Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Gay Days 2008

This post is a bit of a journey back in time, since Gay Days takes place early in June. Unfortunately, that very night was the evening I descended into Sinus Infection Hell, so I didn't get the entry finished and posted in a timely fashion. Here it is, a month late but finally done.

On the first Saturday in June, an abundance of red shirted guests descend upon the Magic Kingdom. It's a sure sign that Gay Days has rolled around yet again. Gay Days started as a one day event, but now it has expanded into a whirlwind week for gay/lesbian visitors and their families and friends to vacation openly in Orlando. But of all the goings-on, the event at the Magic Kingdom remains one of the most visible. Scarlet shirts blaze in all their glory on the vast majority of guests, and you'll see all manner of gay and lesbian couples and often their children too.

My husband and I attended last year for the first time ever. My curiosity had been piqued by the wild (often bordering on hysterical) descriptions posted online by religious fanatics. They described terrifying goings-on from “group urination” (I'm still not quite sure what that means) to blatant recruitment of youngsters into the ominous sounding “deviant homosexual lifestyle” behind Cinderella's castle. Since I am a therapist and work with many gay and lesbian clients, and since every one has known since early on that they were gay, I'm not sure how someone could be “recruited” into something that is an inborn trait. They also decried the blatant public displays of affection (PDAs) that would burn out the eyes of any God-fearing homophobe.

I'm not sure which Magic Kingdom the paranoid naysayers visited, but apparently it wasn't the one here in Orlando. Last year's Gay Days event was quite low key, with an added bonus of low crowd density due to iffy weather, so we spend a great day enjoying the park. Thus I was quite eager to make a return trip this year as my last blast before the peak season crowds arrived.

Last year, we got there not long after the park opened. This year that wasn't happening because hubby's Friday flight from Chicago was delayed by two hours. It comes in late to begin with, so with the delay we didn't return to Celebration till the wee hours. Neither of us was particularly eager to stir out of bed any too early the next morning.

We finally managed to get up and functional and reach the Magic Kingdom a little before noon. The moment we hit the gate area, I realized that the crowd density was waaaay worse than 2007. It was a sunny (and hot!) day, and the sunshine had drawn out a high number of “regular” tourists in addition to the Gay Days participants. Oh well, we figured it will still be fun to walk around and soak up the ambiance until our 5:30 dinner reservation at Artist Point. Even though I'm straight, I like to go and show my support. Hubby wore a red shirt, and I donned my typical Gay Days wear: a white t-shirt with a rainbow that declares, “Straight But Not Narrow.”

Our first stop was to get Fast Passes at Space Mountain, which had something like an hour standby wait. Then we did Wedway, Carousel of Progress, Buzz Lightyear, and the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor. By that time, it was time to use our Fastpasses, but Space Mountain had broken down. We killed some time waiting for the Astro Orbiter, one of the slowest loading rides known to mankind, then returned to Space. Apparently it was functioning again, and we made it almost all the way to the loading platform before the stinkin' thing went 101 again. Sigh! At that point, we had waited longer than a typical Fastpass wait for nothing, so I decided to go to Guest Services to see if they'd swap out our Fastpasses and let us ride Big Thunder Mountain instead.

By now, it was almost time for the 3 p.m. parade, which is a HUGE highlight of Gay Days. I had no desire to get trapped on the parade route, which would prevent us from getting to the rides. Granted, it's pretty cool to watch the parade and the enthusiasm of the red-shirted audience, but we'd seen it last year and this year I was more interested in rides. Thus we hightailed it to City Hall and managed to do the swap before we got penned in. Next it was off to Adventureland, which would give us unblocked access to Frontierland and Big Thunder Mountain. First we stopped at Sunshine Tree Terrace or whatever it's called. All I know is that is has the tastiest treat to be found anywhere in the Magic Kingdom: a vanilla ice cream and frozen orange juice swirl cone. Mmmmmmmm! I was halfway to heat stroke from a combination of the sun and a raging sinus infection that was slowly tightening its grasp on me, so the ice cream tasted like heaven and soothed my scratchy throat.

While we were waiting in line, a very enthusiastic red shirted guy came bounding over to ask if he could take my picture while holding his Ru Paul doll. He was an absolute riot; if you've ever seen “Revenge of the Nerds,” he would have totally reminded you of Lamar. Apparently he liked my shirt, so I posed dutifully with Ru Paul in hand. Then he bounded off, happily looking for other photo ops.

