Daniel Torres (he/him)
Running for nearly 13 years and having just recently premiered its fourteenth season, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” has cemented itself as one of the most influential queer reality television shows to date. It has brought the art of drag and, by extension, queer culture into mainstream, where it has found success with a diverse audience. From weekly viewing parties at gay bars, to younger children who gain their first exposure to drag through the show, to heterosexual audiences, “Drag Race” has fans of all ages and sexual orientations. Though it reaches individuals of various genders and orientations, the competition has branded itself as a show with exclusively queer contestants— until now, that is, with the newest season casting “Drag Race’s” first ever cisgender, heterosexual man, Maddy Morphosis.
With the announcement of Maddy Morphosis’ casting, the characteristically outspoken “Drag Race” fandom found itself conflicted, unsure if a cis, straight man belonged on the show. Supporters of the decision suggested that Morphosis’ inclusion could go a long way towards shattering the harmful gender norms forced upon straight men— gender norms which in turn may breed animosity towards some members of the queer community who can embrace their femininity, the very thing straight men been told to avoid all their lives. Maddy Morphosis herself is quoted to have said during an episode of “Untucked,” a behind-the-scenes show that follows every “Drag Race” episode, that “there’s, like, a million different ways to be queer, but growing up you’re taught there’s only one way to be straight.” Her comment suggests that one of the missions of her drag is to encourage straight people to look beyond what society dictates is acceptable based on their gender and sexuality.
Others have spoken against her inclusion on season fourteen. Felicity Frockaccino, an Australian drag queen, outlined in an interview how she views drag queens as the “mascots” of the queer community. To properly hold that role, she argued, the queens who are given the opportunity to perform on the biggest contemporary stage for drag that “Drag Race” has become should all be queer. In her words, “If I was Maddy Morphosis, as an ally of the scene, I would have given up my space for someone that was queer.” Forckaccino’s views and those who agree with her support the narrative that “Drag Race” should be a safe space set aside exclusively for queer performers.
Beyond explicitly agreeing or disagreeing, others have expressed their overall disinterest in the topic of Morphosis’ sexuality, calling for others to do the same. Bob the Drag Queen, winner of “Drag Race Season 8,” tweeted, “my thoughts? it doesn't change anything in my day. I don't give a damn about come cis straight white guy on drag race. If she's fierce. . . werq. If not she'll lose. What I'm excited about is that we have another trans person of color represented on TV.” Bob’s call to focus more on this season’s trans representation is potentially supported by the fact that, as of the day before the premier, Maddy Morphosis was the only queen to be verified on Instagram due to the buzz surrounding her controversial casting.
Ultimately, the opinions surrounding Morphosis’ casting, while not unanimous, collectively underline the importance of beginning this conversation and acknowledging the grey areas surrounding drag and who drag is for. There seems to be a unanimous sentiment regarding participating in drag, that, regardless of your orientation, it’s crucial you put in the effort to learn the history of drag and the boundaries it has pushed. Beyond that, there still seems to be no definitive answer to where we draw the line between encouraging straight men to embrace their feminiity and allowing them to enter queer spaces which, historically, queer individuals have created to flee the harmful social norms imposed upon them.