When I was 12, I landed the greatest job I may ever have. I got to be among the first group of kids ever to be a cast member in a new show that was performed live at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. The show was called the Sparkling Christmas Spectacular and it would go on to grace Cinderella's Castle stage for at least another 20 Christmases.
For a kid, being a part of this show was like winning the lottery. Disney got me out of school, let me sing and dance all day, play dress up, ride the rides for free, play with the characters and then they paid me for it. What? This made no sense. But I was taking it. Pure heaven.
It was there, during those rehearsals, getting ready for the big show, that I first became friends with a man named Bubbles. He was hilarious, kind, ridiculously talented and as you can imagine by his self moniker, very very gay.
Bubbles was my first exposure to even the concept of what it means to be gay. And with my eyes now wide open, it didn’t take me long to realize that 95% of the male cast members of our show were also gay.
I’ll admit it took a hot second for my kid brain to get wrapped around it. And I think it’s fine to admit that there were some initial childish snickers amongst me and my fellow kid cast members at the first realization of what it all meant. But all of that pretty quickly fell away, when we realized that this new tribe of people we were spending the bulk of our time with, were just that... people. And that we couldn’t help but love them. They were too awesome.
I will always be grateful to Disney for exposing me to that experience, because it helped me to be the person I wanted to be, when a few years later, I discovered that my Uncle, who lived with us, was gay. I was able to feel compassion/empathy for the pain he went through, feeling like he was caught between two impossible choices: deny himself his own truth and happiness or risk hatred. I had become open enough to see that, for him, it really wasn’t even all about sex like I had thought, it was about love.
That experience helped me again repeatedly to be open to and absolutely fall in love with an endless stream of gay people I’ve been privileged to meet through out the years, either through work, or because I was lucky enough to be their neighbors.
Through those relationships, I learned even further how those who had done the work, and mustered the courage to be who they are in this world, even in the face of so much oppression, hatred and vitriol (from those who have decided they should get to have a say in other people’s lives), were just extraordinary people. And that many of them would go on to have some of the most long running, loving and healthy relationships I’ve had the pleasure to witness. And yes, many became incredible parents.
Being exposed early on to the gay community, has made my life so much richer. I’m truly better for knowing them, and yet, here we are in 2022 and we’re dealing with a fresh wave of influential people using their bully pulpits to spread fear and lies about who gay people are and why they shouldn’t even be talked about. Shouldn’t be seen or heard. Implying that their very existence is somehow too vulgar for them to even be allowed to show up in a Disney film as characters. That somehow, kids knowing about good, loving gay families will do…what exactly?
I find myself wanting to make an appeal to all the sane and decent people in the world. And especially to the one’s who, otherwise have loving hearts, but maybe don’t know a lot of gay people and therefore, have no personal experience to rely on, in order to counter the pervasive fear narrative.
To those of you who fall into that category I say this: I can get how hard it can be to be exposed to other realities you’re not so sure about. That seem so very foreign to you. Or that you've been told your whole life are wrong, or even go against your personal/religious belief system. But I have to ask in the kindest way possible, what are you so afraid of exactly? That you feel you need to essentially tell gay people that they're not allowed to be seen or heard in your world? Are you afraid gay people are somehow contagious, and that if your kids know about them, they’ll become gay too?
I can assure you that's not true because If it were, I’d be super gay by now, instead of someone who has been in a very happy, loving marriage with my husband for the past 28 years. My whole life was spent with gay people as an important part of my chosen family and it didn't make me gay because, well, I’m just not gay.
Is it because the few gay people you have been exposed to are too wild, angry, or extreme for your taste? You feel they’re “too in your face”? Well guess what? Some of them are. It’s true. But that’s not because they’re gay. That’s because they’re human.
Humans act out in all kinds of ways when faced with the pain of feeling like they don’t belong, or told they’re not allowed to exist. Just look at how certain white men have been behaving recently, to the point of taking up arms, after getting even the tiniest little taste of what pushback feels like from society. Imagine how they’d be behaving at this point, if they’d experienced the hundreds, even thousands, of years of pushback and true oppression that comes from being oppressed by the people who are actually in power positions over you, like women, gays and POC have experienced.
Yet it doesn’t mean we, as a society should say white men shouldn’t exist because of the behavior of these certain men who are acting out reprehensibly, because it's not true. No matter how bad of a rap white men have gotten lately, it should never be forgotten that many are responsible for incredible contributions in our society and we need and should love them too.
My greatest hope is that anyone still reading this, that falls into the fear category on this issue, will at least consider that you jumping in on the fear and rejection bandwagon and locking yourself into a tribe that allows it to grow and fester, is not without consequence. This campaign to try to stuff gay people (who will never cease to exist) back in the closet, will never work. Ever. All it will do is needlessly keep hurting all the gay people who are quietly living their lives as a true contribution in this world, and continue to poke at and fuel the pain of those whose tendency it is to get loud and act out wildly when they feel threatened (because they are being threatened.)
And if you're still here, then allow me to be greedy and hope a little further, that not only will you consider just letting them live their lives, but to consider that if you're not befriending gay people, as part of your extended societal family, that you are missing out on some of the best they have to offer this world, because you're too busy being focused on all you feel is wrong with them. You will always find what you look for. This is just a universal truth.
And to Disney, I’m not 12 anymore and am under no illusion that you are perfect as a company. In fact, I’m pretty sure Walt would be pissed about a lot of the ways you have chosen to do business. But it’s also just unmistakeable how many wonderful contributions you have made to our society, repeatedly, for nearly a century running. And being brave enough to risk financial gain, in order to try to help make room for ALL kinds of families to get to thrive and exist and see themselves reflected, well that’s a Walt move if I’ve ever seen one. Good for you. And once again, thanks for that best first job a girl could ever have. And for introducing me to Bubbles.
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