RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Gottmik is probably not like most trans men you’ve seen in the media.
In the extremely few shows and movies that have included trans male characters, they’ve often been more stereotypically “masculine”.
And for drag queen Gottmik, that turned out to be a little confusing. She told Attitude,
“Even before I transitioned medically, I was [debating], ‘Am I trans?’ I would look at all the trans guys in the media and be like, ‘That is just not me. That is not who I am. I’m way more feminine.'”
(Gottmik uses she/her pronouns in drag and he/him pronouns out of drag.)
But one day the 24-year-old had an epiphany of sorts. She says,
“I just woke up, and I was, like, ‘Girl, if cisgender men can be feminine, a trans guy can be feminine. Just because it’s beyond you, doesn’t mean it’s not there.”
It’s a similar sentiment to the one she shared with the Gay Times in a prior interview. She explained,
“Me being so feminine held me back from acting on my transition for a long time. Even though I knew I identified as a male, I always thought that I could suppress it because I loved feminine things and had feminine articulations.”
“But when I realize that men can be feminine, it all clicked.”
And now, Gottmik is representing femme trans men on Drag Race. And while there have been trans contestants on the show before this (trans women, that is), no trans queen has ever been cast purposely.
A few, like Peppermint in season 9, came out during the show. But Gottmik was the first queen who was knowingly cast as trans.
So, Gottmik told herself,
“Girl, do it, and pave this path. And that’s what I did — and I’m living.”
A New Era of ‘Drag Race’
Gottmik’s casting on the show was particularly historic given RuPaul’s notoriously transphobic past.
In a 2018 interview with The Guardian, Ru made it clear that he didn’t think anyone other than cisgender men should do drag. He said,
“You can identify as a woman and say you’re transitioning, but it changes once you start changing your body. It takes on a different thing; it changes the whole concept of what we’re doing.”
He added that he wouldn’t have cast Peppermint at the time if she had made any physical transitions prior to appearing on the show. He claimed,
“Peppermint didn’t get breast implants until after she left our show; she was identifying as a woman, but she hadn’t really transitioned.”
To be extremely clear: you can be trans without making any medical modifications to your body. Being trans is not about your genitals or your silhouette.
Of course, the interview sparked a huge backlash, to which RuPaul only double-downed. Ru tweeted,
“You can take performance-enhancing drugs and still be an athlete, just not in the Olympics.”
A few hours later though, Ru claimed to suddenly see the light and issued an apology. He wrote,
“I understand and regret the hurt I have caused. The trans community are heroes of our shared LGBTQ movement. You are my teachers.”
But this was not the first time Ru had said something transphobic. Back in 2014, Ru complained that he wasn’t allowed to use the word “tranny” on the show anymore and said,
“Don’t you dare tell me what I can do or say. It’s just words. You know what? Bitch, you need to get stronger.”
Ru went on to blame the so-called “fringe community” for being “too sensitive” and claimed that most trans people knew it was a joke and were ok with it.
As if that weren’t bad enough, RuPaul’s Drag Race used the phrase “you’ve got she-mail” (a play on the slur she-male) on every episode on the show up until 2015.
And, according to a 2015 interview with The Guardian, RuPaul would have happily continued using the phrase if it had been his choice.
It’s clear over the years that Ru has not changed his tune but rather has been pressured by fans to be more inclusive (which just goes to show how much fans can influence a show and make change).
And the result of those outspoken fans is the casting of Gottmik.
But if you think Gottmik is here just for token representation, you’d be sorely mistaken. Anyone who’s seen Gottmik onscreen knows she’s a force to be reckoned with.
The makeup artist has already won both a maxi challenge and mini-challenge, as of the writing of this article. She’s clearly on her way to the finals if she keeps things up.
Although Gottmik auditioned for the show prior to season 13, it’s obvious that she was cast at exactly the right moment. She explained,
“Looking back I am so thankful I didn’t end up on the show at that time because I was still so lost and uncomfortable with who I was. I think I’m at a spot in my life where I’m becoming the person I have always wanted.”
You can watch Gottmik on RuPaul’s Drag Race on Fridays on VH1.
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Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, and Tiger Beat. Her favorite Housewife is Bethenny Frankel and when she’s not watching RHONY, you can probably find her obsessing over her tuxedo cat Tom or hoarding drugstore lipsticks.