In the past few years, drag has had an increasingly large influence on pop culture. Since the creation of RuPaul’s Drag Race, which debuted in February of 2009, it has helped spread the message of drag as an artform. Especially considering that drag was, and still is, heavily tied to the gay nightlife scene, it was able to reach a rather broad audience. Not only did this help the perception of drag, but it also helped the perception of gay people. However, as anti-drag, homophobic, and transphobic legislation continues to get passed in one state after another, it’s hard to not feel worried about the future of gay culture. It’s not the first time that gay people are being portrayed as evil, vile, or sexually deviant creatures, but it’s frustrating that once again, the same logic is able to convince people to judge and hate others. It is important in these moments to look back on people like RuPaul, who has been – and remains – an active fighter in the gay rights movement and gay community for years. Her fame both before and after her show helped change people’s minds about gay people. 

RuPaul Andre Charles, better known as RuPaul, has been influencing gay culture since as early as 1982. RuPaul was born in 1960 in San Diego, but moved in with his oldest sister in Atlanta during his high school years. While in performing arts school, RuPaul began to dabble in cross-dressing. This was a very bold and brave decision for RuPaul, especially considering that his senior year of high school would’ve been just 9 years removed from Stonewall, one of the most impactful gay protests.

After a few debuts on TV and a handful of jobs in nightclubs, RuPaul eventually decided to move to New York City. At the time (late 1980’s-early 1990’s), the gay nightlife scene was taking off. In 1993, RuPaul released one of his most famous songs, “Supermodel (You Better Work)”. This song dominated the genre of house music for a while, and house music continues to be a huge part of gay culture. Unfortunately, the AIDS epidemic was steadily taking the lives of many gay individuals, and RuPaul lost many of his friends due to this crisis. However, this never slowed down his progression to fame, and in 1995, RuPaul became the face of MAC cosmetics and raised millions of dollars to help the MAC aids fund. RuPaul continues to be a huge influence on the gay community, and despite his struggle with addiction, he got clean and has been completely sober since 1999. He continued to make music, and in February of 2009, RuPaul’s Drag Race had its first debut. The show was a huge success, and showed off some more behind the scenes of gay culture that many straight people may not have been aware of.

RuPaul’s Drag Race is still ongoing and has only gained more popularity in the 15 years it has been debuting. However, many are getting worried about the future of Drag Race. Continuous threats of legislation banning and/or restricting drag as an artform have begun to shake the community. Many states are implementing more rules, and in places like Tennessee and Montana, drag has been restricted. Unfortunately, It is projected that more states will follow suit, and in Texas and Florida for example, more efforts are being made to restrict drag. I can’t imagine the frustration people like RuPaul, who have been fighting for equality for decades, must feel. 

As a young gay person, I feel both worried and annoyed that progress is only going backwards, yet so many people focus on “wokeness” becoming the new norm. I understand that people are always going to disagree, but I’m so exhausted of constantly having to be on the defense for my community when those who “disagree” with it are never told to do the same. Change is necessary for progress; you cannot do the same thing repeatedly and expect a different result. People are stuck so far in the past that they are willing to actively protest progress because of irrational fears that things will be dangerous. All the while, nothing is being done to protect people against genuine threats. Passing legislation to stop the expression of the gay community is wasting time, and it’s only allowing more hate to fester. We need to start addressing the issues that actually hurt Americans – Drag queens aren’t hurting people.

Drag Queens aren’t harming anyone, and yet they are the ones that lawmakers are trying to “protect” people from. It is a lame excuse, and it’s time to hold politicians accountable. Why should we waste our time blaming drag queens when more than 100 people are dying a day in the US from gun violence? Why should we waste our time with petty, hateful legislation when millions of Americans are going into long-term medical debt? Why should the American people be okay with legislators passing harmful and hurtful laws concerning the LGBTQ+ community when hundreds of people are dying each day due to fentanyl overdoses? There are more pressing and urgent concerns for policymakers, legislators, and politicians to focus on, and we are wasting our time. I hope that young people, specifically young left-leaning people, will start to take these issues more seriously and use the power they have, however small, to vote. This upcoming election has the power to permanently set America back, and I hope that young voters understand what is on the line here.

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