Written by Emma Glassman-Hughes
I’m not gonna dance around it: I don’t particularly like the Disney franchise. I suffer from a phobia of all rodents--cartoon or otherwise--and I’m put off by the brave-new-worldy nature of the parks. Sorry Mickey, but you won’t convince me that you invented happiness with an entry sticker price just a few digits shy of my college tuition. More like a dream is a wish your heart pays, amirite ladies?!? Plus, we all know Walt definitely used to roll on Shabbos, if you know what I mean. In spite of all this, I certainly am a fan of the occasional Disney film, especially the classics (Megara was my life coach from ages two to ten) and the newer bunch that (attempt to) address a variety of social issues, like The Princess and the Frog, Zootopia, and Frozen. A social issue that Disney hasn’t yet broached, however, is an issue that is more personal for me: the issue of queer visibility.
~*Spoiler alert*~ my dislike for Disney despite growing up in Southern California isn’t the only thing that makes me queer; I’m also a bisexual gal who has quietly struggled with her sexuality since the ripe age of 11. Over the course of my exhilarating pubescence, I told a grand total of zero other humans of my sexual interest in women, continued wearing my beloved makeup and dresses (‘cause that stuff’s for straight girls, duh), and learned to choke down feelings and force smiles when legitimately everyone with whom I interacted assumed my singular interest in boys and men (not to be confused with Boys II Men). I dated lots of boys, some of whom I genuinely loved* but others who were just filling a quota. I even convinced myself that bisexuality wasn’t a thing until I was, like, 18 years old and a fully-functioning college student. It was a lonely and torturesome little routine I did, but now that I’m grown (lol kinda) I’ve begun to address some of that pain, even though it’s proving to be a difficult pursuit. Self-acceptance? An uphill battle? Whaaaaa? *laughs nervously*
To say that we are living in the golden age of queerness is in many ways a mistake. Sure, same-sex couples can marry now, and trans bathroom discrimination issues have made it to the mainstream, but we still have not managed to address the cultural shame that continues to stifle queer expression. In my experience, though important, the recent progress made has largely been superficial. For many, trying to navigate any deviating (read: non-hetero) sexualities in this conflicting age of Internet access and conservative religious backlash is like trying to drive a car in Boston: everyone is mean and selfish and you keep getting lost because the map is overcomplicated and doesn’t make sense, and TBH there’s a 10/10 chance that it’s blizzarding. When it comes to sex, we’ve raised an entire generation of children (myself included) solely on self-“education” through pornified images of LGBT+ sexuality, and a hefty dose of self-loathing, confusion, and isolation; a generation oversaturated in virtual, exaggerated, unrealistic depictions of identities and yet almost entirely deprived of real-life legitimacy. We seem to be lacking the tools that we need in order to have meaningful, truthful, vulnerable conversations about sex and sexuality starting from a young age.
But there is of course hope. All the hullaballoo in support of the #GiveElsaAGirlfriend hashtag campaign--A.K.A. the online mini-movement of folks petitioning Disney to write a queer relationship for lead character Elsa in the upcoming sequel to Frozen--and the sweet seal of approval from Elsa’s voice actor Idina Menzel, has inspired me to state the obvious, ya’ll: it is 2016!! We have hoverboards now! Sort of! There’s absolutely no reason to continue massaging the egos of the ultra-religious minority that wishes to suppress the full expression of human sexuality and make a whole bunch of perfectly good humans feel like lonely little freaks simply for wanting to bump uglies with someone of the same sex (or with multiple someones, or with no one at all). It’s time. It’s been time.
Giving Elsa a girlfriend (and maybe even a girlfriend who isn’t another whiter-than-snow Scandinavian? Much love to the Scandinavians, but also racism in the LGBT+ community is a thing) would certainly not erase all the anti-LGBT+ discrimination that continues to plague the still-Puritan-but-only-when-it’s-convenient-for-my-agenda American condition. But it would have helped 11-year-old Emma feel like she deserved to be seen as her whole self, and not just the parts of her that fit neatly into what everyone else had in mind. As a kid, I didn’t know that I could sometimes experience sexual attraction to women and still be “feminine” in presentation; I didn’t know that I could sometimes experience sexual attraction to women without it defining my personhood; but worst of all, I didn’t know that I could sometimes experience sexual attraction to women and learn to exist happily. I never talked about it with anyone because I thought saying it out loud would just confirm my difference, and that was the scariest thing I could imagine. If I saw a queer Disney character--a Disney princess--better yet, a Disney QUEEN--in my formative years, I would have seen more than just a groundbreaking example of inclusivity; I would have seen, much like Queen Elsa, that my difference is not scary. I would have seen that my difference confirms my humanity. And as for my hatred of Disney, if they do end up #GivingElsaAGirlfriend, maybe then I’ll finally ~let it go~ and consider selling a non-essential organ to afford a trip to Disneyland.
*shout-out to the current boy who is the most supportive and wonderful human alive, and who has encouraged me to be true to myself in a way I didn’t think was possible.