Last week, I did something I never thought I’d do. I went to Disney World as a dad.
The last time I’d been there, I was pretty much still a kid myself — 20 years old and just coming to terms with being gay. Everywhere I looked in Orlando, I saw dads. They were buckling their kids into the Dumbo ride and hoisting them onto their shoulders to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade. They all had big smiles on their faces, and they all had wives.
With that visit, Disney World became Exhibit A of what I was sacrificing by coming out of the closet.
Or so I thought.
I’ve written a whole book about how I got from that point to fatherhood, and I’m happy to say that twenty years in the future, life looks a lot better than I ever expected it would. As soon as Drew and I felt the kids were old enough to appreciate a Disney vacation, we booked our trip.
I had just a tinge of nerves as the four of us headed for the airport. We’re never more visible as a family than when we travel. Nothing says “We file taxes jointly” as clearly as sharing a Lion King suite in a Disney hotel. And I doubt any place in America draws such a cross-section of Americans as Orlando. I was sure we’d bump into some people who wouldn’t find our family… let’s say, family-friendly.
We’d barely stepped through the front door of our hotel when an eager employee — er, I mean cast member — strolled up to us and asked if we needed to check in.
“Well, I was told I’d get a text when our room was ready, and it hasn’t come yet,” I told him.
“Hmmm, let me see,” he said. He took down my name and disappeared behind the check-in desk.
A minute later, he was back. “You haven’t been assigned a room yet, but I’m going to talk to my manager and get that taken care of right away! Just sit tight!”
We watched him approach his manager, and Drew whispered to me. “I think we’re getting the family treatment, if you know what I mean.”
Of course I knew what he meant. The cast member who was helping us was gay (“family”) himself, so he was being extra nice to us. Moments later, we were upstairs in a fantastic room on the top floor.
Though I’d planned all our meal reservations months in advance (which you have to do if you want to eat at the good spots), I needed to make a change to one. I was not optimistic I’d be able to get what I wanted, but I picked up our hotel phone and dialed the reservation line.
“So this is for you and… Andrew?” the man on the other end asked, reading my information off his computer.
“And are you celebrating anything today?”
“Well, it’s our anniversary, actually.” (We hadn’t specifically planned to be at Disney World for the occasion, but a lot of big life events seem to end up happening on the same day Drew and I met 11 years ago.)
“Aw!” he said. I realized that once again, we were getting the family treatment. He fixed my reservation and waived the change fee.
It’s then that I realized something that would become even clearer to me throughout our vacation: a LOT of gay people work at Disney World. And as I’ve already learned, gay people love to see gay parents. Thanks to them and all the other wonderful people who work at the Magic Kingdom, I felt completely safe at Disney and never had any second thoughts about whether my family belonged there.
We spent our vacation like pretty much everyone else. We dined with everyone from Donald Duck to Tigger to Stitch to Sleeping Beauty. We stalked Mulan through Epcot’s China pavilion so the kids could get her autograph, camping out on a tip that she was going to make a surprise appearance. (Success!) We spent roughly half our kids’ college funds on Disney merchandise.
It was awesome.
Instead of feeling self-conscious about our family, we felt… well, special.
As we stood on Main Street waiting for a lunch reservation one day, a cast member approached us in character and said, “You have a beautiful family! The four of you, I love this.” She pointed at each of us, just so we knew for sure that she understood exactly what kind of family we had.
Our kids felt like celebrities, because everyone from the White Rabbit to Princess Tiana treated them rock stars. They got picked to take part in shows, Mike Wazowski read Bennett’s joke during the Monsters, Inc. show, and the characters at Disney restaurants didn’t want to leave our table. No one was more awesome than Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother. We stood in line one day to get her autograph, and the next day, she spotted us during the park’s opening ceremony. “I remember you guys!” she called out to us. “Come see me later!”
Of course, we did, and she greeted us like old friends. This was a woman who probably spoke to hundreds of families a day, but precisely because we were a little bit different, she remembered us. It made me realize once again that it’s better to stand out than to blend in.
