TDOV 2022: Disney and saying gay

LGBT Pride Flag

It is Transgender Day of Visibility today, and I felt like making a post for it. I strongly support the rights of LGBT people, and it should never be a crime to love who you love or express your gender identity differently than your assigned gender.

This situation with Disney and the Don’t Say Gay bill has consumed a good bit of my time, and I’ve thought about writing about it for the past week, so here we go.

This is a very political post, so be prepared. For disclosure, I have done work for Disney and hold Disney shares. I am still pretty disappointed with this ordeal.

As you may know, there has been some controversy about Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” (HB 1557 (2022)) bill, and Disney’s involvement with it. The bill was enacted two days ago. If you’re unfamiliar, this bill makes it illegal for teachers to inform their students about sexual orientation or gender identity. The text of the bill has two parts.

Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.

Florida law, 1001.42(8)(C)(3) – end of page 4 of the bill text PDF

Nowhere in the bill is “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate” defined. “Classroom instruction” would typically cover any material given from the school – vocally, visually, or textually presented. This could, for example, prevent teachers from acknowledging that a student is LGBT or that their parents are, as the teacher would have to educate the class on what LGBT is.

This is an intentionally vague loophole, left to expand the bill without outright saying the plan is to expand it immediately. It allows the state government to change the age range and subjects at will, whenever it pleases. Such as, when a re-election is coming up, and it would be politically advantageous for some spineless politicians to bully minority kids into suicide for their own advantage. Sacrificing our children’s futures for their own terrible, twisted, and immoral gains.

If it isn’t clear, I strongly condemn the actions of the Florida Legislature. This kind of bill has absolutely no place in modern society. The people who back it should never have been given the power to do so.

Transgender people already have a hard time accessing gender-affirming care, and gay people have commonly been falsely called or linked to groomers and pedophiles – which has been statistically found to be the opposite.

It is shameful that Disney, who sells LGBT themed pins and memorabilia and claims to stand with its LGBT employees and fans, supposedly did nothing until after the law had already passed Florida’s Congress — while funding the very people who made it. Even then, most of their action has been vague supportive statements and failed donations to charities who didn’t want their money. They did finally get around to denouncing the bill, after the drama had been going for about a week and the bill already passed.

Speaking of selling LGBT themed merchandise, Disney had apparently refused to allow their staff wear their own pride pins if they were too scared of losing their job to participate in the walkout.

For their part, Pixar and Disney Television Animation (DTVA) have done well to separate themselves from this. Pixar is reinstating its inclusion of a gay kiss in Lightyear (which, kids movies have kissing all the time, why not a part 2, part 3, part 4, and a part 5 — “why does a kids movie need kisses” is an awful argument). Pixar had also posted on their official Twitter against the bill after the news broke. There has also been a probably “leaked” memo to corporate.

DTVA has been producing The Owl House, which features Luz (the main chracter) and Amity becoming girlfriends and having that be a recurring and somewhat natural feeling plot point. Showrunner Dana Terrace has tried to make it as reasonable as possible, while making it has hard as possible for Disney to remove it. Historically, Star vs. the Forces of Evil has had a gay background couple before. DTVA also “disavowed” the company’s handling of the DSG bill.

Some parts of Disney do genuinely try to get LGBT welcoming content published, and for the most part corporate only cares for what is profitable. I don’t think Disney is some hive of evil corporate business people who hate all things LGBT.

Disney is a disjointed mess. They don’t have one clear and cohesive decision or understanding of what is going on. The company needs to figure itself out, and hopefully they do the right thing.

Remember Disney, your creative workers are your most important asset, and they will remember when you don’t let them tell the stories that are most important to them. Your success is bound to the connection people have with the stories you release. You constantly make stories about acceptance and finding yourself. You sully those words when you don’t back them up with actions.

Do better, Disney.

—Anne, a person who’s dreamed of making welcoming and interesting stories at Disney since being a little girl.