Logo TV announced this week that it would pull the iconic “You’ve Got She-Mail” phrase from further episodes of RuPaul’s Drag Race, apologizing for being “insensitive” after an Advocate blogger blasted RuPaul for using what she believed to be a “transphobic slur.”
Though the show has used the phrase to precede announcements given by RuPaul for the last six seasons, the controversy came after a recent episode repurposed the term for a challenge called “Female or She-Male.” In response to the controversy, Logo also began removing older episodes of Drag Race from their online archives.
Not everyone agrees with Logo’s decision to censor the iconic phrase. A number of former RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants and trans activists, including Our Lady J and Andrea James, have voiced opinions in opposition to the “politically correct ideals” that fueled the campaign*.
Below, some of the most notable Drag Race alums sound off on the topic at hand:
“In my opinion this is so ridiculous! What upsets me even more is the fact that some of the contestants that are complaining about it didn’t have a problem being on the show or getting their fame and success knowing this was part of show. Never was this intended to offend anyone or upset anyone. I love the transgender community soooooo much but I have to say “SheMail” had nothing to do with you until some of the transgender community made it about themselves. I understand how as a community some feel this brings the community and the view of gender identity harder to accept but in all reality you are what you answer to. If you feel the word does not represent who you are then it shouldn’t bother you to begin with.
The show has created such a place for the LGBT community in this world. It has made it ok for us to be who we are and has shown the world we are not freaks and we deserve love just like anyone else in this world. The show has not only had transgender guests but many prior contestants that are transgender and have done nothing but given them love, support, respect and catapulted their career plus given them a voice that may otherwise have been silent or not as loud had it not been for a show that gave them support. This subject saddens me because it is our community that has decided this word describes who we are and considers it a negative.
I support the transgender community and have so many close friends that I love dearly. I want a world that accepts everyone for who they are and who they are meant to be.” — Phi Phi O’Hara, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 4
“RuPaul’s Drag Race is the first EVER show to feature an entire cast of drag queens. It has made us question gender rules dictated to us by our society. To me that is part of what drag is all about, breaking down those gender rules. When transgender contestants have opened up about who they are they were greeted with open arms. Yet, somehow this show is the enemy we should be fighting for to gain equality.
I do want to say, I love and respect all of my transgender friends and community. I always have and always will.
I was never offended nor were any of the contestants (who were fighting for screen time to get their face on TV) by the phrase “You’ve Got She-mail.” We all just saw it as a take off of America’s Next Top Model and then we all pretend to be “shes” for a living. This phrase has also been on the show for 5.5 seasons.
I certainly never want to see someone belittled and legitimately hurt by anything. In my opinion this was not hate speech. To me this just isn’t the battle that needed to be fought. This has the potential to open flood gates we may not want open. Trust me the list of offensive words is growing exponentially. I just don’t see this as a victory for transgender rights. We all already believed you should have them.
I certainly understand that words can indeed cause pain. I’ve dealt with that all my life. But then I realized that I am giving these words power over me. I refuse to be defined by words and I refuse to let words bring me down.” — Pandora Boxx, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 2
And because EVERYONE was offended, the entire season of RuPaul’s All Stars Drag Race will be edited off the face of the earth.” — Manila Luzon, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 3
I think [any man] who wears huge wigs, exaggerated make up, skimpy outfits, giant lashes, and impossible shoes to impersonate (slander) a woman is a complete misogynist!! They should all be edited out of all and past episodes of Rupaul’s Drag Race. — Sharon Needles, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 4
“Dumb dumb and even more fucking dumb!!!! If you were ever offended by the use of ” she mail” on drag race then to be honest you probably shouldn’t have been watching the show in the first place. Fuck stop taking shit so seriously and get over it. Whomever wants to argue the point don’t even bother messaging me because I could care less!!!!” — Shannel, RuPaul’s Drag Race season 1
“Apparently the punny and perky term ” You’ve got shemail” has been stricken from use on RuPaul’s Drag Race…..VICTORY!……..albeit a hollow one. A victory, because apparently you can petition and harangue and shame using the awesome power of social media to extract an apology…..hollow, in that it is hard to exact the requisite level of authentic remorse from such methods……..nevermind, surely the result must take precedence over the method……..Kudos kids.
“we outta have one of these every year”- Chastity Pariah” — Mathu Andersen, RuPaul’s Drag Race creative producer and stylist to RuPaul
“So once again people are mad at something that doesn’t concern them. I’m making a post about this to get a couple of things straight. First of all I’m not the one to accept slurs from anyone. I’ve always been that way. In high school I watched gay kids get beat up and bullied and you know what, I remained quiet. Why? Because I was afraid to be treated the same way. Some words do hurt other people. ?I hadn’t initially commented on the “Female or Shemale” game on Drag Race when many people initially came forward and complained about it. I sat and thought about it for a whole week. I decided to make a comment on how I believed drag race was a platform for drag artists to showcase their creativity and how the show brought a lot of acceptance to drag queens mainstream. I also said that drag race should be more conscious of the words they use and shouldn’t further objectify transwomen with a game that obviously hurt a lot of the shows fans in the first place. ?Drag race has now, weeks after they already made a comment about it and after I said my peace, that they are removing that word from the show. Great. Right? ?Well now I’m dealing with a bunch of people who think it’s ok to personally attack me on social media for standing up for those who were offended and hurt by the words on the show. That ain’t even cool boo. ?I can only do so much and honestly I rather be a real person than a fake bitch who will sit and allow others to use ignorance and hatred towards me or other trans people as if it’s ok. ?This isn’t high school. We need to grow up a little. It’s real life. I think people should educate themselves on respect and maybe, just maybe will the world begin to change for the better. ?I also think that using Ru-Mail or Fe-Mail may be a better substitute… Either way, you still get your favorite show and Rupaul still gets paid ?#?amenforthat ?#?peacebewithyou” — Carmen Carrera, transgender contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race season 3
And, of course, RuPaul herself has weighed in:
Orwell's book ANIMAL FARM: The rebels eventually forgot the purpose of the revolution #LibraryIsOpen
— RuPaul (@RuPaul) April 14, 2014
Orwell's book ANIMAL FARM: The pigs were never really interested in revolution, they secretly just wanted Farmer John's lifestyle
— RuPaul (@RuPaul) April 16, 2014
Carmen Carrera, the season 3 contestant credited with sparking the original debate through a strongly worded Facebook post, seems to be riding the line. She spoke on the topic again with Damiana Garcia at the 2014 GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles last week.
“I thought that it was brilliant because it took away from the typical meaning of ‘shemale’ and made it new,” she said. Speaking of her mainstream trans activism work alongside trans actress Laverne Cox, Carrera said “I think that it’s up to us to make sure that everyone knows what words are okay and what words are not okay”:
Also speaking with Garcia last week were Calpernia Addams and Andrea James, author of the essay that established the dissenting opinion. “World of Wonder has done more for trans people than any other production company in history,” said James, “and I felt like I wanted to provide some balance to what’s going on out there…We have to keep everything in perspective.”
Perhaps referring to an Advocate blogger’s proclamation that she “fucking hates RuPaul,” Addams added that “dialogue that’s happening between calm, rational, intelligent people with an eye towards history, I think, is where change is going to come from”:
Where do you stand on the issue?
*After reading this post, Andrea James would like to clarify that she “agreed with Logo’s decision to remove the phrase and spoke directly to the producers about why.”