Monday, June 20, 2011

It Can Be a Jungle Out There

One day I will stay in Cinderella's Castle
Suite. Add it to the bucket list.
It's no lie when I say that going to a Disney Park is like stepping out of reality. You allow yourself to forget about things that worry you and just melt into the warm, gooey happiness that is everywhere. Whenever I cross the berm, so to speak, I leave troubles waiting outside, tapping their watches, waiting to get all up in my grill again. That's part of why the parks are so magical. They are the ultimate escape, designed to give you permission to bask in the worry-free joy and innocence of childhood.

With marriage equality fast approaching in New York, I've been thinking about how my relationship is perceived by others. I wish I didn't have to, but I do. My soon-to-be husband and I can't get married yet because others don't approve of the way I live my life. That's a hard pill to swallow. Living in big ole' NYC, it's easy to forget that we are in a bubble where, by and large, we are accepted as we are.

We have considered moving down to Orlando, where we would be a few hours from my family and a few minutes from Walt Disney World. We would both like to have a family of our own and suburbia seems to be a natural move in the right direction. NYC is hard and cold and expensive (and also sometimes spectacularly amazing. Don't get me wrong. I have a love/hate relationship with the big A.) It's also not very conducive to raising a family unless you are moneyed. We are not. Orlando is not cheap, to be sure, but the other pluses outweigh the cost. And it would still be cheaper than NYC.

By that point, we will be married in New York State, but it seems Florida is quite a ways away from passing marriage equality laws. People tend to forget that the Bible Belt chokes the panhandle and a lot of older people in the southern parts of the state can't wrap their heads around the idea of two people of the same sex being allowed to marry. This would mean a huge headache. Our marriage will be recognized in one state, but not by the Federal government and not in the state we live in. This is quite a sticky wicket and one that a lot of gay and lesbian couples are affected by. Many straight people take for granted the rights that a simple marriage certificate affords them, from taxes to visitation.

I don't want to make this too political, but this is a matter of doing what is right. Civil rights should not be subject to popular vote. If they had been, interracial marriage might still be illegal. The fact that marriage equality is even still an issue baffles me. People are entitled to have their own opinions about me and the way I live my life, but they are not entitled to impede me from living it. It seems that in the course of touting "family values" and wasting taxpayer money attempting to stop loving couples from marrying and raising children, a lot of folks have forgotten something I learned in kindergarten. Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you. It's even in the Bible. Matthew 7:12. Look it up, Fred Phelps.

Congo Queen, indeed.
This brings me to my last trip to Walt Disney World this past spring. Tom and I got engaged there and had a wonderful visit 99.9% of the time. Of course that pesky .1% is part of what has stayed with me. Hopefully blogging it out into the universe eradicates what's left of it. The incident happened while Tom and I were in the queue for the Jungle Cruise. We had been waiting for about 10 minutes when I heard a voice from behind me say, "Come on. Seriously. I don't want my kid to see that."

All the blood drained from my head. I turned around to see a scrappy Southern dude in a cap, his sheepish looking wife, their son, who looked to be about three, and grandma and grandpa. He was looking me right in the eye with the most horrible expression of disgust washing over his face. I think he said something else after that. I can't be sure. I didn't say a word. I didn't argue. I didn't explain what was going on to Tom. I'm not one for confrontation in general, and I certainly didn't want to make a scene at Disney. I pulled Tom back and waited for the family to pass. Tom asked what was happening. I asked him to just hold on while I desperately tried to pull the tears back into their ducts.

I couldn't quite wrap my brain around what set the guy off. Tom and I had been holding hands. He told me later that he had playfully pinched my butt, but I hadn't even felt it. I kept on waving people past, trying to make sure that there was absolutely no way that we would snake by this family again. I caught glimpses of them, giving us evils. I also saw the father stop a cast member and point back towards us, saying who knows what. I was crushed. I felt weak for not standing up for myself. I had just that very morning gotten engaged to the man I'm going to spend the rest of my life with and now this? Not cool, universe. Not cool.

