Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed into law what has been phrased by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill. The Parental Rights in Education Bill is a movement that will prohibit the “instruction” of gender identity and sexual orientation in schools within the state of Florida from kindergarten through to the third grade. The legislation will also allow parents to take lawful action in the event that these parameters are broken and the discussion surrounding gender identity and sexual orientation is deemed “developmentally inappropriate”.
For the most part, Disney (whose largest entertainment park is located in Orlando, Florida), has been on what may be deemed the “right” side of such controversial issues, as was shown when the company was the subject of a boycott that was religiously driven after offering health benefits to gay employees over 25 years ago.
However, as we previously reported, the company initially took a very silent approach towards the bill even though the legislation may covertly target members of the LGBTQ community specifically and limit conversations about their reality.
That was until Disney employees began to demonstrate and initiate walk outs in order to protest the lack of support for the LGBTQ community from their employer. The silence of Disney’s CEO not only disgruntled members of the public and Disney employees, but members of the Disney family themselves also expressed their concerns about the company’s silence.
In a recent announcement, the great grand child of the late Roy Disney, who co-founded the company alongside Walt Disney, came out publicly as transgender. Charlee Corra Disney, who uses he/they pronouns and is also a biology and environmental science teacher, decided that it was time that they used their voice to speak up about the Don’t Say Gay bill.
Charlee announced that they would match up to $25,000 in donations to the Human Rights Campaign, which is the largest LGBTQ advocacy group. Charlee's family has also doubled their donation to the Human Rights Campaign. Charlee’s mother, Sheri Disney also stated that she wants the donation to demonstrate that LGBTQ+ kids need care and support. She told the L.A.Times: “I have a trans kid, and I love my kid no matter what.”
The Don’t Say Gay Bill will have huge implications on the LGBTQ community, particularly its younger members that are attempting to navigate spaces and truths surrounding the way they identify. Charlee mentions in a recent interview that persons that identify along the LGBTQ spectrum already face higher rates of anxiety, depression, bullying and sadly, suicide. “Then to put something like this law on top of that? They can’t learn about their community and their history at school, or play sports [that they would like to] or use the bathroom they want to use?”
The legislation also presents the issue of lessening or erase the already slim positive representations for LGBTQ+ children and adolescents. Charlee even states the following to the L.A. Times:
“I had very few openly gay role models. “And I certainly didn’t have any trans or nonbinary role models. I didn’t see myself reflected in anyone, and that made me feel like there was something wrong with me.
It appears that, despite the huge milestones achieved within the LGBTQ community, there continues to be pushback as the fight continues for equality. With the initiation of the Don’t Say Gay Bill, it is evident that the community must continue to speak out and stand up for themselves. Queer persons of any age deserve to be reminded that their existence is valid and worthy of the human experience just as anyone else is entitled to the same.