Any fears I had about people reacting negatively to our family were unfounded. As I’ve noted in other posts, the nice people we come into contact with tend to be extra-nice to us, and the homophobes are at least polite enough to stay out of our way.
There’s no way to say this without sounding cheesy or like some Disney shill (which I’m not — no one has paid me for this post!), but the best word I can think of to describe our trip was “magical.”
Becoming a dad was a major life victory for me, but it was hardly the last one. It’s been followed by innumerable others, the most recent of which came last week, when I took my family to Disney World, just like anyone else.
And it was even better than I’d imagined.
* * * * *
If you’re a regular reader, you may already know to skip the part after the asterisks, because you’ve probably already subscribed to my blog and followed me everywhere else, too — and geez, when’s he going to stop asking? Those of you who are still reading — what are you waiting for? Subscribe, like me on Facebook, follow me on Twitter — and hey, as long as I’m shamelessly groveling, why not mark my book as “to read” on GoodReads? That’d be swell.
Your experience in Disney sounds exactly like when my wife and I take our kids. The beauty of Disney is that a family is a family and they treat everyone the same …. which is to say better than most places.
That’s what I was going to say. I think Disney treats everyone the same, which is great. My experience at Disney with my Mom and sister and niece was the same as well.
I have 2 children that are Disney cast members. Disney’s customer service is the best. They love all families. I love that my kids have such a wide range of friends there.
It sounds like it really is the “happiest place on earth!” Glad you guys had an amazing time!
My partner and I took our son to Disney World last May and had a positive experience as well. We loved our trip more than I expected. I’m so happy to hear that you had a “magical” time too!
While all our travels haven’t been ideal (thanks to an ignorant TSA agent in Cincinnati and a homophobic Father in the security line who was very vocal about his opinion of us), we want our son to experience traveling to our favorite spots. Maybe someday we will have the Disney experience on all our travels.
Just love that you had such a magical trip! You make an adorable family!
Loved the pictures, too!
Having the pleasure of being around you two when your babies were born I just knew I was one of the lucky ones. Your warmth and grace was all over the unit. I would have expected nothing but the royal treatment for your family. It’s what you’ve given to others. Disney and it’s cast members did itself proud!!!
I completely agree with this person! I actually met your family while you were visiting Walt Disney World and couldn’t agree more with Fairy God mother! You have an incredible family that for most any one at Disney draws us to want to create as much magic as possible! You both have succeeded in creating such a warm and welcoming family that so many of us admire! You should always get the “family” treatment but not because of you orientation but because you really are an amazing kind family! Hope to see you soon!
Thanks! So nice to hear from someone else we met on our trip. We’ll definitely be going back as soon as we can afford it! 🙂
So happy to hear you had a magical time there…I went with my kids 4 yrs ago and they are adults and we also had a wonderful time….
I’m not “Anonymous ” it’s Katye from St. Jude!
We love you so much, Katye!!! Thank you for always being such an important part of our kids’ lives….xoxo
Disney is magical – I am not particularly partial to theme parks but when you have children it’s magical. We took our boys a few years ago and I was dreading the crowds, Anaheim and all the craziness – once we got there I became the craziest disney mom there and my husband and I had a ball with the kids – glad you had fun..
This whole thing just made me so happy. 🙂
Magic isn’t just for kids is it (but it’s nice to be able to share their wonder).
Being part of the very big LGBTQ family has it’s perks sometimes. It is karma for the negative stuff we endured when younger. If I could go back and tell my scared younger self how things would change, well I probably wouldn’t have believed it. With all the hate in the world it’s still been a pretty amazing past few years as equality slowly unfurls across the land – including Disney parks.
Thanks for sharing your experience! Glad it went so well. My travel stories usually involve kids running into traffic or getting sick at inconvenient times. Your story is better. 🙂
Ditto to what Threekidsandinfinitechaos said…
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I’m so glad your experience was a positive one! I’m so glad the kids had fun and the people were so pleasant. I have never been to Disney, it’s something I would love to do, but so far, not an option financially, but I can’t wait to be able to make that dream so possible in the future!
