By : Kirk Hartlage
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Gay Day: what was once a simple afternoon gathering in a local theme park during Pride month is now one of our largest annual destination event weeks in the world.

These days there’s no shortage of ancillary parties (many in a pool, nearly all with the requisite DJ-supplied soundtrack), business expos offering products and information from head to toe (but especially in the swimsuit areas/pleasure zones of the human body), and concerts (featuring a glamazon diva with powerhouse vocals, a lesbian with a guitar, or someone adept at cracking insults about us while still making us laugh hysterically).

Still, the centerpiece remains the same: Gay Day at the Magic Kingdom. One day a year we unite at the world’s busiest theme park: a place built for families, including ours. It’s always on the first Saturday of June, most of us wear red, and here we make family vacation memories. It’s, as they say, “a good time,” which is important because at its core, that’s what Gay Day has always been about.

But it’s also important to know that Gay Day is much more than that. While there was never any intention to make it a political event Gay Day became one nonetheless. Gay Day – Our Day – is a gravitas moment in our LGBT history.

Whether they want it or not, anytime a capacity crowd unites in one place it’s bound to grab attention. If they’re dressed alike there’s probably a common message they’re attempting to deliver. Think of a group of sports fans encouraging their team to victory,a charity walk raising funds for a worthy cause, or a political march attempting to bring about some type of change in the status quo. Repeat on a regular basis and that collective voice is bound to be heard.

And if another group, no matter how big or small, isn’t in agreement with the first, well, the volume gets turned up even louder.

That’s what happened with Gay Day. A group of Orlando gays got every other gay person they knew to show up to an amusement park on the same day and all wear the same color with nothing but fun as the agenda . That we gathered at, of all places, the home of Mickey Mouse sent enough of an underlying message to anti-gay conservatives that we were here, and we were queer…so we must have been up to something. We never entered the Magic Kingdom with picket signs demanding our rights, yet that didn’t stop protestors from bringing theirs, sometimes going to such great lengths as to fly them from planes overhead.

We did, however, bring open wallets, which was fine by Mickey. So when his caretakers – The Walt Disney Company – didn’t chase us away, and even gave partner benefits to our brothers and sisters who worked there, religious conservatives were driven to their last resort: a boycott. Disney called their bluff and asked why the people who preached family values would turn their back on the world’s largest producer of family entertainment. Plus, our mass gathering was but one day a year; anyone in opposition was welcomed to create their own group outing on any of the remaining 364 on the calendar. In essence, Disney said they could accept our LGBT family, and our money, plus they could accept everyone else’s too.

It is “just business” after all, which is likely why Disney is reluctant to discuss Gay Day on record even to this day. The protests have died down considerably while our pink dollars keep flowing in…as do the green ones, the red, the blue, the yellow, the white, the black, the brown, and every other color of diversity that’s willing to spend $105 to visit the Magic Kingdom on the first Saturday of June in 2015. It’s also why Disney’s gay and lesbian employee group has been utilized as volunteer staff for some of the outside-promoter-sponsored parties held on the Disney resort; the group’s also reportedly served as consultants to their employer’s merchandising and food & beverage departments to develop rainbow-festooned tchotchkes, nibbly bits, and adult beverages.

But that’s ok, Mickey. When we see a collection of red WDW T-shirts on display at the entrance to the Emporium gift shop on Main Street this weekend, it’s just your subtle way of saying you’re happy we’re there. We know that you know that we know… you know? We’ll show our appreciation right back – as well as our economic strength and power – when we hand over our credit cards and cash to buy a take-home souvenir or two from Our very magical family vacation.

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