Gay Days returns to Walt Disney World after 2-year hiatus

Multiple meetups planned across Central Florida theme parks

Pride Month at Walt Disney World (Disney)

ORLANDO, Fla. – After a two-year suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gay Days is returning to Central Florida.

According to the event website, the LGBTQ+ celebration is comprised of multiple events staged at world-famous attractions, gay & lesbian nightclubs, and unique venues secured for the purpose of creating an inclusive LGBTQ atmosphere.

[TRENDING: Tropical wave could bring heavy rain to parts of Florida for weekend | ‘She shouldn’t have hit my momma:’ Witnesses describe girl, 10, accused of fatally shooting Orlando woman | Become a News 6 Insider (it’s free!)]

The event kicked off Thursday, one day after the start of Pride Month, with stops at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld and the Avanti Palms Resort Orlando.

“Gay Days began in 1991 as a single designated day (always the first Saturday in June) when the LGBTQ community and friends were encouraged to ‘Wear Red and Be Seen’ (aka #RedShirtDay) while visiting the world’s most popular theme parks,” leaders described on the website.

The event’s return to Walt Disney World comes amid controversy surrounding the recent signing of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, known to its critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. The legislation signed by the governor bars instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade.

Groups such as the LGBTQ-advocacy organization Equality Florida, along with parents, students and a teacher, filed a federal lawsuit March 31 challenging the law. Disney CEO Bob Chapek denounced the law and apologized for not being more forcibly and publicly critical of the measure before it was signed.

“Recently the CEO of the Walt Disney Company initially responded to the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in which he thought it best to oppose the legislation ‘behind the scenes’ and has since faced tremendous criticism and backlash for how the company has responded to such an impactful bill,” the organization said in a statement. “We hope that these recent events will encourage our attendees more than ever to attend Gay Days Orlando 2022 this coming June as now is the time to come together and show the world in the immortal words of Queer Nation ‘We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it!’”

Disney has since become the target of a political fight with Gov. Ron DeSantis, who with other Florida lawmakers took aim at eliminating Reedy Creek, Walt Disney World’s governing district.

In September 2020, Disney added a fifth key to its culture and business foundation. That key was inclusion. The company said by adding this key to their business practices they hoped to make its theme parks, attractions and resorts more diverse and more welcoming.

Pride Month at Walt Disney World (Disney)

Since that time, Disney has added 10 different Business Employee Resource Groups (BERGs).

“Recently, Disney LGBTQIA+ BERGs have been instrumental in partnering with the company to prepare for Pride Month by providing insight, authenticity, and thoughtful representation of the LGBTQIA+ community, connecting to the business in creating new experiences for guests,” stated Eli Levin, manager of diversity, equity & inclusion for Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.

Disney Pride Collection (Disney)

On Wednesday, Walt Disney World showed off all the Pride additions coming to the theme parks, including Pride-themed backgrounds, foods and merchandise.

Disney announced that all profits from the Disney Pride Collection will support LGBTQIA+ youth and families. In Central Florida, Disney will donate $100,000 and additional merchandise profits to the Zebra Coalition.

Gay Days runs through June 5.

Click here to learn more.

Use the form below to sign up for the In the Loop: Theme Park Scoops newsletter, sent every Friday morning.

About the Author:

Landon joined News 6 in 2017. He grew up in Southern Illinois and graduated from Southern Illinois University with a bachelors degree in TV and digital media. When he is not at work you can catch him at one of Orlando's theme parks or the beach. Before working at News 6 he worked for stations in Miami and Fort Myers.