The United States Navy has confirmed that it used a drag queen influencer as part of its “digital ambassador” program to recruit potential candidates.

Joshua Kelley, who serves as an active-duty U.S. Navy Yeoman 2nd Class, performed under the stage name “Harpy Daniels” and has been an openly performing drag queen for some time. Kelley served as part of the Navy’s pilot ambassador program from October 2022 to March 2023.

Kelley announced on his Instagram page in November 2022 that the Navy had asked him to be their “first” “Navy Digital Ambassador.”

He added that he identified as non-binary and that the experience of sharing his drag experience with fellow sailors had brought him “so much strength, courage and ambition to continue being an advocate and representation of queer sailors.”

Kelley also responded to criticism from conservative podcaster Graham Allen who had accused him of being a “disgrace” to the military.

Graham Allen posted this on Instagram:

Kelley said, “Queer ppl were oppressed in the military for years only until 2011 and trans people since 2021. You only want to support the military when it benefits you and doesn’t involve queer people. Yet the military is the largest diverse, and adaptable organization in the use.”

A Navy spokeswoman said that the “Navy Digital Ambassador Program was a pilot initiative designed to explore the digital environment to reach a wide range of potential candidates as the Navy navigates the most challenging recruiting environment it has faced since the start of the all-volunteer force.” She added that the pilot program has concluded and that the Navy is evaluating the program and how it will exist in the future.

The Navy spokesperson confirmed to Fox News Digital that the service did not pay Kelley or any other Navy Digital Ambassadors for their participation in the program.

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Kelley’s participation in the program has received mixed reactions, with some people praising the Navy for its diversity and inclusion efforts, while others have criticized the use of a drag queen influencer as inappropriate and potentially damaging to the military’s image.

The use of digital influencers and ambassadors is not new for the military, as they have been using social media to reach potential recruits for several years. However, the use of a drag queen influencer is seen as a departure from the traditional military image, which has typically been associated with masculinity and toughness.

Former Navy veterans and family members of veterans started speaking out all over Twitter:

Others supported his stance:

A few even used this moment to take a swipe at the U.S. Navy in general: