Trans Disney heir speaks out against Florida's 'Don't Say Gay' bill in face of company blowback

·5 min read

The great-great nephew of Walt Disney, and heir to the Disney fortune, has publicly slammed Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

Speaking with columnist Robin Abcarian for the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, Charlee Corra Disney (also the great-grandson of Roy O. Disney, who founded the company with his brother Walt), said that, while growing up, “I had very few openly gay role models. And I certainly didn’t have any trans or nonbinary role models. I didn’t see myself reflected in anyone, and that made me feel like there was something wrong with me."

"Then to put something like this law on top of that?" they added. "They can’t learn about their community and their history at school, or play sports or use the bathroom they want to use?”

Charlee, 30, a high school biology and environment science teacher, has avoided the spotlight for much of their life. But the new interview caps a month in which they have used their name to shed light on the string of anti-LGBTQ laws flooding the courts around the country.

Charlee Corra Disney is speaking out about Florida's
Charlee Corra Disney is speaking out about Florida's "Don't Say Gay" bill and acknowledging the damage it can do to queer youth. (Photo: Tommaso Boddi/FilmMagic)

In March, at the Human Rights Campaign’s annual gala in Los Angeles, Disney came out as a "member of the LGBTQ+ community" while also announcing that their family would match $250,000 in donations to the HRC, the nation's largest LGBTQ rights organization.

“I grew up with HRC, attending events like this one, and I’m so proud to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community,” Charlee, who uses they/them pronouns, said onstage at the time. “It’s very important to me and my brother, Aidan, and my parents, Sheri and Roy P. Disney [grandson of Disney's co-founder Roy O. Disney]. As members of the Disney family, standing up for equality has always been what we do.”

Weeks later, according to a fundraising email bulletin for HRC subscribers obtained by Yahoo Life, Charlee's father, Roy P. Disney, announced he had decided to double the matching amount to $500,000 — while also noting that Charlee was transgender.

“My wife, Sheri, and I have been members of HRC for over 20 years,” the email reads. “Equality matters deeply to us, especially because our child, Charlee, is transgender and a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community. We were heartbroken when Ron DeSantis signed the ‘Don’t Say Gay or Trans’ law in Florida. The fight isn’t over, and we are determined to do everything we can to stop this from happening in other places.”

"It is a scary time for LGBTQ+ people, especially the youngest ones," it continues. "But, I know that HRC is doing everything possible to make our country more equitable and safe for the next generation — and Sheri and I are proud to help."

On why Charlee has decided to speak out now, they told the L.A. Times, “I feel like I don’t do very much to help,” adding, “I don’t call senators or take action. I felt like I could be doing more.”

The Disney family’s donation is notable, given that HRC rejected a $5 million donation from Disney last month; in doing so, it noted the company’s lack of response to the Florida bill, which itself spawned mass walkouts from Disney staff and garnered international criticism about the company’s political donations and affiliations.

Abigail Disney, Roy’s sister, who’s been a staunch advocate for worker’s rights, celebrated the family’s donations on Twitter:

Abigail has also been outspoken in recent weeks about Florida’s bill, telling CNN on Monday that the whole thing is “absurd.”

"There have been gay people whether or not the word was ever spoken. It denies the fact that everyone, conservative or not, has a gay friend or a transgender family member,” Abigail said, adding that the entertainment giant is "so woven into families” and that “if you can create this idea that somebody's in there trying to indoctrinate your child, the paranoid imagination can run circles."

"You can't claim neutrality if you're supporting the people who write these laws," she added of the company's donations to politicians that support anti-LGBTQ legislation. "But on top of it, there is no neutrality anymore."

The so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill, signed by Florida's Gov. Ron DeSantis, bars elementary school educators from discussing gender identity and sexual orientation issues with students between kindergarten and third grade, and is at the root of the recent conservative backlash against the entertainment giant — a battle that only seems to be growing, as DeSantis recently came out in support of stripping Disney of its privilege to operate as a quasi-independent government inside its Orlando theme park.

Before his death in 1966, Walt Disney proposed to Florida lawmakers that Disney World should have governing authority over the land. His wish was granted when, in 1967, under the direction of his brother Roy, the state granted the company the right to govern its property independently from the state.

Now, in what seems to be a counterattack, state legislators are showing support in taking those rights away from the company, which could potentially cause internal backlash.

“Yesterday was the 2nd meeting in a week [with] fellow legislators to discuss a repeal of the 1967 Reedy Creek Improvement Act, which allows Disney to act as its own government,” state Rep. Spencer Roach, a Republican representing the land in which Disney World resides, wrote Wednesday on Twitter.

“If Disney wants to embrace woke ideology, it seems fitting that they should be regulated by Orange County," he added.

Want lifestyle and wellness news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Life’s newsletter.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting