Gay Days has been going strong at Disney World since the early 1990s, but the annual tradition has gained extra focus this year thanks to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ ongoing battles with Disney over LGBTQIA+ issues. All weekend, social media has been buzzing with fun posts from attendees who are out in full force and showing their pride at many of the organized events, and with only a final day left to go, it seems clear the event was a huge success for many of those who went.
Gay Days started in 1991 with a few thousand people wearing red shirts, and it has since expanded into a massive extravaganza with dozens of events around Orlando that collectively attract more than a hundred thousand attendees. The most famous, of course, are the ones related to Disney World, and the last day typically features more than twenty thousand guests in their trademark red shirts. The park itself doesn’t officially sponsor the event, though it holds separate Pride Nights later in June, but there is a friendly and welcoming relationship.
The extended weekend celebrations, which take place at the beginning of June, have mostly happened with only minor backlash for the last decade or so, but there was more uncertainty this year as Florida has become the epicenter of the fight over LGBTQIA+ issues in The United States after the state passed its so-called Don’t Say Gay Bill, which limited what teachers can say about sexuality in schools. Disney spoke out against the legislation at the time, which set off a war with Governor DeSantis. He’s pushed the state to remove certain privileges Disney World has historically had, such as the right to largely govern itself, and the back-and-forth has since devolved into lawsuits.
That animosity has been reflected in many of the Gay Days tweets which contained anti-Ron DeSantis messages, but it didn’t seem to affect the time many attendees had, as there are so many pictures going viral featuring folks seemingly having the best time. You can check out one below…
Here's what Pride and representation mean to me.I started taking my niece and nephew to Gay Days at Disneyland around age 8. Each year it was like they had a hundred new uncles, surrounded & uplifted & loved by all of my friends -- "raised by bears" as they like to joke. 1/6 pic.twitter.com/RGhyeH1HrjJune 1, 2023
As with many other seasons, holidays and random festivities, Disney has once again added a ton of special touches and fun little nods to celebrate Pride Month throughout the parks and Downtown Disney. There are specialty food items, new rainbow merchandise choices and even decorative displays to make those celebrating pride feel more welcome. You can check out one of those below…
Blooming with #Pride at Downtown Disney#Disneyland pic.twitter.com/3skcXT1Mz7May 28, 2023
Right now, Disney and the State of Florida are both locked in and neither one seems willing to flinch. Governor DeSantis recently went after the Monorail. Disney recently amended its lawsuit to troll the politician with his own quotes he’s given to the media. The state added oversight to Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, which it uses to govern itself, and Disney added a last second provision that used Prince Harry to give itself more time.
The animosity between the sides only keeps growing, but for the time being, at least for those attending Disney World, it mostly seems like business as usual. And judging by the smiling faces of everyone who attended Gay Days, that’s a good thing.