Everyone's favourite flavour, Peppermint. (Magnus Hastings)
Drag Race royalty Peppermint has two simple requirements when it comes to love.
“The bar, unfortunately for trans women, is low,” the New York native sighs when I ask, “what’s a guy gotta do to impress Peppermint?”
“It should not be, but it can be exceptionally low,” she continues. “Obviously, we have to be attracted to each other. But the attraction part is usually the easiest, it’s automatic, and it’s difficult to fake that. So once you get past the attraction, then what’s left?”
Peppermint’s needs and desires, her relatable experiences with f**kbois and casual hook-ups, as well as the intimacies of a loving, long-term relationship, are laid bare in her new album, A Girl Like Me: Letter to My Lovers, out Friday (October 16).
“I wanted to make this album so that people who are queer, especially transgender women, would be able to hear an album by someone who’s transgender and from the queer community,” she explains.
“I think we have a lot of pop stars who are queer, but they don’t always sing about their queerness in their music. And there aren’t a lot of positive examples of nice, healthy, loving relationships for queer people and LGBT people, especially people who are in relationships with transgender people. That’s the whole reason why I wanted to do the album.”Peppermin (James Michael Avance)
Peppermint wanted to be “honest” about her experiences with love on the record. The songs she’s releasing are lifted straight from her journal, laid out chronologically to tell the story of a recent relationship.
A Girl Like Me: Letters to My Lovers is the first of a planned trilogy, with each entry representing the beginning, middle and end of the story. The music is a way for Peppermint to draw a line under the time she spent “dealing and healing”, but also to shine a light on “the f**kery that transgender people, particularly trans women, experience” in the dating world.
“I think that love and relationships, it’s something that everybody wants. Whether they admit it or not, we all humans need companionship. But love and relationships for LGBTQ people, I think don’t necessarily come as easily, and certainly are not supported by society as much.”
The first single “Best Sex” – and its tantalising music video – is an ode to that most crucial of qualities.
“The one factor in the search for love for everyone, but especially I think for LGBT people – definitely for gay people – is sorting through all of the casual sex encounters that one may be able to take advantage of.
“And a lot of times in those encounters, you encounter people who really are a lot not that desirable, and who don’t have a lot of redeeming qualities except for one: their best sex.”
So what does a guy need to do to impress Peppermint? “Oh honey, there’s lots you gotta do, you just have to watch the video to see,” she laughs.
“I think what is necessary to have a good, full, healthy relationship is being able to claim your partner publicly,” she says, on a more serious note. “Telling everyone, shouting from the rooftops that you’re happy about being with this person. And and fighting for them the way that you would fight for yourself.
“Look at it like this. If your partner is disabled, let’s say if your partner’s deaf, and you’re not deaf, all of a sudden things that affect people in the deaf community are probably going to matter a whole lot more to you, because you care for and love someone who is deaf and a part of that community and whose life is affected by whatever those issues are.
“These are things we may never have been aware of, but suddenly you know about them, you probably at least learn how to sign do sign language, right? Well, I think that those kind of things are applicable to lots of different groups of people who have mixed identities in their relationships.
“But I think the thing that’s really interesting when it comes to transgender people, trans women in particular, because we live in a patriarchy, because of how discrimination is positioned in our lives, our cis-male-hetero-identifying partners do not seem to want to claim us publicly.
“They don’t want anyone to know that they’re with us, even though they enjoy our company, our bodies. And they certainly are not going to show up to the Trans Lives Matter March.”Peppermint attends the opening night of Head Over Heels on Broadway. (Noam Galai/Getty)
As Peppermint notes, trans women are being murdered at alarming rates. On October 7, Brooklyn Deshuna became the 32nd known trans person to be killed in the US this year. Her death makes 2020 the deadliest year on record for trans people – and we aren’t even at the end of it yet.
“We’re getting killed. We’re not just dropping dead. Transgender people, but trans women in particular, and trans women of colour, are being murdered by by our partners, by our lovers, by these people. So not only do they not show up to the march, but they are the ones killing us statistically.
“I’m not saying everyone, but of the people who have been murdered most of them are murdered by intimate partners, so these are people who are not invested in our long term health and safety. And that’s really the last kind of person you’d want to be your partner, you don’t want to be partners with someone who wants to kill you.
“Not to be so morbid about it, but in a light way I wanted to show that there’s so much more that needs to happen, and should happen, and can happen. Unfortunately, the bar is right now set at just be honest. On the larger end is don’t kill me. I’m not trying to be flippant, these are real issues that plague our community. Music is a very light way to do it. But I hope that I’m turning on a light for people so that they can see what what we deal with.”