The “Rupaulification” of Gay Issues: When Gay Parody (Still) Overshadows The Real Social Issues

Paris Is Burning poster. All the cast members have since died of AIDS, some of them were murdered.

People like to read, people love the sass, but they often fail to understand that the new “cool” gay culture they adore was created by black gay men whose social and sexual conditions made them the pariahs of the good old world. Even if these individuals are much more visible today, through social media, the straight pro-gays and the white gays themselves do not hesitate to turn an eye on the real issues which have crushed them since the 1980s.

If they differ greatly in terms of social identity and culture, both Millennials and Gen Zers share one thing in common; they were born and raised in the 1990s and in its technological revolution by the end of the decade (Millennials) or only knew a time which was never deprived of technological presence (Gen Zers). With their emergence as young adults who were either the partial or total products of technology, issues which were deemed taboo in the 1980s and 1990s were placed at the center again in the 2000s through the prism of entertainment, celebrity gossip. The 2000s saw several white and black celebrities publicly support gay issues in order to make themselves more edgy, relevant and popular in the new era of global openness.

Several elements favored such reality at that time: the technological revolution, the domination of globalism and the propaganda of gender-fluid identity promoted by both the political and entertainment worlds.

With technology and social media came narcissism and capitalism, hence a space where depth has no longer been placed at the center of our lives since it was rather replaced by the politics of exploitation of one’s miserable life experience to generate more views. Those born in the old world, including the millennials, need their black and/or gay best friend as accessories to complete this scheme of validating themselves as good and open-minded people, when in reality, no one really cares for the depth any more. If one’s envelope is unique and worthy of being exploited, one should give in fast, let themselves be exploited and be grateful for being given a spotlight.

Yet, if technology allowed a generation to break away from the ridigidity of the old world often made of many taboos, parody also came along with this change. From there, people were no longer themselves but were forced and encouraged to dissociate from their real nature in order to fit in a mold or character created and shaped for the Internet world. The emergence of technology definitely marked the rise of narcisissim, as it allowed the most basic and uninteresting individual to grow an audience through the exploitation of the past social taboos.

For this reason, as fraudulent Hollywood celebrities were afraid to come out supporting the gay community publicly in the 1990s for fear of shocking, the so-called birth of a free and liberal world marked by both mass consumerism and technological development, put an end to real justice and authenticity as both modern justice and social activism in the West are rooted in capitalism itself.

The modern generations do not support gay people for who they really are, as they simply worship and enjoy a facet of this world which entertains them. Therefore, this supposed new openness is always superficial for always rooted in capitalism and political exploitation. In that sense, the gay culture was much more interesting and important in the 1990s since it was preserved, underground and not infiltrated much as it has been today. The Rupaulification of gay issues is still a way to entertain the masses into believing that gays are much more tolerated when they contribute to fashion, dance, when they are doing standups or performing drag shows, when in reality, the chaos from both the 1980s and 1990s still plague this community socially.

And the members of the black gay community are the first to suffer from it.

Though they endured discrimination, especially during the AIDS crisis, the gay community in the West is shaped like a political pyramid where racism, exclusion, discrimination, segregation and racial supremacy still exist. The white gay men who remain at the top impose a very tough political dynamic upon one another; there, wealth, youth, beauty and sexual attraction prevail. Yet, though gay, the white branch would have no issue crushing the black gay men they would perceive as inferior. Indeed, many people fail to understand that homosexuality does not change the fact that gays are men who, like any other men, greatly focus upon the principles of power and domination. It is even safe to assert that the gay lobbies had no issue exploiting the misery of their own kind in order to advance their own pawns for the progression of their political matters.

The ACT UP collective was often, in both Europe and in the US, shaped, formed and led by white men who came from the intellectual bourgeoisie. In other words, they were not people who came from the bottom. Yet, they pretended to be the voices for every gay who endured the struggle. In that sense, the horrible experience of the black gay community was rarely spoken of so much so that, the Rupaulification of the gay experience allowed the black gay group to be more present due to their fashion and dancing skills, but the void and unanswered questions regarding the brutality of their experience are never put forward. Worst, most straight black celebrities, especially women, exploit the black gay group for entertainment, popularity and political purposes only, in order to place themselves in a good light. Except for Janet Jackson who somehow seemed to be sincere in her contribution to the AIDS issue in the black community, the pro-gay narrative is fraudulent.

For the members of the black gay community, AIDS is surely not a thing of the past. First, the few AIDS survivors who had been infected in the 1980s still live with the trauma of having been forced to see many of their loved ones pass away. Many of these survivors also express guilt, since they survived. Though grateful to be alive, they are crushed within the violence of the American healthcare system. Then, those who had been infected in both the 1990s and the 2000s, experiment the same issue. And finally, places in the United States, especially in the Deep South, see their black gay communities being infected by the disease at a higher rate. 74% of new HIV diagnoses in 2018 were among Black individuals, who represent 39% of the population in Mississippi.

These infections are not due to a love for sex at all, but are also rooted in poverty, since many individuals have no other choices but to turn to sex work in order to survive economically. Jackson, in Mississippi is a town where the black gay men are greatly sick. It is also worth noting that, in the racist hierarchy of the white gay world, black gay men are not perceived or valued as human beings, but rather celebrated through their post-colonial stereotypes and sexual supposed characteristics inherited from the time of slavery. Other than being perceived as sexual animals by the white group, the black gays can only hope to live through entertainment.

What can be said about mental health, then? The suicide rates among black gay men? The sexual violence and social disdain experienced by black lesbians?

This gruesome reality will always fade to black, for not being entertaining enough.

By Victoria “VKY” Kabeya, All Rights Reserved, 2023

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[8] Zipkin, Michele, “Racism runs deep in Philadelphia’s Gayborhood”, Philadelphia Gay News, 2020

[9] Shapiro, Ari, “Why Men In Mississippi Are Still Dying Of AIDS, Despite Existing Treatments”, NPR, 2019

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[11] Hui, Kaila, “CDC: New HIV Diagnoses for Black Americans Were Highest in Vulnerable Communities”, Verywell Health, 2022

[12] Splete, Heidi, “HIV Disparities Persist Among Black Americans”, Medscape, February 2022,

[13] Fullilove, Robert, “AIDS In Black America: A Public Health Crisis”, NPR, 2012,

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