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June 15th, 2024

Pulse And Disney Pride

On June 12, 2016, a madman hopped up on religious zealotry and armed with a military assault style rifle, a nine millimeter handgun and multiple clips full of military grade ammunition entered the Pulse nightclub, a gay discoth√®que, killed 49 people and was himself killed by the police. Statements the perpetrator made during the attack indicated it was in retaliation for US bombings in the middle east, but his singling out a gay nightclub for the attack cannot be swept under the carpet as coincidence or simply due to the venue’s alleged lack of security (there was a security guard stationed at the front door, whom the attacker evaded by going in a side door). The man was said to have been angered by the sight of a gay male couple holding hands, and his own father had taunted him homophobically. There is no doubt in my mind, and in the community at large, that homophobia played a decisive role in the attack, regardless of his other motivations.

I had to resist the urge to call my former high school crush just to make sure he was okay. This was only a few months after his family found out he was talking with me again and the notice came down not to contact him in any way shape or form (how do you contact someone with a shape?). I’ve often wondered if he worried that I might have been there, because I visited Orlando often, mostly to go to Disney World, or how I was feeling when I heard the news. But the next day I posted my thoughts on it on this blog, which he always insisted that he never reads, so he would have known.

I’d previously scheduled a July 4th vacation at Disney World, so I was there just a few weeks after the attack. I couldn’t do Gay Days that year because of the schedule at work, but federal holidays were usually good times to request vacation.¬†Driving into the city that week I saw billboards everywhere expressing grief and solidarity with the LGBT community. The entire city seemed to be in shock.

It changed everything.

Before this Disney was keeping Gay Days at arm’s length, and whenever the usual suspects started bellyaching about it they’d say they’re in the hospitality business and everyone is welcome. When I was there after the attack I was wearing my rainbow Mickey pin. It wasn’t the actual Pride rainbow, it was the Peace Rainbow that some United Nations group created. But it was close enough to the Pride rainbow that lots of us wore in in the parks during Gay Days and everyone knew what it was supposed to signify. As I wandered inside the parks every now and then a Cast Member would notice the pin and start a conversation with me about what happened at Pulse. It seemed everyone had to talk about it, because they were all in shock. We were a community in shock.

And so I heard the stories…horrible, horrible stories. And I am certain all that shock and horror went all the way from the cast members and vendors and managers to the boardroom. Because they would all have had family, friends, co-workers, who they were frightened for that night.

The commercial media does a really bad job of explaining to the rest of the country the venomous hate directed at us. Because that would be taking sides in what the media boardrooms regard as a partisan argument, and anyway in that mindset we’re still a perversion best left unspoken of during family time. That day everyone in the country saw the hate for what it was, but especially the people of central Florida. And it wasn’t just that the people who died either were, or could easily have been, a family member, a friend, a co-worker, they saw all the gleeful contempt for the dead and wounded afterward by local preachers and republican pundits and politicians. Some publicly expressed regret they weren’t all killed that night. They saw the right wing politicians that kept insisting that regardless of what happened, the homosexual menace had to be fought for the sake of god and family. And in that one moment they saw, clearly saw, all of them for what they were.

And all that corporate keeping us at arm’s length changed decisively afterward.

A year later on the anniversary, at the end of the day in Magic Kingdom, they turned the lights off of Cinderella’s castle and had a 49 second moment of silence for the victims. The year after that an entire line of actual Pride rainbow merchandise appeared.

This year, DeSantis ordered all the bridges in Florida to only display red, white, and blue lights from the end of May to the middle of July, allegedly to salute our veterans. Hahahaha…no. Notice how his order blocks out the entire month of June, not July. It was to prevent displays of the Pride rainbow. The people see you Ron. And you republicans in the Florida statehouse. We saw all of you on the night of June 12, 2016. And in the days that followed.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) – Walt Disney Company is donating $1 million to a fund established by Orlando officials to help people affected by the nightclub shooting.

Disney officials also said they would match dollar-for-dollar individual contributions by the company’s employees to the OneOrlando fund, established by Mayor Buddy Dyer following Sunday’s shooting that killed 49 people and wounded 53 others.

Disney has about 74,000 employees in the Orlando area, which is home to its Walt Disney World resort. Disney also lost an employee, or Cast Member, in the shooting. The name of Jerald Arthur Wright, 31, was added to the victims list on Monday.

“We mourn the loss of one of our own Cast Members, Jerry Wright, as well as others within our extended Disney family, and we offer our most heartfelt condolences to their families, friends and loved ones as well as all who were affected by yesterday’s senseless acts,” said George A. Kalogridis, President of Walt Disney World Resort.

The FBI’s director has said the agency is trying to determine whether the Orlando nightclub shooter had recently scouted Walt Disney World and other locations as potential targets.

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