I’ve had “everything is awful” set to the tune of “Everything Is Awesome” stuck in my head for days, and all the anti-LGBTQIA legislation going on in the US right now isn’t helping. For a split second there, it felt like we were making some strides on the equality front, but I should have remembered the Puritanical roots of this nation and slapped myself in the face for ever getting carried away thinking like that. (If you want to understand the US, study the history of the Puritans who landed on Plymouth Rock, a more demented group of killjoys has rarely existed. They hated everyone and everything, including themselves, and their ghosts have been ruining the party ever since.) The news is just a constant onslaught of attacks on LGBTQIA equality, from the array of proposed laws—some already ratified—banning trans kids from participating in sports, to the attorney general and governor of Texas deciding that gender-affirming care is “abusive”, to Idaho seeking to make gender-affirming care punishable with a life sentence—and wants to stop people from going out of state to seek said care—to JK Rowling’s latest legacy-destroying rant.
Adding to the deluge of grim news, this week Disney is in the hot seat for its namby-pamby response to Florida’s “don’t say gay” bill, which is on its way to be signed into law by the governor. (I don’t want to use any of these politicians’ names, they don’t deserve the metrics.) Disney operates Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and is one of the biggest employers in the state. They also sell Pride merchandise and sponsor events during Orlando’s Gay Days celebration, and they have countless members of the queer community working in various capacities throughout the company, and many of those employees and their families will undoubtedly be affected by the pending Florida legislation. But rather than defending their employees who will be impacted by this bill, Disney has remained silent, until this week. On Monday, CEO Bob II sent a memo to the company letting them know that he nor the company will be issuing a statement on the bill, because “corporate statements do very little to change outcomes or minds. Instead, they are often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame.”
I am a LGBT animation writer at Disney and this is why I want the company I love to take a stand against the "Don't Say Gay" bill. #DisneySayGay #DisneyDoBetter pic.twitter.com/n8g0kgTkKf— Benjamin Siemon (@BenjaminJS) March 6, 2022
First of all, he’s right. Corporate statements don’t do squat in matters like this. Second of all, so what? The culture war in the US has reached a level where neutrality isn’t possible. We’re not at “annoying neighbor ranting at the block party” levels anymore, we’ve reached “actual laws on the books doing material harm to marginalized communities” levels. The culture war has been weaponized, and Disney, as a major employer in Florida, has PLENTY of room to swing their political dick around and defend their employees. Part of their whole problem right now, though, is that they’ve already both-sides the issue by donating to both Democrats and Republicans, including some who support the “don’t say gay” bill, a fact that Bob II talks up in his memo. That’s not better, Bob!
I get why Disney donates to political campaigns on both sides of the aisle. They want Disney-friendly legislation, and bankrolling politicians on both sides guarantees them coverage no matter which party controls the state’s government. But with one side weaponizing laws against marginalized communities and specifically targeting vulnerable kids already at outsize risk for suicide, that just doesn’t matter anymore. It’s not about red coffee cups and whatever other made-up bullsh-t. It’s about real people, and how these laws will increase suffering for those people. Disney’s campaign contributions helped some of these f-cks get into office to write these despicable laws, they’re going to have to own that. “But we paid for some Democrats, too,” doesn’t fix sh-t.
i love working at disney & i especially love the authors i work with, but it's hard right now. it's hard to be a queer person at this company & know that disney values the money i spend as a consumer more than it values me as a person & as an employee.— rebecca kuss (@reebsthereader) March 8, 2022
Concluding his memo, Bob II notes that the new Chief Corporate Affairs Office, Geoff Morrell, will be reviewing their “advocacy strategies”, including political contributions, and I wonder if Disney will just end up ceasing political contributions altogether. And you know what? That would be GOOD. If we can’t get corporate dollars out of politics with real legislation, we’ll f-cking well do it with wallet legislation. We will make it so goddamned miserable for corporations to be busted contributing to politicians—ANY politicians—that they will voluntarily cease doing it, which is basically where Disney is today. If they officially condemn the Florida law, half their customers will be mad. They haven’t officially condemned the law, and the other half of their customers are mad. They literally cannot win, the division is too entrenched. And sure, a corporate statement won’t heal the rift, would for sure only make it worse, but like…it’s pretty bad already. Would openly standing with your queer employees—and customers—who will be affected by this bill be so bad? You’re going to get roasted either way, might as well go down fighting.
As for a boycott, no one’s going to do it. Not for real. That’s the problem with a monoculture, it’s impossible to excise because it and The Culture are the same. A boycott is also asking people who seek comfort and escapism in Disney to give up the thing that brings them joy, just like telling queer Disney employees to quit doesn’t accomplish anything except to leave the creative space entirely to straight people. Better to seek particulars from Bob II and Disney, to know how they’re going to “support” their LGBTQIA employees, especially those that live in Florida. Will they offer mental health services? Support services to families who need it? Relocation opportunities for any employees who would like leave Florida because of this? What is their support going to look like? They’ve already spent money to install awful politicians in Florida, will they spend money to protect the employees they’ve made vulnerable via those awful politicians?
Removing queer people from big studios (trust Disney is far from the only corp donating to sus people) who make and control so much of our cinema is not the solution. Telling us to leave so our straight colleagues can further dominate this space and flourish is not it.— Dani Fernandez (@msdanifernandez) March 9, 2022
If you would like to know more about supportive trans policy, the Transgender Law Center has an agenda for liberation. And if you or anyone you know needs access to support services, or even just someone to talk to, the Trans Lifeline has numbers in the US and Canada. If you’re in the UK, Mermaids offers support services and resources for families in the trans and non-binary communities.
Live long and gossip,