My family’s experience, about fifteen years ago, wasn’t quite as wonderful. The magical sense of wonder that our children experienced was accompanied by a cloud of paranoia on the part of their parents. My how times have changed. As a self-proclaimed trail-blazer, your story brought a tear to my eye. Thank you for sharing!
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I’m so glad you had an amazing visit! Disney is so magical. We went a few years ago.. Our mom let us “kids” pick the vacation. All 3 of us were above 18 and we still picked Disney. I now have a 5 month old and I cannot wait until she is old enough to enjoy Disney!!
I just want you to know that this fills my heart with so much joy. I’m a Cast Member at WDW, and it’s magic like this that makes my job more play than work. Everyone deserves magic, and I’m glad you guys had a great time with your kids and each other for your anniversary. Thank you for writing this. ❤
As a former Disny cast member I can say this doesn’t surprise me at all but I’m happy to hear it. Working for Disney has it’s problems but they take their diversity policy very seriously. And you’re right that a lot of gay people work there, in the entertainment department the girls used to joke about the lack of straight men to date. I can also say the Fairy Godmother is notorious for remembering families and making people feel extra special, I’m glad you got to meet her. I’m also glad you had such an awesome experience!
As a cast member of the Walt Disney World here in Florida for six years I can honestly say it’s the families like yours, who come in excited about the feeling of being at the parks and experiencing the magic we have that really truly DO make our jobs. We often get more magical moments back from our guests than you would realize… A good friend of mine who plays with Pluto all the time was brought to tears by a little girl who she had taken a picture with earlier in the day sat next to her during the electrical parade and gushed about meeting Pluto and how he was the absolute best in the world, this was the last day of her college program and it literally made her life. The fairy god mother is a friend of mine and she absolutely love seeing kids that come to the parks three days in a row and takes pride in making special moments with them. So thank YOU and your family for sharing the memories with us 🙂
As a Disney cast member (and a lesbian who one day hopes to have a family to take to Disney), it makes me so happy to read this, I couldn’t even explain. People tend to be so wary of Disney during Gay Days in June but it’s my favourite time to work in the parks! And you’re definitely right about the “family” treatment, because I know I work extra hard to be nice to the people who probably don’t get treated as well outside of our little bubble. 🙂
As a former cast member I just want to say one thing that I wanted to make clear. Those cast member though they may have been gay were not giving you, your husband, and adorable children any kind of “family” treatment because I and most straight CM’s I know treat all guests like that. We all love the company we work for and work to make every single person has a magical stay. I am so happy that you found comfort in Disney because that is what it is there for but don’t think for a second that it’s because you are a gay family. It is because you are just a FAMILY!
WELL SAID … former cast member here who worked in training and HR and it’s all about how everyone at Disney is expected to treat any family … period. And what’s interesting is that Walt Disney World (and Disney Cruise Line for that matter) are known for being any family-friendly. “Gay Days” — the big ol’ gay even in June not sponsored by Disney but highly supported by them — used to be just for 20-something dancing’ queens; now families are very highly targeted to enjoy the weekend of fun with a specific agenda for their needs. Disney realized years ago that it’s good business to embrace diversity and inclusion on all fronts and is rightfully reaping the benefits by having people talk about their experience and coming back for more “special treatment.” Glad you enjoyed yourselves!
That’s what I wanted to say too. You were treated that way because that’s the way Disney treats families! I kind of feel like a jerk for saying it, but gay people are so common at Disney that you really don’t stand out much… But I’m so glad you had a good time and felt comfortable! I hope soon that you can feel that comfortable everywhere you go!
Thank you all for these wonderful comments. I always worry that posts like these are going to invite the haters, but you’ve all been so nice. I especially love hearing from so many cast members. You guys are the best. I’m glad you’re enjoying the post and sharing it. Thanks for making my trip so amazing. It makes me so happy to know that it’s your mission to make every family feel as special as mine did.
It’s also great to know that the Fairy Godmother is so well-known for her awesomeness. All the cast members were fantastic, but she was definitely extra-special. 🙂
Truly enjoyed serving you and your sweet family at Akershus princess dining!