As I was waving people past, there was an older couple who paused to say they had seen what happened and said couldn't understand why the man had gotten so upset, saying there was no reason he should have had a problem. The woman gave me a kind look and shook her head sadly about what happened. It was a welcome show of solidarity.

It's true. I wouldn't be shocked to see Gaga in this garb. 
It was at this point that the universe realized its' mistake and started working overtime to remind me that for every person in this world who tries to knock you down, there are four there waiting to prop you up. That couple in line was number one. Number two was right after we sat down in our boat. Our Jungle Cruise skipper was a hilarious gay latino. How did I know he was gay? When the headhunters are doing their dance, he pointed over and said "Look! The natives are getting ready for a Lady Gaga concert!" Need I say more? When Tom and I laughed the loudest, he knew he had found the gays in his boat and let loose what must have been one of the funniest, queerest Jungle Cruise spiels ever. Nothing inappropriate. But it was like having one of the little latin boys in drag from RuPaul's Drag Race out of drag moonlighting as a Jungle Cruise skipper. It was exactly what we needed to lighten our mood. It was the best Jungle Cruise I have ever taken.

The third person propping us up was a lovely lady the next morning as we were lined up waiting to get into Disney's Hollywood Studios. She started chatting with us. She asked us about the rings, noticing that they must be new because we were playing with them, spinning them around our fingers. She was so excited when she heard the engagement story and was the first person in the world to offer us congratulations face to face. She told us about a gay family member of hers and his experiences growing up in the small town they were from. We chatted about the parks and life and whatever else floated through our minds, making that hour until the rope drop fly by. She was like a midwestern, middle-aged angel dropping down to remind us that there are good people in the world and that they will make themselves known when you least expect it.

Tip: Go standby first thing and get a FastPass
to use later on your way out!
The fourth instance wasn't a person. It was a family. While we were waiting in line at the end of the day to go on Toy Story Midway Mania one last time, we noticed a lesbian couple with a little girl, roughly the same age as the boy in the Jungle Cruise queue, directly ahead of us in line. She was all decked out in her princess attire and was as chatty as could be. We spent the whole time in line talking with these three wonderful ladies, mostly about Disney, princesses and what they did in the park, but a bit about their lives. You could tell that they were proud, loving parents successfully raising a quirky, confident, beautiful daughter. I saw in them the kind of family that I wanted to build with Tom. As they hopped onto the ride ahead of us, I waved goodbye and grabbed Tom's hand tight.

Small-minded people are everywhere. And they are small-minded everywhere. They are in Orlando, in New York City, and even within the walls of the Magic Kingdom itself. You have no control over them. But you do have control over how you interact with them. I wasn't going to change the mind of the Jungle Cruise dad, but I hope that when they left that day, all that little boy thought about was how much fun he had. I hope that, by not making a scene, the memory of what happened in that queue fades to nothing in his young mind without leaving so much as a crease on his impressionable brain. I hope that when he grows up, he is the one that breaks the cycle of closed-minded hatred that his family has tried to instill in him and is aware of how his actions affect others. I hope that when he comes back to Walt Disney World with his family, however traditional or not they are, they leave hatred, pettiness, and fear outside the gates, allowing the love, hope and joy that the park was built upon guide their experience there.

And with that, I let the whole incident go.

I eagerly await hopping into another Disney queue soon with my husband and some day with a little one of our own. Because it still is, and will always be, my favorite place in the world.


  1. What an emotional roller-coaster of a day! That guy was definitely small-minded, but what good boundaries you had. You're right - you're non-reaction will surely help the event fade from the little boy's memory. I suspect you and Tom will be wonderful parents when the time comes.

  2. UM how am I only reading this NOW? I am so happy that the universe showed you love after reminding us that, yes, there is still hate in the world that we must combat. Luckily we live lives that show us that magic four letter L word so much more often than not. You both are my beautiful Disney Princesses and I can't wait to see how you guys live Happily Ever After. XOXO!

  3. I'm glad you ended up encountering good things to make up for the bad.

    It's also nice reading this post from the future!

    I hope you're happily married now, and living in a wonderful place.