“I had very few openly gay role models. And I certainly didn’t have any trans or nonbinary role models,” said Charlee Corra Disney.
An heir to Walt Disney has come out publicly as trans and condemned Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law. Amid Disney’s controversial response (or lack thereof) to the state’s upsetting legislation, Charlee Corra Disney recently spoke to the Los Angeles Times about their disappointment in the law as a trans person, and their recent $250,000 matching grant to the Human Rights Campaign.
“I had very few openly gay role models. And I certainly didn’t have any trans or nonbinary role models,” said Charlee, the great-grandchild of company co-founder Roy O. Disney. They said that despite finding security and support in their family, they felt alienated growing up. “I didn’t see myself reflected in anyone, and that made me feel like there was something wrong with me.”
Over the past several weeks, The Walt Disney Company has been embroiled in a controversial battle as the public and its own employees have taken issue with the company’s botched and ambivalent response to the recently-signed law. The legislation will limit the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms, and also have widespread implications for children and teens in the state of Florida. Amid public outcry, Disney pledged $5 million to HRC, the country’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, which rejected the money until the company proved it would do more in the fight for gay and trans people.
In March, Charlee, a high school science teacher, attended the HRC’s annual gala in a moment that served as a public coming-out, while also announcing their grant. The pledge was specifically in response to Florida’s legislation, which Charlee says exacerbates what is already an often overwhelmingly difficult childhood for queer kids. “Then to put something like this law on top of that?” they told the Times. “They can’t learn about their community and their history at school, or play sports or use the bathroom they want to use?”
The pledge was joined by Charlee’s family: parents Sheri and Roy P. Disney announced another $500,000 matching grant, a symbol of the family’s commitment to supporting gay and trans rights, even as the company itself flounders. The move, according to Charlee’s mother, was a signal to others amid increasingly repressive political messaging: “I have a trans kid,” she said, “and I love my kid no matter what.”