Thanks, Camilla! Akershus was one of our favorites. You and the rest of the staff were all terrific!
Do you possibly have any pictures from that dining experience that you’d like to share? =]
So heartwarming. I’m thrilled when people, businesses and the world are good and kind 🙂
The reason you get the best treatment is because it’s true we, the cast members, love your families. You also tend to be the nicest as well. We have to deal with a lot of guests throughout the day, including not so nice ones, but we always know that you’ll be the extra friendly and polite families.So when you’re nice to us we are nice in return. I’m so glad you had a great time! I hope to see ya real soon 🙂
I’m so glad you a had a magical time at Walt Disney World. All of us Cast Members are reminded daily that We Create Happiness and We Create the Magic. Most of us live on barely above minimum wage. We aren’t there because it’s a job. We are there because we believe in the Traditions, and Expectations of being a Cast Member. In short, we drink the kool aid. 🙂
We try to give every one the attention you received. It makes our days extraordinary when we are able to do tiny things that mean a lot to our guests. Most of the time we are just doing our job (like the Cast Member at your resort), or adding extra Pixie Dust to a vacation (like Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother).
I hope you come back soon. Especially when you need a Pixie Dust recharge. 🙂
Just wanted to tell you as a Cast Member here at Walt Disney World I am so happy that you have had this experience. 🙂 I think your family is just as awesome as the next one and I can’t wait until you come back and see us! Our company has a large family that everyone is included in!
It is amazing to hear from so many of you cast members – both past and present.
I’d really like to write a letter commending the specific cast members who made our trip so special. But I don’t want to write a generic form letter to a website.
If you guys can help point me in the right direction, I would be so grateful.
And thank you for making our trip so incredible.
Drew (Jerry’s other half)
Guest.firstname.lastname@example.org is the official Guest correspondence. That is the place to send a letter.
I am a cast member at the Art of Animation Resort. Your family’s story brought tears to my eyes. I am beyond pleased to hear that our team was a part of your magical visit to the Walt Disney World Resort.
What a fantastic story! Thank you for sharing and your beautiful family is a shining light in a world that could use more 🙂 Now I’m dreaming of how to get my family to Disney!
New to your blog,just found it from r/Disney,but respect man. Definately going to buy your book
SO nice to hear your story… thanks for sharing. It made my day!
The Most Magical Place on Earth: Where everyone is treated equally and peace on Earth has hope.
The most beautiful story ❤ What an amazing family!
omg this made me cry!
I already thought you were cool – now the love is even greater. Few experiences in my life outshine Walt Disney World for pure FUN. I am so proud to hear that my home-away-from-home was so welcoming to you and your family, and I am so grateful to you for sharing the experience!
How cool that Disney World proved to be really family friendly! That is what we should expect from such a family oriented organization. Hopefully Disney World is ushering us all into a new, integrated reality. I never thought I’d promote Disney sweet, but this post really make me feel hopeful.
We’ll a place with love it’s always a warm nice cosy to be with a family specially over there forget it it’s a real love and happiness
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So happy WDW wowed with their legendary customer service. Not that surprising but always a joy to hear/read.
I’m so glad to hear you enjoyed your vacation. It can be stressful to travel with kids under the best of circumstances, so any unnecessary hurdles really suck. Maybe one or more of those characters really were gay and maybe seeing your family gave them hope for what their futures can be, if a family is what they want.
Just became your biggest supporter!!! LOL found your blog through recommended and think it’s awesome..good for you for coming out – and for the dad you are! 🙂 glad you had fun in Disney..def. gotta go there someday with my 3 kids…
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Disney is a family first place, glad to see your experience there was just like anyone else’s. That’s how it is supposed to be for everyone no matter what your family structure may be.
The kids had an awesome time? That’s the #1 goal for every parent!!
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Aw, I really want to go to Disney world someday! I’m not sure why I haven’t ever been before. I’m going to have fix that.
I just looooove Disney! Glad to hear you had a great stay there!
