While some of you may never have heard of Disney’s annual ‘Gay Days’ before, others will be well aware of the four day-long celebration of all things queer that takes place every year in Orlando, Florida. And despite the mounting anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation in the alleged ‘sunshine state’—not to mention across the entire nation—nothing was going to stop thousands of people from flocking to the family parks, munching on themed snacks, frolicking with Mickey, lounging poolside and overall celebrating the lives of queer individuals everywhere.
Florida Governor, and current top-runner for the Republican nominee in the 2024 US Presidential elections, Ron DeSantis has made it his personal mission to strip back any and all remaining rights for LGBTQIA+ communities in his state.
From gender-affirming care and the safety of trans youth to the complete denial of queer individuals’ existence with the highly controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill that forbids classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades, DeSantis has launched a crusade against anyone who doesn’t fit the cisgendered, white heteronormative mould he’s dead set on protecting.
Well, it turns out that one of the Governor’s current rivals isn’t going to back down that easily. Disney has been at odds with the conservative politician for quite some time now. After publicly opposing the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, DeSantis retaliated by deeming the company a “Magic Kingdom of woke corporatism” and signing a bill in February 2023 aimed at seizing control of the self-governing special district near Orlando that the corporation has been running ever since Disney World opened its doors in 1971, as reported by The Guardian.
In short, the bill means that Disney no longer has complete control over the board that oversees the special tax district (the vast area that covers the Disney parks and up until this point has been acting practically like its own country)—thereby meaning that any and all future construction projects would need to be approved by a newly appointed oversight committee, one that is now controlled by DeSantis. Disney has sued, citing that it was being subjected to a “targeted campaign of government retaliation.” What will happen next still remains unclear.
Either way, with Disney and DeSantis still at odds, it’s no surprise that this year’s Gay Days have been some of the most important celebrations yet.
The official Disney Gay Days started back in 1991. And while never technically claimed as a legitimate Disney event, the parks have always been overwhelmingly supportive of the celebrations. They’ve also grown substantially—currently Gay Days attract up to 150,000 members of the LGBTQIA+ community, alongside family members. For many, it can be a healing experience, a way in which to relive childhood without fear of homophobic abuse or shame.
Gay Days involve less of a strict agenda, and instead represent more of a mentality and freedom. They’re organised as a way in which to create a safe space for queer individuals to simply enjoy the fun of Disney. The first day is usually referred to as the ‘red shirt day’ where everyone attending puts on a red shirt so they can identify other park guests who’re also there for the event.
Other activities include drag bingo, night parties, special dining experiences, and a whole myriad of other fun LGBTQIA-centric events.
Joseph Clark, CEO of Gay Days Inc., recently told the Associated Press: “Right now is not the time to run. It’s not the time to go away. It’s time to show we are here, we are queer and we aren’t going anywhere.”
The point is to impress on DeSantis and the entire Republican party that gay Floridians aren’t going to completely flee the state. They’re going to stay and fight.