After the Political Storm, Gay Days Return to Disney

ORLANDO, Fla. – Last Friday evening, about 6,000 people – almost all of them gay men – poured into the Walt Disney World water park near Orlando, Fla. Each spent $ 100 or more on private, adult-only Pride bacchanal called Riptide. “One night, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park in Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon Water Park will be completely yours for the year,” the line advertisers promised. “Join the magic!”

A real rainbow stood over the parking lot in the thunderstorm as the sun went down, leading several attendees to joke that Disney itself had overtaken the theme of Pride this year. But the party was not a Disney-sponsored event, it was not a long shot. Several ticket holders came out in the wrestling match, while others tied chest straps in the image of slavery. Afterwards, a group of go-go boys handed the stage to the drag queen of Trinity the Tuck.

I stood in front of the audience wearing a black Polo shirt and khaki shorts, which led to the immediate intervention of a stranger, Jose Rodriguez, 27. “What are you wearing?” he asked. “You look like a football father, and it’s not healthy. Go and take off some of those clothes!”

Mr. Rodriguez was right to describe me as a mediator: I did not come to Typhoon Lagoon to play (thief, thump, thump) or my rebellious muscles (hah!) I was there for a fact-finding mission.

The Riptide event was part of what is officially known as Gay Days, four extra days of Pride at Disney World and nearby hotels that attract tens of thousands of L.G.B.T.Q visitors every June.

Beginning in 1991, when they beat up Disney obsessives all – they used bulletin boards to plan a rally: Let’s buy tickets to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom theme park on the first Saturday in June and wear a red shirt showing unity. . The idea was for themselves to be shamelessly (peacefully numerically) in the midst of the big Disney crowd and send the message that they too belong to the kingdom. And, of course, climb into Space Mountain and take a picture with Aladdin.

Gay Days has rapidly expanded to other Disney World parks including Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and a number of adult-oriented events have sprung up in non-Disney hotels in the area, including pool parties, dance nights and drag competitions. There is also a Disney-sponsored show where participants can buy artwork featuring Disney characters in a variety of sexual situations. (Mr. Amazing in a joke, $ 17.)

Disney has never accepted Gay Days, the kind that takes place in the fall at Disneyland in California. Nor did she try to bring it back. There is not much that the company can do anyway: On red shirt days, participants buy tickets just like everyone else. The planning is being handled by private companies such as One Magical Weekend, Gay Days Inc., and Wonderland-focused Lesbian Girls.

I have often heard stories about Gay Days, but I am confused as to what it is. Travel does not allow Disney but does it take place, in part, on Disney property? Adult participants spend a lot of time wandering around the tea and waving Winnie the Pooh like everyone else ina and then going to special events that make Grindr beautiful? I am the father of various soccer clubs for gay men, but the parts do not seem to fit together.

This year, another question arises: Are they against L.G.B.T.Q. vitriol around Disney has moved to Gay Days in recent months?

In March, Disney became embroiled in a bitter feud with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. At the time it was being developed by state law aimed at banning classroom discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity through third grade, limiting what teachers could say in front of older students. L.G.B.T.Q. Many organizations and companies have criticized the law, with opponents calling it “Don’t Say Gay.”

Disney chief executive Bob Chapek tried not to take sides in the first place, at least not openly, leading to a labor strike. Mr. Chapek then strongly criticized the law. In the aftermath of political and media scandals, right-wing media figures and Mr. DeSantis started insulting “Woke Disney.” “Mickey is crying,” Laura Ingraham said on her show Fox News, adding that Disney has “proved to be a haven for extremists who are hostile to anyone with any kind of cultural ideological views.” Her friends Tucker Carlson and Steve Doocy joined the attack.

The chairman signed the bill on March 28. On April 28, Mr. DeSantis has suspended Disney World’s designation of a special tax district, a priority that has effectively allowed the company to run its 25,000-acre mega-resort since 1967. In May, four neo-Nazis waved a swasti flag at the Disney World gateway. “This is the country of DeSantis!” they cried.

… Sounds like a fun place to be gay?

Gay days do not always go smoothly. In the 1990s, shortly after the event was established, some religious groups and conservative Disney World visitors watched the guests’ red T-shirt L.G.B.T.Q as bad manners. Disney has marked the door to the Magic Kingdom to warn guests of what is happening, according to Eddie Shapiro, co-author of “Queens in the Kingdom,” L.G.B.T.Q. Disney Vacation Guide. In the early years, Mr. Shapiro said, Disney even handed out a white shirt for straight people who appeared wearing red and were afraid of being mistaken for homosexuals.

