For fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race, the biannual DragCon offers a welcome opportunity to fully immerse in drag culture.
Through attending performances, purchasing merchandise from brands they love, and meeting their favorite queens, the fans are given a weekend full of queer magic.
And this year in New York City, RuPaul debuted the first of the panel discussions that the drag legend has named RuTalks. In the first RuTalk ever, RuPaul sat down for a discussion with New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow to discuss many topics, from politics to sexual abuse and the importance of voting.
RuPaul has been pretty outspoken via Twitter about his distaste for Donald Trump and other social injustices, but leading a discussion in this kind of way is a new role for him. It’s motivating to see him step into his political pumps and serve some Democracy fish. It also encourages and recognizes the political importance and structure of drag.
This aligning of a drag icon and one of the most incisive political and cultural speakers of our time sparked a great conversation and addressed a number of significant issues. Here are a few of the highlights:
Brett Kavanaugh & Sexual Violence
Not wasting any time, RuPaul dived right into a discussion about the politics surrounding Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination, asking Blow if he thought there was an element to the story that wasn’t being reported. Blow shared that he thought it was being reported, but that the conversation we see on TV “was kind of off the rails and not of the kind of quality that it should have been.”
Blow went on to share his own story, saying “this conversation is important to me as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse but also because in the queer community we’re overpopulated with these stories.”
Hypocrisy of Conservatives
RuPaul has not been a fan of Conservative Christian hypocrisy, saying “in this situation we have someone who has been very offensive [Kavanaugh] and I’m interested in how hypocritical the conservatives have been, that’s the big news here. We’ve got this situation and they are just turning their heads away from it.” Blow agreed, stating that the 2016 election was a turning point for the entire Republican party, who after getting Trump elected “basically sold their souls to the devil.”
Blow encouraged people to vote in the November elections, preaching: “they believe they are immune to it. I think it’s our job to show them in the midterms that they are not immune to it.”
In a culture bombarded with terrible news, RuPaul worried about how social media and the need to escape have led to a increasingly apathetic society.
Blow explained that apathy is a product of a systematic program that politicians love, saying “American politicians don’t want you to care so they do everything they can to make you feel crestfallen.” He even discussed people who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election and how they contributed to the mess we’re all in, citing how often people said “they can’t morally vote for the lesser of two evils.”
Blow found this argument silly. “Even if you believe that, it is still lesser.”
Getting the country back
An important part of the conversation was trying to find solutions to regaining a sense of normalcy and finding a way out of what can often feel like a helpless situation. RuPaul probed Blow about what it will take to turn this around. “Is it complete catastrophe?” he asked.
Blow highlighted the sociological aspects of how people show up to vote in elections, saying “when people win they get lazy and when they lose they get angry.” He insisted on the importance of showing up to vote in order to ensure “a future where you don’t have to go through these cycles of anger and depression.”
Feminism, #MeToo and Drag
When asked by an audience member (me) about where RuPaul thought drag and feminism intersect in the current cultural climate, given the growth of the #MeToo movement, Ru joked: “I don’t have an answer. It’s a very intelligent question, you’re gonna have to get back to me on that one.” He then continued and spoke about how drag as an art form is itself political, calling it an “f-you” to the structures and beliefs that oppress many of us, including women, as he closed out the event.
Over the years, RuPaul has been heavily scrutinized for transphobia and the racial issues surrounding RuPaul’s Drag Race. This panel and discussion opens the door for many who have criticized him before to see him in a more socially conscious light. As one of the most famous LGBTQ people in the entire world and one who possesses immense power, it’s important for RuPaul to shape culture not just by creating visibility but also through education.
This panel might be proof that you can teach an old queen new stunts.