In an ongoing reckoning happening within culture, Chicago drag performer T Rex has been criticized for once joking that Shea Couleé should do a performance dressed as a slave while T. Rex whipped her. Couleé brought up the moment in a Town Hall with the Chicago Black Drag Council alleging that the performer also blacklisted her and her drag children. Hosted by performer Lucy Stoole with the mediator Shimmy Laroux, the livestreamed event was meant to discuss ongoing issues around racism within Chicago and the Boystown gayborhood.
T Rex became one of a number of people and institutions spoke about openly, directly to the performer. This was preceded by an open letter that was sent to the drag artist prior signed by multiple people.
"Recently the Chicago drag community has expressed a great deal of pain that has been put upon us from you," Stoole read from the letter. "You've abused your power and you've helped perpetuate racism through Boystown by reducing all people of color to tokens for your personal gain." Stoole continued, detailing how T Rex has leveraged her position and influence in the community against Black queens. The letter also included specific demands around change, saying that the Black drag community would not support the performer or her platforms if they are not met.
The letter reading was followed by an open floor for performers to speak about their experiences with T Rex. The first was RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars season 5 Shea Couleé.
"I"m just going to directly address you [T Rex,]" Couleé said, going on to explain that they both started out in Chicago drag around the same time. As a result, the two worked together a lot before Drag Race. "At times when you felt as if I was being too bold, you used that and weaponized against me."
"I also want to speak to a very specific experience I had with you," Coulée continued. "We had already worked a show and were backstage with the staff — this was at Scarlet. I was the only person of color back there, it was you and Bryce and somebody else and you had made a joke — because at that time we would do cast numbers at the top of the show — that for Black History Month, it would be funny, as a number, as a cast, if we performed to Britney Spears' 'Slave for You' with me dressed as a slave while the rest of you whipped me.
"Do you remember that?" Couleé asked.
"I — I do," T Rex answered.
"I want you to know that that experience has stayed with me for a very long time because you were somebody I considered a friend," Coulée said. "And the fact that my hurt and my displeasure at being subjected to that and how I had to almost beg you for an apology, really let me know where I stood with you, not just as a person but as a person of color specifically."
Coulée went on to explain other instances: of being paid less money for more work in drag shows, of not receiving space in dressing rooms when other queens did, and "sabotaging" the performer, announcing her set though T Rex knew that Couleé wasn't ready. After a heated exchange, Couleé said that T Rex then blacklisted her from the Chicago drag community until she appeared on Drag Race.
As a result of T Rex's actions, spoken to by not only Couleé but others, Roscoe's Tavern, a popular bar in Chicago, has severed its relationship with the performer.