holds the record for the most consecutive weeks of being in the top (nine weeks).

Season six stands out with seven trans and non-binary contestants, the most in the series’ franchise. Kelly Mantle was amongst the first to be eliminated in the season’s unique two-part premiere (the group having been split in two, she was eliminated in her group’s premiere). April Carrion, who placed 11th during her season, came out as genderqueer in 2016 on National Coming Out Day. Gia Gunn, the fifth queen to have been eliminated during the season, also participated in Drag Race All Stars 4, where she placed eighth. She came out as transgender during the All Stars 4 premiere. Laganja Estranja placed eighth during the season, and now works both on musical endeavors and cannabis advocacy. BenDeLaCreme placed fifth during her season, and shockingly eliminated herself during her stint on All Stars 3. She has been working alongside fellow Seattle queen Jinx Monsoon on numerous musical productions. Adore Delano and Courtney Act both made it to the season six finale but came short of the crown.

Season seven showcased two genderfluid queens, Miss Fame and Violet Chachki. Both known as fashion queens, Fame came in seventh place, and Chachki took home the crown.

On season eight, New York queen Bob the Drag Queen took the stage and ultimately won the season.

Season nine also shined a spotlight on numerous trans and non-binary contestants. Aja, who no longer considers themselves a drag queen but rather an entertainer and rapper, came in ninth place during season nine and seventh place in All Stars 3. Valentina, a latinx queen who became infamous for attempting to lip-sync a song with a mask on, came in seventh place on both season nine and All Stars 4. Nina Bo’Nina Brown, known for her cosplay-inspired make-up, placed sixth during her season. Three trans and non-binary queens placed in the finals of season nine: Peppermint, Sasha Velour and Shea Coulée. Peppermint and Sasha Velour lip-synced in the finale, with Velour taking the crown. Coulée took home the win in All Stars 5.

Two queens from season 10 have come out as non-binary. New York queen Yuhua Hamasaki placed twelfth during the season. Eureka O’Hara, who initially took part in season nine but had to leave due to a knee injury, made her way to the finale but did not win the crown.

Five contestants from season twelve have come out as non-binary: Dahlia Sin, Nicky Doll, Rock M Sakura, Crystal Methyd and Gigi Goode. Sin, Sakura, and Doll were the first three queens to be eliminated, in that order. Crystal Methyd and Gigi Goode made their way to the finale, but both lost their chance at the crown in a three-way, virtual lip-sync (pandemic obliging).

Season thirteen, currently airing, features the franchise’s first transgender man Gottmik.

Canada

Although Canada’s Drag Race has only aired one season so far, two non-binary contestants have already graced the stage. British Columbia queen Ilona Verley came out as two-spirit and genderfluid towards the beginning of the season and is from the Nlaka’pamux First Nation. Scarlet bobo, who uses they/them pronouns, made it to the finale and was a runner-up for the crown.

UK

With season one airing in 2019 and season two premiering January 14th, numerous non-binary contestants have or will be competing. Season one brought us Gothy Kendoll, Crystal, Blu Hydrangea and Divina De Campo. Kendoll, with their lack of experience, was the first to be eliminated. Crystal was unafraid of showing off her chest hair and low-pitched voice throughout the season and placed sixth overall. Irish queen Blu Hydrangea unofficially won the title of Miss Congeniality during the season and placed fifth overall. She also has a growing following on TikTok showing diverse make-up looks. Divina De Campo, known for their whistle tone as seen during a group challenge alongside fellow non-binary queen Blu Hydrangea, made their way to the finale but lost their chance at the crown. They are one of few queens in the franchise to never have been up for elimination. With season two, two queens have come out as non-binary: Bimini Bon Boulash and Ginny Lemon.

Thailand

Season one, having aired in 2018, showcased Meannie Minaj who openly discussed her transition during filming. She however was the first queen to be eliminated. In 2019, Kandy Zyanide and Angele Anang took the stage. Zyanide was initially eliminated during the fourth episode but was brought back and eventually became fan-favorite and runner-up for the crown. Anang won the title of “Thailand’s Next Drag Superstar”.

Holland

Drag Race Holland is one of the newer spin-offs in the franchise, and currently has only one season. Ma’Ma Queen, the only openly non-binary queen of the season, was eliminated during the finale but won the title of Miss Congeniality.

Dragula

The Boulet Brother’s Dragula draws parallels to the main Drag Race franchise but leans into more alternative and horror-based styles. There is less information to be found in the media regarding the contestant’s gender identities, so I might be overlooking some competitors. My apologies in advance.

When season one premiered in 2017, only nine competitors graced the stage. Vander Van Odd, who came out as genderqueer, won the title of the World’s First Drag Supermonster.

Three non-binary queens made their way to the top in season 2: James Majesty and Victoria Elizabeth Black were runners-up for the crown, and Biqtch Puddin’ winning the title.

Three trans and non-binary contestants also graced the stage in season 3: Maxi Glamour (8th place), Hollow Eve (7th place) and Priscilla Chambers (runner-up).

Alex Simon

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