“The magic has died for me, and the little queer kid being beaten for being queer is crying and alone again,” a Disney employee said after reports the company donated money to politicians sponsoring the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
BuzzFeed news report Several Disney employees have vented their frustration on social media, both via videos and tweets, as well as in interviews. Even Walt Disney’s descendant has expressed her disappointment.
“If this bill was in place when I was growing up, I probably would not be here,” Franky Jr., a former Disney cast member, told BuzzFeed News.
On Tuesday, the Florida Senate approved the measure by a mere five votes. There was previously a provision requiring Florida teachers to inform their parents about their children’s sexual orientation, but that amendment was removed. Now the bill bans “classroom instruction” that discusses sexual orientation or gender identity for kindergarten to third-grade students and teaches it “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
CNN reported that Disney CEO Bob Chapek said that the company attempted to oppose the bill behind the scenes and that it would donate $5 million to LGBTQ rights organizations.
There are concerns that the law could strip vulnerable students of support systems by prohibiting any discussion of gender or sexuality in the classroom, putting them at risk for isolation and bullying. The law, which allows parents to sue over these issues, could also put cash-strapped public schools at risk for expensive lawsuits. It has now been sent to DeSantis for his signature, and it would take effect in July 1.
“If I were to have been outed to people I wasn’t ready to come out to back then and the school wasn’t a safe place for me, then there is no way I would have been able to come out in high school,” Franky Jr. continued.
“There is no way I would have been able to have a safety net or safe place to figure out who I am, figure out exactly what I like, exactly how I want to dress.”
While he worked at the theme park off and on from 2015 to 2021, Franky Jr. said the support of his fellow cast members was one of the motivating factors for him to undergo hormone therapy and medically transition.
The parks are often viewed as escapes by cast members and their families, so Disney contributing to politicians supporting the “Don’t Say Gay” bill makes no sense, he said.
Earlier this week, Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek sent an email to employees in which he said he and his team supported LGBTQ employees and their families. However, Disney refused to issue a statement because “corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds.” Instead, he wrote, statements just divide.
The grandniece of Walt Disney, Abigail Disney, has been openly critical of the company, tweeting that Chapek is more concerned about backlash from the right than his supporters and employees.
“The times for neutrality are long since over,” she tweeted.
“That train has left the goddam station. What is Disney for? Is it for pretending what America is about, or it is for defining a vision for a world in which fantasy, love, kindness, decency and loyalty are bedrock values.”
The lead writer of a Disney+ show that has yet to be released, Colleen Evanson, told BuzzFeed News that she is outraged and angry for her LGBTQ coworkers.
“It’s really frustrating when Disney is trying to champion and have more diversity and inclusion both on-camera and behind the scenes, and they want to sell these rainbow Mickeys during pride,” Evanson stated.
“But it just feels like virtue signaling when you’re not willing to take a stand.”
Transgender worker Lucy Boheme said that Disney was a source of comfort for her when she was growing up.
“My earliest memory is being about 2 to 3 years old and being beaten because I was acting too ‘girly,'” Boheme said.
“I vividly remember being hit, but Winnie the Pooh was on TV. Somehow, my child mind got lost in the Hundred Acre Wood. I couldn’t feel the blows. And from that moment, Disney became a source of comfort.”
Her first job in Florida was at Disney World at the age of 18. It still felt like magic to her, she said.
“I believed that if I stayed kind and true to myself I would find family and friends who accepted me just as I was,” she said about working there. And she did.
The fact that Chapek did not oppose the “Don’t Say Gay” bill is a bit of a disappointment to her.
“Today, Bob Chapek told me that the magic I’ve believed in for my entire life is not for LGBTQ+ people like me anymore,” Boheme said, referring to the email.
“We aren’t worthy enough to be stood up for, treated equally or humanized. Bob’s statement today has made it crystal clear that he doesn’t care about LGBTQ+ people, just the money we give him,” she continued.
“The magic has died for me, and the little queer kid being beaten for being queer is crying and alone again.”
In an email, filmmaker Kaitlyn Ritter, who’s also directing an unreleased Disney+ show, said that her father, who worked for Disney, would have been unhappy with the company’s stance.
“The blood and suffering of LGBTQIA+ children will be on Disney’s hands thanks to their support of this life-altering bill,” Ritter, a bisexual, said. “It breaks my heart.”
Moreover, Ritter emphasized that she feels devalued by her company and is concerned about the future her company is alleged to have helped create.
“I am truly feeling broken today, as someone who, since childhood, trusted, and loved, and hoped to grow at this company. Who, as an adult, makes content for the children of our future, under the Disney company, while knowing the truth about Disney’s true stance on their safety,” she wrote.
“Make it make sense, Disney,” she added.