While RuPaul's Drag Race gives us a ton of drag queens, and a ton of drama, one thing that the show has excelled at is using drag as a lens into the intimate lives of its queer people. Through these scenes, where queens reveal sometimes intimate details about their lives or how they got into drag, the show depicts how society and government policies have real impact. This week, Mercedes Iman Diamond had one of those moments.
While in the workroom preparing for the “Trump: The Rusical” maxi-challenge, Diamond decided to address an elephant in the room that she had been avoiding. Inspired in part by Nina West’s own story of being bullied and harassed for being gay and running for a student government position, Diamond pulled a few of the queens to the side for a conversation.
“Remember when last time we were talking about different religions and I just kind of stormed off,” she said to the other queens in the work room. Last week, a few of the queens including Silky Nutmeg Ganache, A’Keria Davenport, and Vanessa Vanjie Mateo started discussing religion, posing quite a few questions to Diamond as she is the first Muslim queen on the show. “It was kind of rude for me to do that, but I basically don’t talk about religion. The reason why, is it’s really hard, especially in this country where people are like when something happens that involves a Muslim, it’s like ‘Oh they’re a terrorist’ and I don’t want people to feel like every Muslim is a terrorist. That’s why I don’t really talk about it and I just wanted to apologize to you guys. I know you wanted to know the difference and stuff. It was just … I just didn’t feel comfortable about it.”
The feeling isn’t an unwarranted one. Over the past few weeks, comedian Jess Hilarious, who built her following through social media, was accused of xenophobia after saying the presence of Sikhs on her flight scared her. Hilarious incorrectly assumed that the turbans indicated that the men were Muslim. She has since made public apologies.
“I don’t want people to hate me,” Diamond said in her confessional later. “I’ve seen crazy stuff on social media. Every time it plays in my head, like the videos that I’ve seen of people being hurt because they’re Muslim —” she continued before starting to cry.
“It hurts to see all that stuff,” she said. “I don’t know, I just don’t know why people do that. Like why would you hurt someone else? Because of …” she said choking up again.
Back in the work room, she continued the conversation with her sisters. “I wish I could be like ‘Bitch, I’m a proud Muslim. This is me, this is who I am!’” For their part, the other queens rallied around her, affirming that’s the approach she should take.
“I just want you to speak up about it because you’re the strongest representation we get then,” Yvie Oddly said. “If you close your mouth and walk away then you’re robbing a bunch of children of the experience of knowing about what it means to be Muslim.”