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April 27, 2018 (Joseph Sciambra) – In time for the official gay “Pride” month of June, all Disney parks will begin selling specially designed rainbow Mickey Mouse ears. The child's hat features the iconic ears in rainbow strips, and the front is embroidered with Mickey's gloves forming the shape of a rainbow heart.

Disney stores have long carried various “Pride” products, including collectible rainbow pins. Disney also has a history of accommodating the sometimes raucous unofficial annual “Gay Days” at Disneyland and Disneyworld. The behavior displayed has caused some in the LGBT community to openly criticize the event. A number of “Gay Days” venues offer a “Mr. Leather” contest, fetish workshops, and “XXX Porn Bingo.” At Disneyworld, the Orlando theme park provides staging areas (including Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Typhoon Lagoon) for “Gay Days” events that regularly include at least partial nudity.

Primarily through children's television programming, Disney has engaged in a concerted effort to normalize homosexuality.

Airing for five seasons from 2013 to 2018, The Fosters was an American family drama television series that appeared on the ABC Family network (a subsidiary of the Disney-ABC Television Group division of The Walt Disney Company) in the United States and ABC Spark in Canada. The Fosters was originally conceived by openly gay creators Bradley Bredeweg and Peter Paige, with “Booty” singer Jennifer Lopez as executive producer. The series followed the lives of the Foster family, consisting of a lesbian couple raising a blended family of biological, adopted, and foster children. In the second season, the storyline crossed over from an exploration of adult homosexuality into childhood same-sex attraction as Jude, the youngest son in the family, who is played by Hayden Byerly, 14, kisses Connor, the school friend who stood up for Jude when he was bullied, who is played by 15-year-old Gavin MacIntosh.

In 2014, the Disney Channel's hit show Good Luck Charlie introduced two new characters: a lesbian couple. In one episode of the series, which played on the network beginning in 2010, parents Bob and Amy briefly argued about what the name of the mom of their daughter's friend might be while waiting for the girl and her parents to visit their home for a play date. But when Amy opens the door, she and her husband discover that they were both right, because “Taylor has two moms,” as Bob quips. From the laugh track, jovial hilarity ensues.

In 2015, the Walt Disney Company joined 379 other corporations urging the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down all state bans on same-sex marriage.

In 2016, the Disney Channel cartoon Gravity Falls featured the characters Sheriff Blubs and Deputy Durland as a male same-sex couple. The show's creator, Alex Hirsch, had this to say about his conversations with the censors at Disney:

They basically admitted that there was no good reason why I should change it, but that they get complaints about this stuff from various homophobic parents and would rather avoid the headache, and couldn't I just drop it? … I said that if we did that we were basically just being held hostage by bigots and screw that, lets rise above this crap and just pull the trigger. The worst thing that can happen is that we get some letters. Who cares? 

A number of Disney child stars met untimely deaths and experienced tragedy as adults. The most disturbing, albeit largely forgotten, example is Bobby Driscoll, the first bona fide live Disney star, who was featured in Song of the South and Treasure Island. In 1968, Driscoll met a sad end as a transient mentally disturbed drug addict in New York City, dying at the age of 31 and buried in an unmarked grave as an unidentified person. He once said of his time at Disney: “[D]ropped like garbage when I was no longer a cute little kid and I didn't appeal to [Walt] anymore.” Several former Disney child stars, including Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Miley Cyrus have grown up to become “gay icons” and outspoken LGBT advocates.

Published with permission from Joseph Sciambra.