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Glitter and Be Gay!

Friday, June 06, 2008

We bisexual people live in a weird place on the social continuum. On the one hand, there are some days when everybody seems to think of you as being on their team. The straight people at the school picnic see you with your husband and kid, and assume you’re one of them. The lesbians you meet at that Pride dance see you with your short bleached hair, butch tattoos, and black leather jacket, and greet you warmly as one of the tribe.

But then of course there are the other days, where you’re “other”, no matter where you go. Run into those same women from the Pride dance next month, when you’ve got your husband and kid in tow,  or you mention your non-heterosexual orientation during the PTA meeting on diversity, no matter how tactfully, and suddenly you feel like there’s a line in the sand. Sure, plenty of people don’t give a hoot what team you’re on…but many people seem to expect you to pick a side and stick with it for the rest of your life, or at least to give them an easy way to know where you belong in their mental filing system. And short of having the word “bisexual” tattooed across my knuckles, it’s hard to imagine how I could always make sure everybody knows what section to file me under. (Human beings are rather inconvenient actually…many of us don’t fit well into those cabinets in any case.)

One thing I love about the Disney fan community is that I rarely feel these divisions. Most people don’t care about your sexual orientation…they care about whether you prefer the Anaheim or Orlando version of Pirates of the Caribbean, or your choice of favorite nighttime spectacular (Anaheim and Disneyland’s 50th anniversary fireworks, duh!). They care whether you think the Disney Dining Plan is a good deal (not usually), which touring plan’s guidance you follow (agnostic), and whether you prefer Spaceship Earth with or without the wand (without! Puh-leeze!).

There was a moment, though, when I was a little worried I might not be as welcome in our little fan community as I’d imagined. My first experience of the Disney online fan community came through a very popular message board, where I’d found a treasure trove of advice and information while planning a trip. Before I knew it I wasn’t just searching for advice…I was posting opinions on favorite attractions, sharing excitement as I counted down to my next trip, and making friends at face-to-face meets planned online. I was no stranger to interweb communities, and I found this one friendlier and more welcoming than I’d seen anywhere before.

Which made it all the more disquieting when I first saw the flame wars erupt over Gay Days. It seemed to start fairly innocently: Someone who probably didn’t know any better, someone who had perhaps lived a less expansive life than some, posted a question about whether she should be concerned about her children seeing any inappropriate behavior in the parks. She’d just found out that her previously-scheduled trip would coincide with Gay Days, and this made her nervous. I sighed sadly as I read her question, but my discomfort began in earnest as I watched a flame war unfold, with bitter accusations on both sides. I cringed when people said they didn’t want their kids seeing same-sex couples holding hands, when they said they didn’t want their kids to know that same-sex couples existed, when they spoke of how uncomfortable they’d be if they accidentally wore a red shirt that day and were mistaken for one of the Gay Days participants. And of course, many of these posters were quick to add, “not that there’s anything wrong with that,” or “some of my best friends are gay.”

I wanted to tell them that even the youngest of kids can understand that when people are happy to be together, sometimes they’ll walk hand-in-hand. I wanted to explain that there’s a whole lotta queer people in this great big beautiful world, and their own lives (as well as those of their kids) will be richer if they don’t constrain their social circles based on sexual orientation. I wanted to tell those dudes that even if some buff guy winks at you in line for Peter Pan, it doesn’t negate your heterosexuality, and if you can just relax it might even feel like a compliment.

I was just as sad reading some of the responses from queer or queer-supportive members of the forum, some of whom responded with harsh criticism of the original poster, or with generally angry tirades. I was relieved when a few sane, educational, and soothing words from a queer long-time member of the forums did seem to settle things down somewhat…but the damage had been done, the thread was locked, and I doubt anybody felt good about it.

I haven’t been to Gay Days, and I wish I could be there this weekend! I cannot stop marveling at the fact that Star Wars Weekend #1 (and Hochberg’s fabulous dinner event) coincides with Gay Days; it almost seems as if the universe has conspired to create the perfect Disney weekend for me, and yet I will not be in attendance. I’ll be making my Star Wars pilgrimage later in the month instead, when my son’s out of school and can join me. My family schedule dictates most of my Disney travel (this December, I’ll head down to MouseFest for my first real child-free vacation at Walt Disney World).

And yes, if travel schedules permitted, I believe my son would feel right at home at Gay Days, just as he does anytime we’re at Disney. (Heck, he’s a cool kid…he felt right at home during Goth Day at Disneyland too, despite the fact that his fashion sense runs far more to camo pants than black eyeliner.) Who knows, he might even wear a red shirt in support, much as some wear pink triangles to show their support of the queer community even if they themselves are not queer.

Come to think of it, I believe a number of the parents and teachers from my son’s school were wearing pink triangles last year when we marched in Boston’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride together, and it didn’t matter whether they were gay, straight, or somewhere in between. Some of the kids might have been wearing pink triangles too. And me? I let my short bleached hair, my husband and kid, my tattoos, and my Tinkerbell shirt do the talking. She is, after all, a sassy little fairy.