Representation Matters

Gottmilk might have transitioned sooner if not for one thing

Gottmilk might have made history on RuPaul’s Drag Race, but being the first anybody is nothing if not bittersweet. “If I had [more trans male representation], I would have probably transitioned so much earlier,” Gottmilk reflected in a recent panel discussion, according to Variety, “so I always want to be loud and proud and out there.”

Gottmilk—who uses she/her pronouns in drag and he/him out of drag—became the first trans man on RuPaul’s Drag Race when she entered the competition in season 13. While she ultimately tied for third place, she was already a victor in more ways than one.

Her presence on the show was a milestone for representation in and of itself, but her obvious talent and tireless effort managed to change RuPaul’s perspective on what drag can be. In 2018, RuPaul infamously expressed opposition to anyone other than cis men performing drag. But in 2021, he credited Gottmilk with opening his mind to how limiting his view of drag had once been.

Therein lies the power of representation. But even while Gottmilk has been a part of that progress, he laments how much more work remains in giving a voice to the experiences of trans men. During the panel event “The Business of Drag,” hosted by GLAAD and United Talent Agency, Gottmilk said, “Why is there not way more trans representation in the media – trans men, specifically? Trans men out there and talking about their journeys?”

“I’m like, I should do more shit out of drag, because I feel like there should be way more trans guys out there talking about how hard it is,” she continued. “And I see so many amazing trans women. I’m so inspired by their stories. I’m like, ‘where are these trans guys telling me their stories?’ I want to be inspired by that too.

“I’m so honored to be one of them, but I’m really excited to keep breaking these doors down because there’s so many amazing trans men stories, queer stories across the board of every gender and sexuality spectrum that needs to be shed light on.”

True to his word, Gottmilk has continued to keep trans mens’ stories front and center in his work beyond Drag Race. Earlier this year, he released (alongside co-author Gigi Gorgeous) his debut book, The T Guide, filled with conversations, advice and reflections centered around the trans experience.

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