“People used to be at the entrance to the Bible and signs saying we were going to hell,” said Robert Mathison, 59, who began attending Gay Days for her fiancé and son in the early 1990s. “For several years the protesters have been flying in planes following placards.”

Anti-L.G.B.T.Q. The protests ended in 1997, when the South Baptist Convention announced a formal boycott, and encouraged, in part, Disney’s refusal to ban the Gay Days. (Church boycotts boycott 2005.) Will gay days 2022 mark the return of that time of division?

“There really is more importance this year,” Tom Christ, who helped get One Weekend Magical in 2009, said by telephone shortly before the incident. “One way to fight back is to show our numbers.” He concludes our call with a suggestion for my next visit: “If you see anything hanky-panky,” he said, “I do not want to read about it.” (I have never witnessed such a practice. Until you count a few men with hair, heavy men – bears, gays – rubbing the belly of Riptide’s party in the pool “lagoon bear” wearing a bootleg “Little Mermaid” “dogob.)

On Saturday morning, with “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” from “Mary Poppins” playing loudspeakers, Gay Day attendees flocked to Disney World. Many of them wore red T-shirts with the word “GAY” written on their backs, a reference to the recent conflict. Veronica Starr, 28, and her wife, Samantha Starr, 32, have been following plans to join Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. “It means a lot, to see,” Veronica said. “When we all wear red, we cannot be ignored.”

Both women said their favorite part of the Gay Days involves the movement of the allies, including volunteers from Mother Free Hugs, L.G.B.T.Q. support organization. At the same time, Kerri McCoy came with her husband and eight young men in red shirts, members of the L.G.B.T.Q. young people. “All the Disney cast members waved and told us to have a happy ending,” she said, using Disney’s word for company.

Although Disney does not sponsor or promote Gay Days, its fields & amp; The tourist section celebrates Pride Month with a thriving rainbow market that fills its stores, including a button with Mickey Mouse and a rainbow with the motto “Have, Believe, Be Proud.” There was also a dessert made of rainbow.

Disney World has provided a number of ready-to-use social media, arrogant photo-reconstruction; and Disney Springs, a shopping mall, with dozens of posters saying “Share Your Pride”. young people.

Yet a man of love has not lost. A reminder from the Tampa area came last Saturday, when a group of Rays basketball players lowered the organization’s Pride Night by refusing to follow the team’s plan to wear a rainbow patch in their uniform.

But as I clung to the Witchcraft Kingdom of the show, I was fascinated by the normal nature of the day. There were no protesters. There were no cautionary signs. The only tension I saw came from a rude gay man that the Disney manager told him his shirt could be seen as inappropriate. She introduced Pluto to the leather goods and the phrase “I love wruff.”

There were a lot of people wearing red shirts who weren’t at Disney World on Gay Days – none seemed to care when they realized the importance of color on this day. “Maybe my daughter thinks I’m cold now,” one man said with a smile, refusing to give his name and heading for the Caribbean boat.

Mr. Mathison and her husband, Frank McKeown, 47, blasé character represents a significant change from the way things used to be.

“About 10 years ago during Gay Days, we were all in the Big Thunder Mountain red shirt,” he said. Mathison, referring to Disney’s Frontierland roller coaster. “It was a red sea. The little girl came to her father in a panic. ‘Dad! Dad! Take off your shirt. If you are wearing red, it means you are gay!

Mr. McKeown picked up the story. “This guy was very, very visible,” he said. “Then we all started chanting, ‘Take it! Take it!’

They laughed. “Ah, those were the days,” Mr. McKeown said.

Several participants in the Gay Days shared similar sentiments with the Gay Days in the past, adding that the US anti-world esprit de corps which was an important part of the event was dropped. The community has become very popular, and some young Gay Days participants are not even busy presenting the red shirt of the Magic Kingdom, preferring a swimming pool.

“There is a little criticism, which is good,” Richard Holley-Byrd, 45, told me when we came out of Country Bear Jamboree, a music review that takes on a double meaning during the Gay Days. “But I missed the extreme social sensation. There was a time when you put on a red Disney shirt and declared to yourself that you felt a little scared, like you were really taking a chance.”

I asked Mr. McKeown, who lives in Quincy, Fla., To help me make sense: If conservatives were outraged by Disney’s “gay agenda,” why would any of that evil appear during Gay Days?

“It is a political theater,” he said.

So the parties’ shouts on social media and right-wing media are happening in some kind of parallel world?

“To some extent,” said Mr. McKeown. “Don’t get me wrong: The fight for equality is not over at all. But as you can see in the garden today, it is really possible for everyone to adapt.”