Drag Race Cast A Cis Straight Man In Season 14: Here’s What IRL Drag Artists Think About It
Ru Paul’s Drag Race has prompted controversy, discussion and many, many, memes by casting a cisgender straight man in Season 14, which is currently airing.
Maddy Morphosis, the straight man slash drag queen in question, self-describes as a drag queen “who happens to be straight”.
“My sexuality doesn’t define the drag that I do,” Morphosis said in a promo trailer.
The decision to cast Morphosis has, predictably, been met with a mixed response from fans of the show.
As a Baby Gay and then as a slightly-less-Baby Gay, I personally consumed a lot of Drag Race, as did many of my other queer friends. It’s what I like to think of as the weather for queer people: an easy conversation opener marked by either adoration, hatred or calculated indifference for the franchise.
But whatever you think about it, there’s no doubt that Drag Race is mainstream — it’s won a bucket load of Emmys, which doesn’t just happen for any show that almost exclusively focuses on LGBTQIA+ people.
One of the criticisms that’s been levelled against Drag Race over the last few years is that while it’s a fundamentally a queer show, it’s been increasingly catered to its straight audience. LGBTQIA+ fans have also long called for more inclusion of drag artists that aren’t cis gay men while host RuPaul Charles has been called out many times for making notoriously transphobic comments.
Marlena Dali, a Sydney based drag performer, said that they didn’t care too much about Maddy Morphosis being cast on the show because anyone can do drag. However, they felt the casting speaks to a wider issue of diversity in the show.
“The problem lies in the lack of representation of more marginalised people such as drag kings, non-binary/trans people, Indigenous people, and disabled people,” they said.
They also pointed out that Drag Race has contributed in part to the homogenisation of drag.
“Drag Race has changed drag completely. Drag queens beyond RuPaul herself are household names. There’s positives to this and negatives, because like everything in the universe, it’s complicated. Positives include an accessible and open dialogue around cis gay male identities (and now perhaps more? But not enough yet) and mainstream representation of such.
“Personally [though], I wonder if Drag Race never happened, and drag remained underground, if it would be a more nourishing source for radical change and progress. Is queer liberation more likely if we’re palatable to the cis-white-hetero-patriarchy?”
For many drag artists, it’s indisputable that Drag Race has brought drag into the mainstream eye, for good or for bad.
Felicity Frockaccino, a Sydney performer who’s been doing drag for sixteen years, described drag queens as the “mascots” for queer issues.
“We are there every rally. We are there to be like the visual piece of the queer scene. And I think it’s vital for us to be visible, particularly for queer issues.
“I think it’s good to see drag as like, the visual perspective of our community, [almost] in a sense like a barrier.”
Felicity said she wasn’t surprised by producers’ choice to cast a cis straight man. While she pointed out that drag is for everyone, she agreed with Marlena about whether it’s appropriate to cast a cis straight white guy when there are so many diverse drag performers from underrepresented backgrounds.
“If I was Maddy Morphosis, as an ally of the scene, I would have given up my space for someone that was queer,” she said.
After years of fans calling it out, the show has made some (slow) progress with increased diversity: Drag Race UK Season 2 featured Scaredy Kat, who identifies as bisexual, Drag Race UK Season 3 had Victoria Scone (my lesbian queen) and Drag Race US Season 13 featured pansexual trans man Gottmik.
Trans and non-binary performers in previous seasons have included Bimini Bon Boulash (release the fkn beast), Peppermint, who made history as the first woman to openly identify as trans on the show, and icons like Jiggly Caliente and Stacey Layne Matthews to name a few.
Trans woman Kylie Sonique Love also became the first trans winner on the show when she snatched the All Stars 6 crown.
However, Drag Race has never cast a drag king on the show and representation of AFAB (assigned female at birth) drag artists is incredibly limited.
All I'm saying is that there should have been at least two hundred more queer women on drag race before a straight man.
— Full Blown Father (he/him) (@FullBlownFather) December 3, 2021
straight cis ppl are more than welcome to do drag, but is representation of marginalised groups not more important ? there’s never been a drag king on any drag race franchise, there’s never been an afab non binary person on any drag race franchise and imo they are a priority
— jes (they/them) (@gingergothgay) December 4, 2021
Sorry mate but the idea gays need to get used to straight people in queer spaces sounds like victim blaming. Drag is queerness, being queer is an identity not a performance. I wish him the best of luck – but I think this was tactless of dragrace.
— Tig (@TigPup) December 4, 2021
Ok, so just remember, what we’re NOT gonna do is drag Maddy Morphosis for being cis, straight, and white. They can’t help that.
What we ARE gonna do is ask what’s stopping Drag Race from casting kings and more trans/POC/AFAB drag artists#DragRaceSeason14
— Mint ???????? (@ItsMintyBitch) December 3, 2021
Drag queen Dom Topp told PEDESTRIAN.TV that while she appreciated how Maddy Morphosis was pushing the boundaries of gender norms, it was a poor decision on Drag Race’s part not to prioritise someone already in the queer community.
“I feel like cisgendered straight white males have the world at their feet as it is and there’s already people in our community struggling for acceptance within the drag community as well.
“A lot of AFAB performance and a lot of trans performance don’t get the same opportunities that cisgender male performers get.
“I feel like it was one of those things where we should have looked for [those within the LGBTQIA+ community] before we started inviting other people to the table.”
Season 14 did, however, make Drag Race history by casting two trans women Kornbread Jeté and Kerri Colby, in an incredibly welcome shift towards a cast that better represents actual LGBTQIA+ people and performers.
At the end of the day, Drag Race is a massive show with a fanbase which yes, does include straight people and no, that’s not a bad thing. All three drag artists I spoke to were also ultimately supportive of straight people doing drag and exploring their gender.
However, it’s also a show that is built on queer stories, queer love and queer audiences. While we’re all born naked and the rest is drag, the art, creativity and nerve of so many LGBTQIA+ performers is ultimately still woefully untapped.
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