Queens councilmember goes on bigoted rant against drag story hour

Queens Councilmember Vickie Paladino wants to strip funding for drag story hour in New York City.
NYC Council/John McCarten

Queens Councilmember Vickie Paladino unleashed a barrage of bigoted tweets on June 13 in response to an insensitive New York Post article about funding for drag story hour in New York City.

“Any school in my district participating in ‘drag queen’ degeneracy risks losing their funding,” Paladino said in the first tweet of an unhinged, five-tweet thread. “Adult drag performers have NO BUSINESS in our schools, and they will not be in my district. Period.”

The well-established drag story hour initiative, which brings drag artists to classrooms and other venues to read books to children, was championed by out former Queens lawmakers Jimmy Van Bramer and Daniel Dromm. But it has also become the target of conservatives — including Fox News host Tucker Carlson — who have peddled baseless stereotypes about queer individuals as part of a coordinated attack on LGBTQ rights nationwide. The New York Post article referred to drag story hour in a derogatory manner by describing drag artists as “outrageously cross-dressed.”

Paladino, just months into her first term representing Queens’ District 19, posted the series of tweets just hours before the City Council voted to approve a $101 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The lawmaker went on to lace additional tweets with more false narratives suggesting that queer people are “groomers” or that drag story hour is sexual.

“Progressives may have no problem with child grooming and sexualization, but I do,” Paladino wrote. “This will not happen on my watch. Kids deserve a quality education free from political manipulation and sexual content. And that’s what the kids in District 19 will get.”

Paladino used her Twitter thread to ramble about how she was elected “to hold the line on major issues like this” and described drag story hour as “grotesque.” Paladino also went on to say that her office has been “in contact” with school principals in her district — and she claimed, without evidence, that “nearly all of them” oppose bringing drag story hour to their schools.

So far this year, Drag Story Hour NYC has hosted 49 drag story hour events across 34 schools in English, Spanish, and Cantonese, according to the organization, which is part of the Drag Queen Story Hour Network. The program has received funding through the state and city.

Paladino is no stranger to controversial and hateful remarks. Earlier this year, she made headlines when she ranted against vaccine requirements during an interview with NY1, saying that she did not “need to show you my papers” because “this is not Nazi Germany.”

New York-based drag artist Marti Gould Cummings responded to Paladino’s rant by calling on the City Council to take action against the Queens lawmaker.

“Hey @NYCCouncil, please censure @VickieforNYC — these remarks are anti queer and harmful,” Cummings wrote in a tweet. “Our Council has no room for this hate.”

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams distanced herself from Paladino one day after the tweets were published.

“The speaker disagrees and disassociates herself and the body from these comments, and finds them deeply problematic,” a spokesperson for the speaker told Gay City News in a written statement.

Dromm, who represented Queens’ District 25 during his time as a city lawmaker, blasted Paladino in a tweet of his own.

“Your transphobic remarks probably violate New York City laws, Department of Education regulations, and the Council’s non-discrimination policies,” Dromm wrote on Twitter. “You need to stop with your hatred now.”

The Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City posted a tweet pointing to violent attacks on a drag story hour in San Francisco as the club warned of the impact of Paladino’s remarks.

“This is the violence that the vitriolic @VickieforNYC ‘s bigoted statements creates,” the club wrote. “Be certain, this one term Councilmember doesn’t care about kids. She cares about parroting her party’s homophobia and getting headlines.”

Councilmembers Crystal Hudson of Brooklyn and Tiffany Cabán of Queens, who co-chair the LGBTQIA+ Caucus, issued a joint statement responding to Paladino.

“Drag has long been a bold, subversive form of expression for queer folks to reveal the restrictions of heteronormative gender expectations,” the lawmakers told Gay City News. “Drag has been at the cultural forefront in shifting hearts and minds to embrace all people within the LGBTQIA+ community. Acceptance and self-expression is exactly what we should be teaching our students, especially those who may come from homes that are less tolerant or have had no exposure to queer communities. As homophobic and transphobic legislators move to criminalize queerness across the nation, amid a terrible wave of trans youth homelessness and suicides, our City must continue to lead the charge in supporting the LGBTQIA+ community and holding up organizations like Drag Story Hour NYC. All it could take is one drag performer to show a young, queer student that their identity is valid and that they truly belong. This is as much a discussion about acceptance, tolerance, and respect, as it is a moment to reflect on the pervasiveness both subtle and explicit expressions of homophobia entrenched in government.”

Out Councilmember Chi Ossé of Brooklyn, a member of the LGBTQIA+ Caucus and the chair of the Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations, declined to comment.