20 years ago, the Disney World theme park in Florida played host to the first Gay Days, which this year runs from May 29 to June 4. It used to be One Day in the Magic Kingdom, but it has grown, and with its economic might this “gay and lesbian vacation experience”, as it has been dubbed, is set to attract 160,000 people.
At the start, Disney posted warning signs about the event so that unsuspecting families would be prepared. Now the signs are gone. There is nevertheless unease about the scope of Gay Days, both from the usual suspects, who complain about how it affects “the children“, as well as from LGBT groups. The ‘lifestyle’ aspect of the week, the parties, the drugs, the unrestrained exhibitionism – this a source of tangible discomfort for both sides.
The opposition, as you would expect, riots in paranoid stereotypes. David Caton of the Florida Family Association raised money to fly a plane over the park and drop leaflets that warn people the event is underway. He has said, like a character let loose from a streetcorner in a Sinclair Lewis novel, “The event is pretty much a celebration of their lifestyle, and they target Disney on the first Saturday of summer because that’s when they’ve known in the past that the most children are in the park.” Really? Incidentally, this how The New York Times‘ Samuel G. Freedman describes Caton: “An accountant turned rock-club owner, the author of a book about his pornography addiction, Mr. Caton had become a born-again Christian and the founder and sole employee of a fundamentalist activist group called the Florida Family Association.”
This is what Caton had to say about his shenanigans:
Last year Florida Family Association hired an aircraft company to pull a banner for ten hours the day before and ten hours the day of to warn families about this offensive event before they arrived at the park on Saturday. The airplane banner influenced mainstream family attendance at Disney during Gay Day to DROP between 50% to 60%. We believe this aircraft banner warning to families SPARED TENS OF THOUSANDS of children from the unexpected exposure to this coming out party. This airplane banner is the most cost effective manner to warn families before they:
• Expose their children to same-sex revelry.
• Spend hundreds of dollars on tickets.
• Pay for parking.
• Commit a day for fun now ruined.
• Purchase food and novelties.
It may be Straight Days for the other 358 days of the year, but the many contributors to the Florida Family Association’s campaign do not see it that way. And it typifies what much of the opposition has to say.
That said, Gay Days is in many ways like a week long Frat Party. There’s the ‘Daytime Bears Pool Party’, the ‘Caribbean Booty Party Girls Pool Party’, the ‘Liquid Pool Party’, the ‘Rogue Party Girls Pool Party’. It’s mostly about sex. The marketing for Gay Days features the usual sex-soaked, body-conscious imagery – namely topless, muscular men with overly white teeth. And this is what the LGBT groups are complaining about: that it’s little more than an extension of the scene, the pop-culture lifestyle that operates on the lowest common denominator. As one gay man argued on the Disney Information website wdwinfo.com, “I’m fed up with the world thinking that this is what being gay in America is all about – it’s not. I’m fed up that those of us with some sense of ourselves outside of circuit parties and body building are painted with this tawdry brush”.
Is this weeklong celebration really Gay Days, or it it Gay Scene Days? I don’t know the answer. If you do an image search for Gay Days it’s not a clear-cut division.