My daughter went to Disneyland at age 2. But I actually didn’t step into the place until almost age 30.
My mother raised my sister and me. Our family lived paycheck-to-paycheck my whole childhood in Oakland and Antioch, California. Taking large trips to places like Disneyland was never an option. But my sister and I barely let it cross our minds. We watched Disney cartoons, we read the books, and we spent hours re-enacting the characters from the movies. We were perfectly content with this life because we couldn’t consider any other.
At 15, I began to step into the realization that there are different roads for different people. And my road led to me being a lesbian. A year later I came out to my mother. I sat in her lap and cried. I apologized for who I am. I sat there and felt her rubbing my back. I listened to her as she told me that she loved me and how nothing would change that. I told her I still wanted to buy a home, marry and have kids with a woman. I listened to her tell me that I shouldn’t apologize for who I am.
I finished high school and began attending college. But growing up with little money, I decided to put school on the backburner and step into the workforce. I worked in retail and grew into a manager. I went through several jobs gaining more experience and saving more money.
In 2009, I met a woman named Diane. She brought a tremendous amount of light into my life and had seen many things I hadn’t. When she found out that I’d never been to Disneyland, well, surprise, surprise … “Merry Christmas!” Diane handed me a folder with our itinerary inside; we were scheduled to drive from the Bay Area to Disneyland in two days!
As we stepped off of the shuttle and entered the mass of people walking toward the entrance, I was excited, overwhelmed, and in love with every sight. Was everything in front of my eyes even real? I’d seen this entrance for years on TV and in pictures. Diane and I spent the day on rides, exploring the park . . . and then there was the Christmas show. Though we were in the middle of a huge crowd, it did not involve pushing, complaining, arguments, or other mean behavior. I stood there watching everyone’s delight at the “snow.” Billions and billions of tiny bubbles fell over Main Street and into the crowd. I turned to Diane, and watched the surprised smile on her face, falling even more in love with this woman who brought me to this level of happiness.
We returned to the Magic Kingdom again for Gay Days Anaheim — with our daughter Annabelle. We wanted to give her the same eye-opening experience Diane had given me. Annabelle knew the characters, just as I had as a girl, and anticipated the trip for weeks.
We walked through the gates and the smile on our daughter’s face grew massive! “Mama! Minnie!” Annabelle looked at me hopefully, and I nodded my head. We went over to take a picture with the giant mouse. Minnie put her arms around us just like she would any family. We walked through the park and went in search of all the characters we could find. Annabelle had conversations with seemingly every princess on the grounds! And the rides, through her eyes! Would you be surprised that her favorite was “It’s a Small World”?
Later that day, our sometimes-impatient girl sat quietly on the curb waiting for the parade to begin. Annabelle hopped out of my lap and started jumping up and down. “Mommy! Mama! Mommy! Mama! Queeeeeeeeen Elsa! It’s Elsa and Anna!” I am not a big crier, but this little girl had me welling up with her reaction to the women from her favorite movie. I am sure we are one of many families who have watched Frozen 100 times.
The next day, Saturday, we had the chance to socialize with other LGBTQ families like ours. We attended the Family Equality Council lunch at Plaza Inn in a blocked-off section. We chatted with two lesbians and their daughter who sat at our table. It was wonderful to meet other families and compare experiences at the park.
Once lunch was over, we made our way to the group photo in front of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. The prior day, we’d seen a plethora of red shirt-wearing LGBTQ families throughout Disneyland, but now they were all in one place! It was such a feeling of joy. People who were not a part of Gay Days passed by and watched us. I felt my chest stick out with an overwhelming amount of pride.
Annabelle has brought an even brighter light into my life. She has given me yet another view on Disneyland, a place we plan to visit continually. It is important and exciting to her. And it is more than welcoming to this gay family. Sarah
Sarah Talton is a mom, wife, student and painter from Antioch, California.