Republicans Think ‘Drag Queen Story Hours’ Are a Top Threat to US Military

Top military leaders came under fire this week from Republicans pressing them on drag queens on bases and diversity initiatives.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley is seen during a budget hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 28th, 2023 in Washington, DC.

If you were to listen to certain Republican politicians of late, the top threat facing U.S. troops isn’t the growing military alliance between the Kremlin and China, but drag queen story hours and the scourge of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.

This week, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III and Chief of Defense Staff General Mark Milley appeared in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the House Armed Services Committee giving testimony to elected officials on the gargantuan $842 billion Pentagon budget. During both proceedings, Austin and Milley were grilled on a slew of culture war topics from the GOP.


“How much taxpayer money goes to fund drag queen story hours on military bases?” Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, citing a flier advertising a drag queen story hour on Ramstein Air Base in Germany as evidence of a problem, asked Austin.

“Listen, drag shows are not something that the Department of Defense supports or funds,” said Austin, who was forced to repeat the answer several times to Gaetz who continued to ask “why are they happening on military bases?”

Gaetz later listed other LGBTQ+ friendly events on military bases, which happen among the queer community of the U.S. military, featuring drag queens and other celebrations. It wasn’t clear if any of them had been funded by the Pentagon, but some soldiers live almost full time on bases and celebrate a host of cultural and religious events while doing so.

General Milley told Gaetz that “it was the first I’m hearing about that kinda stuff” and committed to looking into it adding, “I think those things shouldn’t be happening.” (A spokesperson for Milley later clarified to a reporter that he meant he was against using taxpayer money to fund drag events on bases and not against those types of celebrations.) In the same questioning, Gaetz railed against vaccine mandates for soldiers, which is a military practice as old as the American War of Independence, and a civilian Department of Defense official responsible for DEI initiatives that criticized some of her white colleagues in a previous workplace in a controversial tweet


The day before, Austin faced similar themed questioning in the Senate from Alabama Senator and former college football coach, Tommy Tuberville, who likened the equality initiatives by the Pentagon as a “hell” for troops.

“As one of your first acts, Mr. Secretary, you put our military, every single member, active duty and reserve, to mandatory training to root out extremists,” he said to Austin. “That sent a message.”

Tuberville was referring to Austin issuing a historic Stand Down order in February 2021, shortly after the Jan. 6 attacks on the Capitol and the revelation that several active-duty and veteran service members played a key role. The order forced all servicemen across every branch of the military to stop and reflect on the issue of extremism, with the Pentagon later rolling out new, robust codes of conduct on what sorts of extremist activities for soldiers wouldn’t be tolerated.

The facts don’t match up to Tuberville’s rhetoric: according to a University of Maryland study from last year, since 1991 close to 600 individuals with military backgrounds committed extremist violence and were charged for it, which includes both the Oklahoma City bombing in 1996 and the Jan. 6 uprising. The vast majority of those incidents were motivated by far-right politics. 

The overtly politicized cross-examining by GOP lawmakers over the Pentagon’s agenda of equality for its troops, matches up to increasing Republican attacks on what they are calling America’s “woke warfighters” and the inference that somehow American troops have gone soft under President Joe Biden. For example, even Elon Musk weighed in on a DoD tweet touting its diversity in February, questioning the Pentagon for its initiatives.

What many of these rightwing figures fail to mention, is that the U.S. military not only has the largest budget of any standing army on earth, but it is the most active and is by far the most experienced. Over the course of the last two decades of the War On Terror, the Pentagon has deployed its soldiers (including countless special forces kill teams and armed drones, on offensive missions) to at least 76 countries around the globe.