What I feel in your. Blog is that you sometimes get treated less a family than the husband&wife kind. I don’t understand that nowadays, it’s just an oldfashioned kind of view if you ask me. I’m happy to hear that you had a positive experience with it and I hope many will follow!!
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Disney is WONDERFUL about the fact that FAMILY is FAMILY regardless of race, sex, or blood line. Family is not only what you are born into, but what you make it, and Disney recognizes that and embraces that concept, rolls it up in glitter, and releases it like a magical wish of joy. 🙂 One of the joys of my second job is helping people make those magical memories come together and honestly the stories I heard from families after they get home (and sometimes while they are still in the parks) make my heart smile because I know I helped put that smile on a little kids face, I helped make that magic moment happen, or that I helped make that magical family surprise occur.
I am so very glad you had an amazing trip. And I will add, the Fairy Godmother in Magic Kingdom is beyond magical I absolutely adore her 🙂
Ok I cried!! This was such a nice thing to read. As a Disney fanatic (loud and proud, lol) and a DVC owner, I always love reading great trip reports, and especially reading about when cast members go above and beyond… Pixie dust is a magical thing!! I am so, so happy that your family had a wonderful time and that you had some truly magical moments together on your trip. Thank you for sharing! And you do have such an ADORABLE family! 🙂
Amazing! Thank you for having the courage to take family visits.
I am not surprised that the number of gay people working at Disney World is a bit higher than the average percentage in the population. I am so happy to hear that this worked in your favour! Looks like people in general finally start to realise that a family is a family is a family. No matter how many parents or children, and no matter their gender. Happy anniversary!
We love Disney also. Glad that you and your family had a blast!
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The way you spoke is so touching, I love this piece and so glad you had a great time at Disney with your family. SucH wondering family photos. I am a previous disney employee and know how cast members are, everyone is treated like they are our family. We are all family. 🙂
May I add my two cents here, even though this was posted back in February? I loved that you were treated special as the SAME as all other families, as you should be. I look forward to the day where every type of family is considered just that, family. I took my grandson to Disney World a year ago and it just lit up my heart to see how happy he was. I never noticed any other family not fitting in, everyone was treated with respect and kindness from the Disney people. And I have one mire praise for them. I have Celiac disease which is treated like a big joke due to the media. I assure you my reactions after ingesting any kind of wheat, barley, or rye is NOT a joke but serious enough to land me in a hospital. While non of the restaurant people understood, Celiac, or no gluten, they did react amazingly fast to ‘allergy’ which was the only way I could get across how dangerous it was for me. Managers came running, preparing my food separately and with fresh ingrediants to prevent cross contamination. I have never been so impressed in my life. I had dreaded trying to find something to eat while there and worried I would wind up getting extremely sick. Thank you Disney for treating another ‘special needs’ person …well, special. I will definitely and happily bring all my other grandchildren there when they are ready. And to you, gay parents, may you enjoy a wonderful magical experience your families and all others deserve!
This was the cutest post I’ve ever read! I’m so glad you and your family had a wonderful time! I always carry the same fears whilst walking in public holding hands with my partner (as we do not have kids yet) wondering how people will react. When we went to the Jersey Shore, people would stop and congratulate us and tell us we were adorable while we were walking. It was the best and I’m glad you and your kids got to endure that experience.
Btw, they are absolutely adorable! With those smiles, they’ll rule the world!
I’m so glad to hear that. I grew up around the Jersey shore. It’s nice to know people are so tolerant there. And I bet you guys were adorable. 🙂
I was searching for some family blogs to find something. I don’t know what exactly. And after many disappointing blogs I stumbled across yours. This is the first post I read and can say I already adore you all. You are a beautiful family and I look forward to reading much more about you all! 🙂
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Keep up the good parenting. Your experience us great to read about!
Which one of you gave birth to your children?
Shame on you.
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I love this. It makes my heart very happy! ❤️😭
Sounds like a perfect vacation, no different than that of my wife, 6 kids and myself receive every year when we go!
Btw, you guys are awesome dads!!
Love this story!
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