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I went to Disneyland Gay Days and found one of the best prides

The queeriest place on earth

I went to Disneyland Gay Days and found one of the best prides
A sea of red. | Photo: Anya Crittenton

As a native Californian, Disneyland has been an intrinsic part of my life for all 26 years. My parents took me for the first time when I was a mere 18 months old.

After college, I worked at Walt Disney World in the Disney College Program for a year.

It’s not an exaggeration that Disneyland truly is the Happiest Place on Earth for me. It’s always felt safe, inclusive, and like a rainbow-tinted fairy tale land.

This only became more apparent when I attended my very first Gay Days event at the resort on Saturday (3 March). I found a whole new world.

To all the queers who gather here

Gay Days is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Eddie Shapiro, author of Queens in the Kingdom: The Ultimate Gay and Lesbian Guide to the Disney Theme Parks, and a leader of this event, told me he’s amazed at the growth.

As the website states, the first event in 1998 attracted 2,500 people. Now, the big event in October, which runs Friday-Sunday, brings tens of thousands of guests donning red shirts.

While it’s an unofficial event and not sponsored by Disney, Shapiro said the park has come to embrace it more.

They offer hotel discounts to Gay Days guests and help block off the area in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle for a group photo.

Rainbow cake at Disneyland

The delicious rainbow cake. | Photo: Anya Crittenton

Saturday was only the Mini Gay Days event. It’s a single day, rather than a weekend, and only hundreds of people show up instead of 30,000. Still, I immediately noticed the way cast members (aka people who work for Disney) greeted all the red shirts (the uniform of being a Gay Day participant) with smiles and exuberance.

As for the Gay Days attendees themselves, I felt very welcomed by them as we all instantly became friends and bonded over Disney rainbow cake. We laughed about the consequences of food dyes, our favorite attractions, and more.

‘Disneyland is Switzerland’

I spoke to Nima, a volunteer of Gay Days who has been attending the event for five years.

When asked how he became a volunteer, he first joked: ‘I threw pixie dust in people’s eyes and took over.’

In reality, he simply started offering to help out and before he knew it, he became a Gay Days leader.

Friends at Disneyland Gay Days

New friends. From L to R: Danny, Kelly, Sam, Ryan, me, and Nima. | Photo: Anya Crittenton

Nima and I bonded over our love of Disney and its inherent inextricability from our identies. It’s why gathering at a place like Disneyland simply makes sense for so many in the community. It’s already a happy place — but when you walk around and see other people in red shirts donning rainbow pins, knowing you’re surrounded by a larger feeling.

While talking, Nima compared Disneyland to Switzerland with a laugh.

‘People from all walks of life in the community come here and we’re all bound by Disney.’

It’s an inclusive Wonderland

During the big weekend, things kick off on Friday night with the Wonderland party.

The party is led by Danny and Kelly. They’ve been attending Gay Days for 10 years and want Wonderland to be a way to kick off the weekend where guests are in a happy place.

The event draws performers like drag queen Alyssa Edwards and Trixie Mattel.

Kelly as Alice with Alyssa Edwards at Wonderland.

Kelly as Alice with Alyssa Edwards. | Photo: Instagram @wonderlandgaydays

‘At the beginning, people used to feel excluded,’ Danny said. Gay men made up a majority of the attendees. It’s one of the things he and Kelly are aware of — and want to remedy.

‘We’ve been trying to encourage the whole community to come out for this,’ Danny continued. This includes inviting every person in the community to enjoy the event, including lesbians, transgender men and women, bisexuals, bears, and everyone else.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

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