Hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ+ revelers are expected to descend on Orlando for Disney Gay Days, a four-day schedule of parties and meet-ups not officially sanctioned by the Mouse House.
The timing is precarious, with anti-LGBTQ+ governor (and Republican presidential candidate) Ron DeSantis waging a high-profile war against the behemoth media and entertainment company, mostly because its leadership dared to stand up for LGBTQ+ customers and employees by speaking out against DeSantis's "don't say gay" law. Disney recently slapped DeSantis with a lawsuit, saying he targeted the company for political retribution over its stance on "don't say gay." For his part, DeSantis has tried to sully Disney's reputation with the larger public by referring to it as a "woke" corporation. DeSantis is pinning his White House hopes on scapegoating transgender people and drag queens, passing laws targeting both communities. The situation for LGBTQ+ people in Florida is so dire that the Human Rights Campaign, Equality Florida, and even the NAACP issued travel warnings for the Sunshine State.
Most of the events of Gay Days begin Thursday, the beginning of Pride Month, with the start of Red Shirt Days, where LGBTQ+ Disney fans wear red to the various Disney theme parks to identify themselves as queer (some Red Shirt Days occur at neighboring amusement parks, like Florida's Universal Studios and SeaWorld). At the sold-out Gay Days host hotel, the Doubletree by Hilton at SeaWorld, there are also various pool parties and even drag shows, even though DeSantis signed a bill limiting such performances.
“We continue to be that blue speck in a sea of red, but ultimately laws are laws, and that is the interesting situation we are in,” Joseph Clark, the CEO of Gay Days, told Deadline, adding that many have reached out to ask whether it's safe to visit Florida.
A representative from the Orange County sheriff told Deadline that security measures will be in place, including unmarked police officers and vehicles, but declined to offer more details.
For the full schedule of Disney Gay Days Orlando, click here.