Elected officials are going around saying drag queens are ‘grooming’ kids now

A drag queen reads a picture book

New York City mayor Eric Adams has led a chorus of criticism against a Queens councilwoman who said drag queens are “grooming” kids.

Vickie Paladino, a Republican representing District 19 of Northeast Queens, took aim at drag performers reading to school children as part of a state and city-funded programme.

“Any school in my district participating in ‘drag queen’ degeneracy risks losing their funding,” Paladino tweeted on Monday (13 June), sharing a New York Post article on the topic.

“Adult drag performers have NO BUSINESS in our schools, and they will not be in my district. Period.”


“Progressives may have no problem with child grooming and sexualization, but I do,” she added. “This will not happen on my watch. Kids deserve a quality education free from political manipulation and sexual content.”

Adams, however, was not amused.

“At a time when our LGBTQ+ communities are under increased attack across this country, we must use our education system to educate. The goal is not only for our children to be academically smart, but also emotionally intelligent,” Adams tweeted Thursday (16 June).

“Drag storytellers, and the libraries and schools that support them, are advancing a love of diversity, personal expression, and literacy that is core to what our city embraces.”

The New York City Council LGBTQIA+ Caucus is calling for the council to remove Paladino from the committee and be censured for her “bigoted comments”.

“We urge the Council to take immediate action by censuring this member and removing her from her committee assignments,” co-chairs Crystal Hudson and Tiffany Cabán said in a statement shared on Twitter.

“This is not an issue of ideological differences, but a question of our collective belief in all New Yorkers’ right to an existence free from discrimination.”

State and city agencies have contracted non-profit Drag Story Hour NYC to appear in dozens of public schools, street festivals and libraries, city records obtained by New York Post show.

Paladino was fuming at how, since 2018, Drag Story Hour NYC has been paid $207,000 to produce engaging creative arts programmes for children and teenagers. Yes, this is what she compared to “grooming”.

The performers even dare to teach children about diversity and empathy by reading aloud picture books. Oh, the horror.

Drag queen Scalene Onixxx reads to adults and children during Drag Queen Story Hour in California. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

The payment included $50,000 from New York State through its Council on the Arts, along with $157,000 from the city’s Departments of Education, Cultural Affairs, Youth and Community Development and the Department of Transportation.

Paladino told the outlet: “We are taking hundreds of thousands of dollars out of the pockets of hardworking New York taxpayers … to fund a program teaching little children about their gender fluidity?

“Not. On. My. Watch.”

This is the latest example of the new Republican trend of rehashing a very old homophobic slur – “groomer”.

The pathetic attempt to whip up hatred has been used for years to conflate LGBTQ+ people with paedophilia. But now it’s back, and this time Republicans are using it at every turn to silence people who support LGBTQ+ rights.

Firebrand Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene – because who else – once called the Democratic Party the party of “grooming and transitioning children“. A Michigan lawmaker was dubbed a “groomer” by a colleague because she supported children learning about inclusivity in schools.

Some backers of Florida’s infamous ‘Don’t Say Gay‘ bill have referred to it as an “anti-grooming” measure. While right-wing pundit after right-wing pundit has used the new buzzword.

But these words can curdle into violence. Members of neo-Nazi group Patriot Front plotted to riot at a Pride event in Idaho because members believed LGBTQ+ people are “groomers“.

In California, a gang of alleged Proud Boys members stormed a Drag Queen Story Hour event shouting slurs in front of terrified families. One man wrote a t-shirt that read: “Kill your local paedophile.”

To celebrate Pride month, lawmakers in Texas have launched a bid to ban children from attending drag performances altogether.

Though the term has been increasingly thrown around in abandon, Americans themselves aren’t exactly a fan – a poll by Data for Progress found that the majority of voters along both political divides do not support the use of “groomer” to describe LGBTQ+ people.