He wasn't the only one who liked my shirt. It turned out to be a great conversation starter, and even those who didn't say anything to me directly often made comments among themselves about how much they liked the slogan. I think it's important for straight supporters of gay rights to be visible with their support, especially in a state where the ominous Amendment Two looms on the ballot. It is known quite misleadingly as the “Florida Marriage Protection Act” but it might as well be called the “Let's Discriminate Against An Entire Class of People Act...And While We're At It, Let's Screw Senior Citizens Who Live Together Too.” Personally I'm just not all that concerned about who wants to marry who. If loving gay couples want to tie the knot, why should I care or stand in the way? And I hate it when it's framed as a “Christian” issue because I'm a Christian myself, but as far as I can see, a) Jesus did not promote discrimination; and b) religious views have no place being used as the basis for law in the United States.

I did get one glare from a guy carrying his kid who appeared to be rather offended by my slogan, but he didn't say anything directly to me. Really, what COULD he say? How do you defend prejudice without sounding like an idiot?

We had fun chatting with quite a few groups of gay and lesbian park-goers. Once again I never saw any outrageous PDAs. Well, actually I take that back. Both hubby and I saw separate graphic displays, but both times they were being committed by hetro couples who apparently were doing dental exams with their tongues. Any parent, hetro or gay, would have no doubt covered their kiddies' eyes if they were in the vicinity.

We were going to ride Pirates of the Caribbean on the way to Big Thunder, but it was closed. “Oh, look!” cried hubby! “The Jungle Cruise is walk-on!” Foolishly I believed him and followed him into what turned out to be the Neverending Queue Line from Hell. I'm not quite sure how he missed the herd of humanity, but he swore that it had LOOKED like it was walk-on.

Oh well, our wait was rewarded by a riotously funny skipper. Interestingly enough, there was even one child on our boat. I think this is the first time I've ever ridden the Jungle Cruise on an all-adult vessel. I imagine that on Gay Days the crowd has less kids than usual, although I did notice a much higher percentage overall of gay and lesbian couples with their children. Far from being the raucous, obscene party that some insist on portraying it as, it's becoming more of a family event. Sure, there are plenty of childless couples too but I imagine a part of that is due to the archaic laws preventing gay and lesbian couples from adopting in so many areas. If that ever changes, I suspect that the number of families at Gay Days will multiply accordingly.

Next up it was Big Thunder Mountain, which was running in fine form. That is to say, it whipped me around like piece of china in an uncushioned wooden crate. By the time that was done, we were hoping to get in a last ride on the Haunted Mansion before going to dinner, but the line was 45 minutes and stretched out all the way to the main walkway. Reluctantly, we hiked to Toontown and hopped on the train for a final ride that would take us to the Main Street Station. I was amazed at how quickly the time had passed and sad that we didn't get any more rides, but that was tempered by the knowledge that a delicious meal lay just ahead.

Since I was feeling rather peaked, and my stuffed up sinuses were inhibiting my taste buds, I skipped the Copper River Salmon in favor of appetizers (venison spring rolls, a cheese plate, and the most godly mushroom soup ever to grace the earth). Hubby had mussels and salmon; I had a taste of his fish, and even my impaired sense of taste could tell that it was as delicious as ever. I topped my meal off with a selection of ice cream (not on the menu, but they'll do it if you ask), and then we headed home to conclude our second annual Gay Days visit. That's two years now that I've been unable to find the horror so graphically portrayed by homophobic paranoiacs. No sex in the streets, no recruitment at the castle, just groups of red shirted revelers having fun like everyone else. Oh well, maybe I was just lucky. Guess I'll have to try again next year.


CoxPilot said...

Well, I finally did it! I managed to read ALL of your past blogs from the very first day. Now, I'm fully immersed in the Adventures of Barb, and I'm looking forward to the next installment (just like the Harry Potter books). I hope it doesn't end anytime soon. At least not until we can actually move to Celebration and begin our own story.

Boston Mama said...

I am seriously(I mean seriously) toying with the idea of moving to Central Florida and having my daughter experience her childhood with theme parks as her back yard.

I happened upon your blog and it gives me a nice idea of what life is like around the "Worlds" and Studios.

You are pushing me closer to buying some UHaul boxes!

Boston Mama said...

So I'm all about closing the loop. I DID move here and work in Celebration and we are moving into our home in Windermere in a few weeks.

Thx for the prose that helped push me South!