Growing up as a member of the LGBTQ+ community isn’t easy. Girls are traditionally dressed in pink and boys are dressed in blue, and the beautiful princess always falls in love with the handsome prince. It’s no wonder that many LGBTQ+ youths feel isolated.
Most of us have vivid memories of watching Disney movies as children (or, if you’re like me, adults), and, in recent years, the movie giant has taken a number of steps towards increasing representation for the LGBTQ+ community to help solve this problem.
The first time I noticed a gay Disney character was when I watched Frozen (2013). Without spoiling the movie, the character pictured above is called Oken, and he owns a shop and sauna. In one scene, he says “Hello family!” and his husband and kids seemingly appear.
It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it-moment, but it’s inclusion in the movie is an important one.
Another recent example of LGBTQ+ representation in a Disney movie was in Finding Dory (2016). People were delighted when its trailer appeared to show a lesbian couple. However, Disney did not confirm this and said the couple were “whatever you want them to be”.
However, in a first, the Disney corporation is finally including an openly gay character in one of its prominent shows Andi Mack, and what’s more is that there will be a storyline centred around the character of Cyrus Goodman coming out to his friends.
Airing on October 27, the premiere of season two will feature Cyrus (Joshua Rush) coming to terms with his feelings for another boy in his friendship group, a boy who the show’s protagonist Andi Mack (Peyton Elizabeth Lee) also has feelings for.
The coming-of-age show’s creator, Terri Minsky, said that he has taken “great care in ensuring that it’s appropriate for all audiences.” Speaking about the role, Rush added that he was “so proud to bring Cyrus’ groundbreaking storyline to life”.
The decision to include such an inclusive storyline has been widely praised by the LGBTQ+ community.
“With more and more young people coming out as LGBTQ+, Andi Mack is reflecting the lives and lived experiences of so many LGBTQ+ youth around the country,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD.
“Television reflects the real life world and today that includes LGBTQ+ youth who deserve to see their lives depicted on their favorite shows. Disney has been a leader in LGBTQ+ inclusion, and there are so many young people who will be excited to see Cyrus’ story unfold.”
“‘Andi Mack’ is a story about ‘tweens’ figuring out who they are; Terri Minsky, the cast and everyone involved in the show [is sending] a powerful message about inclusion and respect for humanity,” a Disney spokesperson said in a statement to Variety.
Walt Disney Co. also commented on the groundbreaking episode:
“Our stories are timeless because they speak to the heart; our characters appeal to children across gender, ability, and experience because they’re defined by kindness, loyalty, humor, courage, wit and other traits that make a good friend. Disney remains committed to continuing to create characters that are accessible and relatable to all children.”
We hope that the episode inspires other major corporations to include LGBTQ+ characters in their movies and TV shows. Such steps will help to create an inclusive world where all genders and sexualities are equally accepted.
Whilst this is the first time that Disney has openly include an LGBTQ+ storyline, fans have been campaigning for its writers to give one of the corporation’s best-loved characters a girlfriend.
Although considerable steps have been taken to improve LGBTQ+ quality in recent years, a lot more work still needs to be done, and introducing children to diverse characters from an early age is a step in the right direction.