The US drag artist, who fronts the hit series, sparked a backlash with an interview in the Guardian, where he said he “probably” wouldn’t allow a contestant who had “really transitioned” to compete.
In the interview, he said: “Drag loses its sense of danger and its sense of irony once it’s not men doing it, because at its core it’s a social statement and a big f-you to male-dominated culture. So for men to do it, it’s really punk rock, because it’s a real rejection of masculinity.”
When the interviewer then asked about season nine queen Peppermint - the first openly transgender woman to compete on ‘Drag Race’ - Ru responded: “Mmmm. It’s an interesting area. Peppermint didn’t get breast implants until after she left our show; she was identifying as a woman, but she hadn’t really transitioned.”
Asked if he would accept a contestant who had “really transitioned” onto the show, he continued: “Probably not. 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.
“We’ve had some girls who’ve had some injections in the face and maybe a little bit in the butt here and there, but they haven’t transitioned.”
He later doubled down on his comments on Twitter, writing: “You can take performance enhancing drugs and still be an athlete, just not in the Olympics.”
His comments were widely slammed on social media, including by season six queen Gia Gunn, who came out as transgender after appearing on the show:
Gia wrote: “Although I do feel the separation from being a drag queen and now a trans woman, there should not be any reason to be ‘not accepted’ when it comes to the art of drag. If you are a fierce artist, your a fierce artist & should be judged based on your art. NOT your gender identity!”
LGBT activist Stevie Donnan also accused Ru of being a gate-keeper of what drag is in a blog on HuffPost UK.
He wrote: “Quite frankly it’s not up to RuPaul or anyone else to decide when someone is male (or female) enough to be considered a drag queen or to fit inside their narrow definition of gender identity.”
Ru has now issued an apology on Twitter, claiming he has learned from the trans community over his comments.
“Each morning I pray to set aside everything I THINK I know, so I may have an open mind and a new experience,” 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.”
He added: “In the 10 years we’ve been casting Drag Race, the only thing we’ve ever screened for is charisma uniqueness nerve and talent. And that will never change.”
‘Drag Race’ previously faced criticism or using the phrase “she-mail”, which many saw as transphobic. Bosses stopped using the controversial phrase in 2014.