Ron DeSantis claims he heard people won’t let their kids join the military because of drag queens

Lynchburg, Virginia USA - April 14, 2023 - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaking at Liberty University on April 14, 2023.
Ron DeSantis Photo: Shutterstock

While speaking at a GOP fundraiser in Iowa, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) railed against drag queens and claimed they were putting military recruitment at risk.

“When you see videos of folks recruiting for the military services using things like drag queens, you know, that is just fundamentally wrong,” he told attendees of the Feenstra Family Picnic.

DeSantis was referring to a story making the rounds in rightwing media about Yeoman Second Class Joshua Kelley, who is one of several active duty “Digital Ambassadors” selected by the Navy as part of a pilot program to use social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok for recruitment. Kelley is nonbinary and goes by the name Harpy Daniels when in drag.

“From joining to 2016 and being able to share my drag experience on my off time with my fellow sailors has been a blessing,” Kelley wrote in an Instagram post for the Navy last November. “Thank you to the Navy for giving me this opportunity! I don’t speak for the Navy but simply sharing my experience in the Navy! Hooyah, and let’s go slay!” they wrote.

DeSantis also blasted the military for “embracing things like gender ideology” and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies.

“We need to get the military focused on what it’s supposed to be,” he said. “I don’t want to run into any more veterans saying, ‘You know, governor, I don’t think that I would want my son or daughter to join the military anymore.’”

The idea that the military has become “woke” has been a GOP talking point at least since the Biden administration lifted the ban on transgender people serving openly. GOP politicians have argued that an inclusive military makes the United States look weak against its enemies.

“This is not about anything other than targeting trans people,” Barbara Simon, GLAAD’s head of news and campaigns, told The Hill. “And because it’s something that a lot of people don’t understand, they’re taking advantage and exploiting people’s relative unfamiliarity with trans people in general — but trans people have always served in the military.”

Drag performances have also long taken place in the military.

Nevertheless, Florida is currently considering a bill to send a sternly-worded document to Biden administration officials denouncing the “woke” military.

The bill identifies three main examples of military wokeness: the military’s opposition to racism in the workplace and the facts that “openly gay and bisexual men and women have been allowed to serve in the military” and “the ban on transgender individuals serving in the military was lifted.” It has passed both legislative chambers and awaits DeSantis’s signature.

DeSantis is also expected to sign a bill banning public drag performances. S.B. 1438 prohibits government entities from issuing permits to organizations that may hold “adult live performances” in the presence of minors. It has already passed the legislature.

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