Along with gorgeous runway outfits and gag-worthy performances, Drag Race has also proven to be a vital platform for important conversation – whether exploring the intersectionality of Black queerness, body dysmorphia or gender expression.
Last week's episode of Drag Race UK (January 28) may have had one of the biggest shock eliminations of the season so far – yes it really was "rude", Asttina – but it was a heartfelt moment between Bimini Bon Boulash and Ginny Lemon that set social media alight.
It started with Ginny opening up to Sister Sister about her signature colour, yellow, which runs through her drag outfits as well as their hair.
"It's for healing and positivity, and also it's the non-binary colour," Ginny explained, before later adding: "For years and years I just didn't know what I was. I didn't know whether I was a boy or a girl, I just didn’t know, and that's why I wear yellow because it doesn't say anything – it doesn't define me as anything."
"When I realised there was this whole community of non-binary people I was like yes, that is for me. But the journey to loving one's self is the longest and hardest – and I'm not there," Ginny continued.
Bimini, also a non-binary contestant, then joined the conversation from another werk room bench.
"I think it's always a difficult conversation to have, especially when some people don't understand, some people don't quite get it, it can be emotional," they said.
In an on-camera confessional, Bimini explained:
"Non-binary isn't a new thing, it's just a new term. It's just basically someone that doesn't feel like they are either masculine or feminine, they kind of float between the two.
"As humans, we are so complex, that having a binary to fit everyone into, whether it's just male or female, doesn't make sense, when there are seven billion plus people in the world."
Ginny also went on to describe feelings of exclusion and being an "outsider" growing up, and both Bimini and Ginny shared their ongoing journeys of exploration when it comes to their identities.
Thank you @GinnyLemon69 and @biminibabes for opening up and bringing this extremely important conversation about gender identity to the forefront. You're inspiring so many and we have so much love for you both 💛💛💛#DragRaceUK https://t.co/f9SbTLBdlt pic.twitter.com/QdivVbFcdX
— World of Wonder (@WorldOfWonder) January 28, 2021
"I'm still finding out who I am, as are you, we are still... and it's a battle every day. We're like square pegs in a circle, and how we want to self identify isn't up to anyone else, it's not up to anyone to have a debate about it, about how we feel inside."
Bimini's words here really highlight the importance of elevating the voices of those with lived experiences – something that is sorely lacking in mainstream media and broadcasting.
This was also something that was pointed out on Twitter, after the conversation aired on Drag Race UK. Bimini went one step further on social media too, tweeting: "How nice was it to hear two gender non-conforming people discuss identity politics without Piers Morgan?"
Viewers have seen, time and time again, the framing of 'debates' around topics or themes that directly and uniquely impact minority groups. We have seen this play out on televised panels, discussing issues of racism, LGBTQ+ themes and the rights of Trans people – very rarely, if ever, do they centre the narrative of those directly affected by the discussion.
You'll be familiar with the usual format by now: one token guest will be invited to discuss the topic of the day from their perspective. But, in the name of 'balancing out' that side of the conversation, others that disagree (usually without any personal experience of the topic, mind) often shout down or dismiss what is said. More often than not, the conversation veers off track and the voice that should be championed is instead forced into a position of defending their very existence.
We have seen it with the likes of Laurence Fox (a white man with inherent privileges) taking a space on Question Time to deny problems of racism in the UK – to the face of someone who had experienced it for themselves – and Piers Morgan making flippant and damaging comments about personal pronouns on one of the most-watched breakfast shows in the UK.
The trans 'debate' is perhaps the most recent example of this playing out in the media, and it would feel remiss not to acknowledge that, while not necessarily on television, JK Rowling (a cisgender woman with a large personal platform) has stoked the flames and perpetuated harmful anti-Trans rhetoric that subsequently enabled the media to disingenuously frame coverage of the topic in terms of a debate.
What has been abundantly clear for a while is that we should not "two-sides" all conversations. But, whether to prioritise ratings or through fear of backlash, TV producers and executives still seem unable to put this into practice. There should of course be room for healthy debate around subjective ideas and opinion, but we are in desperate need of a reminder that some things are objectively factual.
The very existence of a number of human beings – including Transgender and non-binary people, who are currently some of the most at risk members of society – fall into the latter category.
Bimini and Ginny's conversation is a shining example of how such a discussion should be handled, both on-screen and off. The simplicity of having two non-binary people openly discussing their own journeys, inviting the audience to listen and empathise, shouldn't be a radical one. And yet the outpouring of joy at seeing this air on a mainstream platform would suggest just how rarely it happens, and how much it was craved.
While the burden to educate shouldn't always fall on those from underrepresented communities, the importance of uplifting and centring their voices cannot be understated. Since the episode aired, a number of Drag Race viewers were given the confidence and opportunity to come out as non-binary themselves. We have also seen more celebrities, such as Sam Smith, Atypical's Brigette Lundy-Paine, Pose star Indya Moore and The Hate U Give's Amandla Stenberg speaking about being non-binary in recent years.
It warms my heart reading so many of you came out to your family about being non-binary after watching tonight’s episode! Honestly emotional! Non-binary isn’t new and it’s okay to exist somewhere in between! POWER TO YOU ALL 💓
— BIMINI! (@biminibabes) January 28, 2021
At the very heart of Drag Race is a message of acceptance and celebration, and that should be something that other shows should be clambering to learn from and build upon – right?
RuPaul's Drag Race UK series 2 is available to watch Thursday evenings on BBC Three (on iPlayer). In the US, you can watch the show on WOW Presents Plus.
Netflix also premieres new episodes of the US series weekly. In the US, season 13 is airing on Friday nights at 8pm ET on VH1.
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