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The Bear Necessities for Gay Days 2004

The Bear Necessities for Gay Days 2004

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I'm sure a lot of people who are Disneyland fanatics like me have heard of the infamous Gay Days at Walt Disney World. But did you know that each and every year since 1997 the first weekend in October has been the weekend for the Unofficial Gay Days 2 at Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure?

It's almost like a fairy tale. Once upon a time, Disneyland used to close early in the evenings during the off-season. Disneyland would then "rent" out the park for private Disneyland nights to groups like local firemen and police unions, church groups, and for-profit companies like Odyssey Travel.

Odyssey Travel was insightful enough to see a demand for the gay community to enjoy the hospitality of Disneyland without supposedly freaking out the general public like Gay Days at Walt Disney World. So, Disneyland was rented by Odyssey Travel one night a year for a gay and *** special ticket event.

But, in 1997 Disneyland stopped closing the park early in the off-peak seasons. This ended the chapter of the Odyssey Travel annual gay and *** events. Not to mention all the other special ticket nights for other groups.

That's when people like Jeffrey Epstein stepped up to the plate with a page from Florida's Gay Days' book what do you mean, a page from the book? Is this an allusion to the "fairy tale"?. Why not just ask the gay and *** Disneyland fans to wear red T-shirts, as they do in Florida, and mingle in the crowds on a particular day?

The first year, the gay presence in the park was very small, only 2,500 by some estimates. But, over the next several years the numbers continued to grow with estimates for 2003 placed at 25,000 people. Hopefully, this fairy tale will become a "never-ending story".

I already know what some of you are going to say:

  • "Gay Days at Disneyland are sick and wrong!"
  • "It's shouldn't be allowed in the parks?in front of families and children!"
  • "People coming to the parks should be warned about the Gay Days!"

My answer to these complaints is?"Grow up and get over it!" Gay Days at Disneyland are not about showing off for the straight people, or trying to get up in their face about our sexual orientation or our partners in life.

Gay Days are a time for gay and *** folks, all of whom have families and friends, to enjoy Disneyland without having to be ashamed of being homosexual at "The Happiest Place on Earth". It's about comradery and having a good time.

Take me for example. I've known for many years that I'm gay and have been with my partner for over 7 years now.

We've been coming to Disneyland for years from Phoenix, AZ. Many times we come over to the park with no particular plans, and last weekend was no exception. We came over to Disneyland to have some fun, take some pictures, and perhaps hang around with friends who we knew would be at the park.

As we walked around the park we could see guys holding hands, lesbians pushing their strollers around the park, large groups of red-shirted people roaming around the park together without fear of being singled out as ***. We had just purchased a hat for a friend back in Phoenix, when as we came around the Big Thunder Railroad path, we ran into the BearsLA group getting ready to head over to Indiana Jones with a group of FASTPASS tickets. We wandered up to say "hello" to some friends in the group, and see what was going on. The next thing we know, they hand us some extra FASTPASS tickets and we are heading over to Indy for a quick ride.

Now, keep in mind gay men are a very diverse group of people. We range from the heavy to the thin, from the short to the tall, and from the butch to the femme. We cross every social group and we are present in every culture and race around the world. But, I'm hardly the "*** Eye for the Straight Guy" type gay male. It's possible to be gay without using products, back wax (ouch!), or having your nails done on a regular basis. I'm not into any of these, and neither are many of the gay men who self-identify as "bears".

Many bears are older, heavy-set, bearded gay men who are just the plain type guy who don't get television time in the "*** Eye" culture which has been so popular in the last few years.

So, when you find a group of people who understand you and your life, you feel very welcome. It's an amazing feeling being in a group of people who are willing to accept you even with your imperfections.

The Castle is looking beautiful.

Imagine two dozen "bears" prowling the park like a group of linebackers pushing their way through the other team's defense line. As we arrived at Indy we were welcomed by the Cast Member holding down the FASTPASS line. Two of the leaders of our group are Cast Members themselves and very good friends with the CM at the head of the FASTPASS line. We headed into "The Temple of the Forbidden Eye" and looped our way through the queue line. When we passed the safety movie, someone commented that John Rhys-Davies is sexy, and the group laughed.

At this point, I was at the end of our group chatting with some people about the detail of the Imagineers on the Indy queue line and how sad it was Disney didn't use the queue line any more due to FASTPASS. As I came around the corner and I looked up the ramp to the other end, I could see nothing but red T-shirts standing in line.

We filled three Indy cars with red shirts. I'm sure that a few guys were sneaking some kisses in the dark?just like straight couples.

Next it was over to Disney's California Adventure for another "bear" favorite, Grizzly River Run (GRR). The Grizzly Peak has been a favorite of the bear community, much like Country Bear Jamboree in years past. The huge Grizzly River Run bear standing guard outside the queue is a photo opportunity for bears much like the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland is for everybody else.

The BearsLA's Grizzly River Run photo opt.

How did you fit eight bears in that boat?

The line was short considering how busy DCA was for the weekend. Now, if you're not familiar with the GRR rafts the seats are really designed for people the size of children. So, needless to say, we couldn't fit the standard eight people into the raft and we had to compromise by fitting only five bears into the boat. We returned to the loading platform, a little bit wetter, before we heading back to the hotels to get out of that wet clothing, behind closed doors.

Later that night, after returning from dinner, the bears gathered to watch the new "Imagine" fireworks show at the end of Main Street outside Coke Corner. A huge group of red-shirted bears collected at the end of the street like blood in a clogged artery. We had 40 guys hanging around at the end of the street holding hands and wrapping arms around each other in the most discrete ways, not affecting the straight people passing by.

One angry Disneyland patron remarked, "Oh that's great! Just want we want our kids to see." It's that sort of intolerance that breeds prejudice in kids.

I'm sure many people realize just how uncomfortable it is trying to express any affection at Disneyland for someone like myself. It's exactly that sort confrontation I try to avoid at all costs in Disneyland.

Thankfully, one of the bears just yelled back, "Oh, you're just pissed no one wants to hold you during the fireworks." I guess that's one way to handle the situation.

It was a tremendous experience being able to hold my partner's hand watching the fireworks that night, proud of being together, unafraid of being ridiculed by people for being open and feeling special at Disneyland.

I know some Disneyland fanatics get very upset by Gay Days, but just remember that you have Disneyland 364 days a year. We're limited to just our one day, don't ruin that special day for us.

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