Mayor Eric Adams — and a whole host of council members — have slammed a Queens councilwoman who claimed drag storytellers who read books to students at city schools are “grooming” young kids.
Adams defended the program in which drag queens and kings read children’s books in their full drag attire to promote inclusivity after Republican Councilwoman Vickie Paladino claimed it was a form of “child grooming and sexualization” on Twitter.
“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 said in a statement. “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 City Council’s LGBTQIA+ Caucus is asking for Paladino to be removed from her committee assignments and formally censured.
“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. “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.”
Paladino’s comments were sparked by the nonprofit, Drag Story Hour NYC. The group received a boost in taxpayer funding during the current fiscal year which drew the councilwoman’s ire. City Council members set aside $80,000 for the group from their discretionary budgets — more than tripling the $25,000 earmarked in 2020.
“NYC is spending taxpayer dollars to bring adult drag queens into elementary schools across the city to perform for small children,” Paladino tweeted. “This is unacceptable and grotesque, and follows a deeply disturbing national pattern.”
The council member, who has stoked controversy among her council colleagues before, then compared the drag storytelling to “child grooming” — causing outrage among lawmakers and LGBTQ activists.
“Progressives may have no problem with child grooming and sexualization, but I do,” Paladino wrote on Twitter. “This will not happen on my watch. Kids deserve a quality education free from political manipulation and sexual content.”
Several of Paladino’s council colleagues and local lawmakers called out her bigoted remarks, which came during Pride month.
Brooklyn Councilmember Chi Ossé said she could learn a thing or two from the drag storytellers.
“@DQSHTweets teaches youth about gender diversity and how we accept all of our neighbors with love, dignity, and respect — lessons that @vickiefornyc can use,” Ossé tweeted. “There is no room for hate in NYC, especially in the Council. CM Paladino must be held accountable for her comments.”
He added that it was fine if Paladino’s constituents don’t want drag storytellers in their schools, but to say that the performers are “groomers” is “wildly homophobic and bigoted” — and often invokes violent attacks on queer people.
Ossé, who is queer himself, said the Queens Republican took things a step further and liked several tweets in which people called him “a groomer” in response to his defense of Drag Story Hour NYC.
Even Paladino’s fellow Queens representatives have called out her remarks.
“I don’t make it a habit to comment on the conduct of my colleagues, but rhetoric accusing LGBTQ+ people of pedophilia — ‘grooming’ — is unacceptable and should never be uttered by anyone,” Council Member Linda Lee said on Twitter. “The LGBTQ+ community has been oppressed throughout history due to these comparisons and stigmatizations.”
Queer Council Member Cabán said Paladino’s marks were stomach-turning.
“Could not be more revolted,” she said. “Drag Story Hour NYC shows young, queer NYers that they’re valid, that they truly belong.”
Council Speaker Adrienne Adams called out Paladino by name in a statement denouncing hate and intolerance.
“I stand with all of my Council colleagues, LGBTQ+ communities, and New Yorkers in unequivocally denouncing Council Member Paladino’s repugnant views and statements against specific members of the Council and the trans community,” Adams said. “A New Yorker’s choice of dress, gender expression or identity must be not only protected legally, but also against vile, hateful attacks.”
The speaker said the Council is considering taking action against Paladino.
“Any form of hate, including transphobia, has no place in this city, and certainly not in this Council,” she said. “The Council is looking into what further action may be warranted.”