Canada’s Drag Race contestant Denim explains why term ‘AFAB queen’ is transphobic

A screenshot from Canada's Drag Race season 4 episode two showing Denim and the Girlfriend Experience getting ready.

Canada’s Drag Race season four queens have shared an enlightening conversation about why terms like “AFAB queen” and “bio queen” could be seen as transphobic.

“AFAB queen” and “bio queen” are often used interchangeably by many drag performers and fans to refer to cisgender women who perform in female drag.

The term “AFAB” stands for “assigned female at birth”, while “AMAB” means “assigned male at birth”.

Despite the terms being widely used, they cropped up in conversation during the most recent episode of Canada’s Drag Race season four (23 November), with two of the show’s trans contestants explaining why they don’t like the use of either.

Speaking about the first time she saw drag performers, 57-year-old contestant Kitten Kaboodle explained that “drag embodied everything” during the ’80s.

“When people say you have to start accepting bio queens – well, of course you do, but we had bio queens back then and we had trans queens. We had all kinds of queens. Everyone was included and accepted, and I don’t know what happened along the way,” she said.

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In response, trans queen The Girlfriend Experience said: “Everybody calls it bio queen but in Vancouver, we call it ‘hyper queen’ because it’s like, hyper feminine. Because bio queen is trans exclusionary.”

Canada's Drag Race stars Denim and The Girlfriend Experience.
Canada’s Drag Race stars Denim and The Girlfriend Experience. (Crave/BBC/World of Wonder)

After another contestant suggested that the term “AFAB queen” might be the more popular term, Denim – who is the second trans man to ever appear on a series of Drag Race, after season 13 finalist GottMik – explained why she finds it “transphobic”.

“Personally I find it transphobic to use the term ‘AFAB’ and ‘AMAB’ for cis people because it was originally a term that was made for trans people to be able to describe themselves,” she said.

“I’ve kind of seen it [used] as an umbrella term in the drag community for anyone who is not a cis man, and it simply doesn’t make sense as a term for cis people to use.”

Denim, who uses she/her pronouns when in drag, went onto to say that the term “AFAB” had created “a lot of confusion” and revealed that she had been referred to as an “AFAB” queen, despite identifying as a man.

“I’ve been addressed as an ‘AFAB’ queen and people just automatically assumed that I was a woman. That’s not how I identify. Now I no longer feel comfortable using that term as a trans person,” she added.

The insightful conversation was a perfect example of how people should respond to the evolution of language they have become accustomed to using, with the other queens thanking The Girlfriend Experience and Denim for sharing their views.

“I am grateful for that as it informs me, otherwise I don’t know,” Kitten Kaboodle said.

Earlier this week, Drag Race Germany contestant Pandora Nox made history as she became the first cisgender woman, or “hyper queen”, to win any season of Drag Race.

Canada’s Drag Race season four continues on Thursdays on BBC iPlayer and WOW Presents Plus.

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