This post will contain spoilers from RuPaul’s Drag Race: Season 9, Episode 8. If you do not want details from episodes leading up to this point, I strongly suggest watching all of Season 9 before reading on. Thank you.

After watching RuPaul’s Drag Race last week, I wrote an open letter to the beautiful Sasha Velour. This week, I turn my metaphorical pen to Farrah Moan.

Farrah, from the second you walked into that workroom in Episode 1 you were one of my favorites. No, not because of your aesthetic, though of course you are one of the most visually stunning queens, I think, in the history of Drag Race. I love you because you are you. This letter is, essentially, an offloading of all my pent-up feelings and emotions, an accumulation of every tiny fragment of inspiration that I have to thank you for.

In the strangest way, I relate to you Farrah. Not at first glance, of course; you’re far more experienced in the creative world than me, and far more talented too, the way I see it. In that sense, I was completely devastated to see you sashay away. It broke my heart. I can’t really put words to the emotions I felt: was it anger? Upset? Confusion? Probably a mix of all of the above. Whatever it was, I felt my heart sink to my stomach and my mind flood with thoughts. No, Farrah. Why? You left us far too early.

And yet, your last words in the workroom really hit home with me: “I am so proud of myself for never letting go of my dream, but I’ve got a lot more to learn.”

We all have dreams, whether we choose to chase them or not, and watching you on Drag Race made me think more about mine. Until now, I always thought that chasing dreams at my age was no more productive than chasing rainbows. I’m 16 years old, 17 in a few weeks, and I’ve been shut down so many times that eventually I came to accept the fact that people my age don’t find success. This isn’t the case, of course; hell, Willow Shields is just two days older than me, and she was acting alongside Jennifer Lawrence more than five years ago! Watching this season of Drag Race, seeing you, the youngest queen of the batch, chosen out of thousands of applicants to compete for the dream title of America’s Next Drag Superstar… well, at once I realised that it wasn’t my age holding me back. It was insecurity.

I got so much backlash for talking so openly about my sexuality in my letter to Sasha, which pretty much sums up everything I’m about to say. Growing up gay is rarely straightforward, whether you’re in England like I am or in the United States of America; I envy those who had it easy. When people weren’t insulting me or threatening me, they were putting me down. If I had a dime for every time I heard the words “you’re too gay” or “you can’t… you’re a lesbian”, I’d have hopped on a plane to LA years ago to prove them wrong. It wasn’t just about my sexuality, though. “But you’re a girl,” a friend of mine once said in response to hearing my career plan. “Girls don’t direct films. That’s a man’s job.” Okay, sir, tell that to Kathryn Bigelow. Seriously though, I couldn’t tell you how many times my dreams have been dismissed because of, well, who I am, and it hurts! In Episode 8, you said how horrible you felt roasting people, and I’d bet my bottom dollar that your insecurities around insulting people is due to personal experience being on the receiving end of such harsh criticism.

But roasting other people, embracing your own criticisms and turning them into something that people can really enjoy, is the first step to dealing with past insecurities. The book I am writing is, in effect, my way of taking my inhibitions and turning them into something really productive. By inspiring me, you were one step toward my decision to be confident in myself, to start working towards achieving my dreams now rather than later, and I really can’t thank you enough for that. With your help, I have been able to create something which, for the first time ever, I can be proud of. It’s a real slap in the face for the world’s bigots.

In this book there is a character who would never have existed if not for the message you gave me and so many others. They are young, rebellious, and free-spirited, taking the strict dystopian laws on gender and individuality (or lack of) and walking all over them through their gender-fluidity. They make mistakes, and plenty of them, but who doesn’t? Their community embraces them all the same, and I hope that you know that we, your community, will always do the same for you. Our love for you is endless.

So, Farrah Moan, you were right. You have got a lot to learn, just as the rest of us do.  We are living in a world that is constantly evolving, and often it’s difficult to catch up. You may have been sent home, but I don’t want you to ever lose hope. You are so fierce, so incredibly talented, and believe it or not you have touched the hearts of thousands. The fact that you were able to admit to yourself that you have lots to learn is, to me, proof of how mature you are, so never give up. I know for a fact that the message you have spread, intentionally or not, will stay with me for the rest of my life, and at the very least you have provided me with a burst of confidence that has allowed me to chase my dreams. I love you, and in the words of the great RuPaul Charles: remember to love yourself, because if you can’t love yourself how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?