'Drag Race': Willow Pill on How Her Illness Might Interfere With Her Transition

willow pill illness
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On Thursday, RuPaul’s Drag Race fan-favorite Willow Pill officially came out as trans.

In an Instagram post, Willow wrote,

“I’m still not sure where I fit on the spectrum, for now I just say trans femme.”

The drag queen first revealed that she was questioning her gender on Untucked earlier this season. She explained that she often went back and forth between the pronouns “they” and “she” and told the cameras that she wasn’t quite sure where she was her gender identity.

But it was actually being on Drag Race that helped Willow sort through her feelings. As she wrote on Instagram,

“Only in the last year have I really started to realize that I’m not happy with my gender identity. Much of that is due to being on Drag Race and feeling euphoria being Willow for the first time since quarantine and being around a bunch of queer and trans friends on set.”

 

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A post shared by Willow Pill (@willowpillqueen)

On Untucked, she echoed similar sentiments and told her fellow contestants,

“Since being here I’ve been so happy and I think part of me’s thinking, I think I’ve just been happy because I’ve been able to, like, see myself the way I want to see myself, like, on a daily basis.”

While Willow has already started medically transitioning — she said she had facial feminization surgery this past November — she also voiced concerns about how her illness will affect her transition. She wrote,

“Transitioning with a chronic illness is not simple. Any further medicalization of my body scares me because of my medical PTSD.”

She continued,

“I’m currently discussing a very low dose of hormones with my doctor and will have to take things very slow because I’m on a variety of intense medications. It may be that it’s not for me because my health comes first but I want to try.”

Willow’s Illness

Willow revealed that she suffers from cystinosis, a rare genetic condition, which mainly affects the kidneys and eyes. Early in the season, she told the other queens,

“I had a transplant when I was 15 years old. My brother gave me his kidney. And now I’m dealing with, like, all my muscles are starting to atrophy.”

She added,

“It sucks being 26 years old and feeling, like, it’s this decline from here. It’s like, I’m supposed to be in my prime and I feel like my body is disintegrating.”

She revealed that her health has been “rocky through life and questionable in the future” and that she takes a ton of medication to manage her illness.

 

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A post shared by Willow Pill (@willowpillqueen)

Even though Willow never complains on the show, it became clear that her cystinosis affected her during the competition. She often struggled with her fine motor skills, which was most evident during challenges where the queens had to sew or create their own outfits. In a confessional, she described it as:

“If you’ve ever been out when it’s like -40° and then you go inside and you try to lace up your shoes but you’re fingers just won’t do it, that’s how I feel all the time.”

While fellow contestant Kornbread was on the show, she would often help Willow in the challenges. In a confessional, Kornbread explained,

“I don’t think the girls in the workroom know the extent of Willow’s issues because they don’t talk to Willow as much as I talk to Willow. I don’t think Willow is telling them because Willow does not complain. Willow is going to get the job done regardless.”

 

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A post shared by Willow Pill (@willowpillqueen)

According to Willow, it’s her medical struggles that actually prolonged her gender journey. As she explained in her IG post,

“It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with my transness because so much space has been taken up by my illness. My condition has caused me so much physical and emotional pain that my body became something I always wanted out of. Eventually, hating my body for failing me and hating myself for not being a girl was so constant and intertwined that it felt normal.”

But for the first time, Willow is finally exploring herself. In a confessional on Untucked, she said,

“I’ve felt this distance from my body for a long, long time. And so now that I’m getting older and I’m finally building this relationship with my body, I’m having to learn what do I like, what do I not like, what do I feel connected to, what do I not feel connected to.”

And while Willow is still “not sure where she fits on the spectrum,” she’s identifying as trans femme for now and using she/they pronouns.

The Most Trans-Inclusive Season in Herstory

Willow Pill is just one of the many queens who have come out as trans this season.

Both Kerry Colby and Kornbread came out as trans prior to the start of the competition (Kornbread was actually in the process of transitioning during filming).

Then, on an episode of Untucked that aired in February, Jasmine Kennedie came out to her castmates and told them,

“I definitely feel like I am trans. I’ve been so scared to say it. I have held back from it for so long because I didn’t want to hurt my dad but I can’t lie about it anymore. I am trans.”

Bosco also came out as trans in February, but after filming had ended. On Twitter, they wrote,

“After filming wrapped this summer, I began focusing on figuring out what medical transitioning would look like for me. I started HRT after getting back from Drag Race.”

With so many out trans queens, season 14 has officially become the most trans-inclusive season in the herstory of Drag Race.

Moving Beyond the Transphobia

Drag Race has come a long way in terms of inclusion. The show once used transphobic language such as “she-mail” (a play on the derogatory term “she-male”) and RuPaul previously gave an interview in which he claimed he would not let trans women on the show.

But all of that came to a halt once Peppermint made herstory and came out as trans while filming season 9. Since then, many queens have followed suit, coming out as trans during or after filming the show.

Drag Race also had a trans man compete on the show, Gottmik, on season 13.

As for Willow, she’s still just in the beginning of her journey but it sounds like she’s started to feel like herself. She wrote,

“I’m starting to finally feel bits of happiness with my face and body, and that’s a start.”

RuPaul’s Drag Race season 14 airs on VH1 on Fridays.

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Lena Finkel
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and The Challenge. When she's not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her taking an absurd amount of photos of her tuxedo cat Tom.