This story continues to evolve and on March 28th Disney officially took a stance against the law and vows to help repeal it.
On Tuesday, March 8th we sent out a newsletter promoting our attendance to One Magical Weekend, an LGBT+ dance and music festival that takes place the first weekend in June in Orlando. This event coincides with the unofficial event Red Shirt Day (commonly referred to as Gay Days), a long-time tradition where members of the LGBT+ community visit the Disney parks while wearing red shirts as a sign of community unity. This tradition started in the 90s and quickly gained popularity at Disney World Orlando. This is not to be confused with the other dance and music festival taking place the same weekend at a different host hotel, whose organizers actually have a trademark on the name Gay Days…yes we know it can be confusing!
In the days leading up to our newsletter going out, there was a lot of discussion about Florida's so-called Don't Say Gay bill which prevents sexual orientation and gender identity education in kindergarten to third grade in the state of Florida. On the day our newsletter went out, Florida's senate passed the bill and many of our readers were understandably upset by the revelation of Disney’s support of these politicians. Afterward, we got the largest backlash of messages from our readers that we have ever received. The tone of the messages ranged from disappointment to downright rude and hateful.
First and foremost, we want thank our readers for letting us know about this incredibly important (and infuriating) news story. We really appreciate being informed when we're not aware of something (however nicely is always preferred). Although we are originally from the US, we have lived abroad since 2012 and don't always keep up with all the US news as it's happening. Unfortunately, we missed this one. As two out, gay, progressive men, we are naturally upset by the homophobia contained in this bill and by the political actors and supporters of its contents. We also apologize for not acknowledging the situation in Florida in our newsletter.
The overwhelming call we received from our readers was to boycott Disney. Some even went as far as to say we should boycott all travel to and promotion of Florida. The irony of the situation is that the same newsletter featuring our promotion of One Magical Weekend, also featured our podcast episode where we discussed anti-LGBT+ legislation and travel boycotts – which we do not support as a general rule. We explain more about why we don't typically support travel boycotts below.
Why We Won’t Boycott Travel to the State of Florida
Generally speaking, we do not support boycotting travel to destinations as a result of anti-LGBT+ legislation and general intolerance or homophobia. This is because it would ultimately do harm to the local LGBT+ community as many work in travel and hospitality – restaurants, bars, hotels, shops, events, etc. We absolutely want to support the LGBT+ community, at home and abroad, even when local governments don't. Of course, individual safety will always supersede this policy and we would never recommend someone travel if they don’t feel they will be safe. We personally know many LGBT+ business owners and residents of Florida who are equally upset about this bill. After all, it's their home, community and identities being attacked. We stand with them but we don't support punishing them because of the actions of a small group of anti-LGBT+ politicians.
Why We Are Not Boycotting One Magical Weekend
One Magical Weekend is a private event and is not organized nor endorsed by Disney. The events that take place are organized by an LGBT+ owned and operated business. Most of their staff, DJs and employees are also part of the LGBT+ community. The main connection with Disney is that One Magical Weekend was founded to coincide with Red Shirt Day in Orlando, but they were never connected in an official way. We believe it is better to support this LGBT+ run event and that boycotting it would do more harm to our community than good. After all, aren't we trying to protect this community?
We do, however, want to acknowledge that one event of the festival takes place at a Disney property including the Friday night water park party at Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon. We assume One Magical Weekend pays a fee to host their event at the facility. And of course, some One Magical Weekend attendees do typically attend both Red Shirt Day at Disney and One Magical Weekend, which coincide on the same weekend but, again, are not affiliated. While we understand some may not want a cent of their money going to Disney, we personally believe it is not effective to punish One Magical Weekend for the actions of the Walt Disney Company.
What Is Our Stance on Disney?
We are equally disgusted by this homophobic bill in Florida and upset to hear that Disney has financially supported politicians who sponsored and supported this bill. We hope that Disney takes action and does more to support the LGBT+ community since they claim to be an ally. We understand completely those who wish to boycott Disney Parks as well as Red Shirt Day as a way to pressure Disney to change their public stance. We especially support the LGBT+ employees at Disney who have published a letter criticizing their CEO's response to the situation. As a major corporation, LGBT+ employees have resource groups dedicated to supporting the LGBT+ community from within and they do have a large voice and influence in the company.
The explanation above is our opinion. We certainly understand if you disagree with our stance. The issue is delicate and complex. As you may well know, a community is often not represented by its political and business leaders in a particular destination. This is especially true for the LGBT+ community. We encourage you to do what you believe is right for you. Certainly, we are all working toward the common goal of supporting the queer community, whether through boycotts, activism, voting, conversations, and all the other myriad of tools we have at our disposal. Let's keep working together and supporting one another.