How Cis Men and Women Should Respond to New Trans Activism

Nikita Dragun, a celebrity makeup artist, business owner, YouTuber and model, is generally accepted as a problematic person. From her Blackfishing and cultural appropriation to her feuds with other celebrities, this is a common trend for her: being problematic in an effort to gain publicity. In any event, Dragun is a trans icon and activist, helping many other struggling trans men and women by documenting her transition from the beginning. She is open about her surgeries, vulnerabilities, trans issues and recently… her genitals? 

In her most recent controversy, she released a video on Instagram known as a “p*ssy stunt,” which is a term used to describe the act of showing off femininity and confidence by cat-walking in glamorous outfits and flawless makeup. In this p*ssy stunt, however, Dragun is heard rapping in the background to a song she proclaims to be her newest single. This single, titled “D*ck,” is pretty groundbreaking as it describes the heterosexual, cis men who privately sleep with trans woman. The video is a montage of videos of Dragun flaunting her curvy body in a brown latex mini skirt, accessorized with a Fendi bag, along with pictures of her with men whose identities are made anonymous, and screenshots of well-known male celebrities in her DMs, such as rapper Tyga. She also makes references to several female celebrities who she claims copy her style. In a nutshell, the video seeks to expose the phenomenon of heterosexual men who fantasize and actively seek out trans women, which speaks to the overwhelming power and influence that they have. The montage also includes videos and pictures of trans celebrities, most notably Venus Xtravaganza, a transgender woman whose death was famously documented in “Paris is Burning,” a film that follows ballroom culture in New York City. Dragun goes as far as to rename herself “Venus Xtravaganza” on her Instagram page, and edit her bio to include the actual details of Venus’ death, making Venus the face of Dragun’s commotion. 

Naturally, something as groundbreaking as outing male celebrities is going to receive backlash, a lot of which included many transphobic comments, as well as purposeful misgendering of Dragun. Dragun also struck a chord in many with her claim that cisgender women appropriate trends that begin with trans women. Lots of cisgender women retaliated saying that the opposite is true that cis black women are the ones who have had their culture appropriated by trans women and others in the LGBTQ+ community, to which Dragun responded, “No. Black TRANS women and black GAY people gave the culture,” and “Trans women are the most beautiful creatures to walk the earth. I’ve never seen a cisgender female even come close to looking how my sisters look.” Ouch was my first reaction. Whenever a community or identity that you are a part of is discussed in a negative light, your first reaction is to retaliate in an effort to defend yourself and your community. In the grand scheme of things, Dragun is completely right.

This recent phenomenon of pitting trans women against cis women is one that I wasn’t too thrilled to see. My initial thought was, “Why? Is this necessary? Women are oppressed enough, is it productive to divide us even more?” We should bring awareness to the fact that trans women, and specifically trans women of color, are more influential than we know or care to admit… but is this the way to do it?” The answer is: that’s not the point. 

In this patriarchal, heteronormative society that we live in, cisgender folks are privileged because this identity is considered “the norm.” A trans woman’s critique on cis culture should not be seen as an attack, but rather as a way of protecting her own community, a way to claim what is rightfully theirs, and instill a common language and confidence that in turn boosts morale and allows them to fight back against the transphobia they face daily. When we insert ourselves into this dialogue in the way I have just previously described, we are the ones creating this competition. We ignore the confidence and the coalition building that comes out of this rhetoric, and assert our privilege and power that completely defeats the purpose of that kind of language. August Halbach, senior at Colgate University, puts it beautifully: “Instead of centering trans women and their survival and confidence, it turns into a contest – as if there’s something to be won in either existence, or a superiority in the trans experience. Cis women and their experiences in femininity are always accepted at face value. Trans women don’t get that same respect in their feminine identity … It becomes a larger topic than trans women inserting themselves confidently into the cis dialogue in femininity and the history of the various topics connected to it – fashion, make up, hair, etc. They have to learn more on their own without community support, so the use of that language within the group allows for others to feel as if their own femininity belongs, even if they’re born in a body that doesn’t readily serve it.” 

So, despite Dragun’s problematic past, she’s an activist. A radical one. If you find yourself offended by her words, chances are, you should be. I have realized that this “division” is something made up, more specifically made up by cis folks who feel the need to assert their privilege and power under the guise of supposed support. I am guilty of this. I suggest you reach out to trans community members, and just listen. And then you share and uplift their voices.