In April of 2018, the Disney theme parks took a step in a new direction, debuting the rainbow-themed ear hats in celebration of the LQBTQ+ community. By May of the same year, with a mixture of rave reviews and peer pressure to expand the selection, Disney had released a matching handful of clothing and accessories items. But they didn't stop there, vowing to donate 10 percent of their profits to GLSEN - a US-based organization dedicated to the safety and well-being of LGBTQ+ school-aged children. Little did they know at the time, it would soon become an annual merchandise collection that would have fans counting down the days until its release.
I'm talking, of course, about the Rainbow Collection, which took another leap forward in 2019 when a second follow-up series was released, building on the items from the previous year and broadening their options with a series of matching family shirts for adults and kids. This highly-anticipated merch release has become a favorite among fans in subsequent years, expanding each time with more elaborate offerings.
The 2021 release has only partially been revealed and already is no exception to the escalating trend. Brands like Loungefly, Torrid, Hot Topic, Kohls, and Funko are jumping on board with their own contributions, as well as Pride products from Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, and Marvel. Rainbow designs are no longer limited to an Ear Headband or annual pin, ranging from colorful expression to subtle everyday support.
I have included the first section of this year's release in our Monday Merch Meeting this week. Still, just in the two days following, Disney has surprised us with a new level of inclusivity, offering a handful of pins in specific support of Transgender, Bisexual, and Lesbian communities. Don't worry; you don't need to go searching; I will list all the links for you below:
- Mickey Mouse Icon Pin – Transgender Flag – Rainbow Disney Collection
- Mickey Mouse Icon Pin – Bisexual Flag – Rainbow Disney Collection
- Mickey Mouse Icon Pin – Lesbian Flag – Rainbow Disney Collection
- Mickey Mouse Icon Pin – Intersectional Flag – Rainbow Disney Collection
If you aren't in tune with merch releases or that familiar with the LGBTQ+ Disney connection, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about; after all, on the surface, it may just look like your typical merch release featuring colorful rainbows, but the support for much-needed organizations generated behind the scenes is actually quite extraordinary.
In 2021, Disney has taken a more global approach, providing funding to the following organizations around the world in support of their local LGBTQ+ communities:
- GLSEN - US-Based, committed to the health and wellbeing of K-12 School-aged children.
- Diversity Role Models - UK-Based, education-minded promoting diversity and inclusion through workshops and the creation of support networks.
- Minus18 - Australian-based community, working to end social isolation and discrimination while empowering LGBTQIA+ young people with the resources they need.
- BeLonG To Youth Services - Ireland-based, 'BeLonG To Youth Services is the national organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI+) young people in Ireland.' That description was too succinct to mess with.
- ARELAS - A Spanish organization working to achieve equal opportunities for trans minors in their personal lives and public settings.
- Diversity München e.V. - German organization, self-governed by its own youth members that use peer-to-peer connections to create youth centers and cafés for LGBTQ+ youth.
- It Gets Better Project - Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru-based groups that help LGBTQ+ youth find help and acceptance while empowering them through peer support and sharing.
- Nijiiro Diversity - A Japanese initiative that is working towards equality and diversity in the workplace.
I love that Disney isn't afraid to say come one, come all; moving into a new age of awareness and accountability, actively making room for a diverse array of guests from all backgrounds. They are no longer just resting on the notion of equality being present in the parks but taking the time to prove they are on board. This movement can be seen advancing in all aspects of Disney from more diverse characters to the celebration of different cultures and traditions, both on-screen and in the parks.
Every year I enjoy seeing this initiative reach further into the community, providing help for those who need it, education for those that don't know they need it, and a fun collection of apparel and accessories that we can all use to celebrate our diversity.
I'm going to leave you with this statement from Disney that perfectly frames the forward-thinking approach being taken to create a more inclusive experience for all. (and before anyone replies, this applies to everyone, not just those who identify as LGBTQ+):
Diversity and Inclusion CommitmentTHE WALT DISNEY COMPANY PRIDE COLLECTION
At The Walt Disney Company, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to create authentic, unforgettable stories, experiences, and products that capture the imagination of generations of people around the world. We are committed to doing that in a way that counts everybody in.
Let's celebrate and support our individuality by being kind to each other.