We’re counting down and reflecting on 8 of the Gayest Disney songs to close out Pride month! Does your childhood fav make the list?
In collaboration with my lovely wife, Lorelei Golightly, we’ve brought to you a list of Disney songs that resonated with us in the most lesbian of ways growing up. Creating and reflecting on this list was a lot of fun on both of our parts as we close out Pride month! We hope you all enjoy ❤
8. “Part of Your World” lyrics by Howard Ashman, Alan Menken (The Little Mermaid, 1989)
Ariel was always my favorite Disney Princess. Staunch criticism always came her way in The Little Mermaid for ‘trading her voice for a man’, but Ariel’s story was always much deeper for me. In her most pivotal and notable song “Part of Your World”, Ariel sings about longing to be human and being part of life on land, which always carried a deep meaning for me as a child and even more so now as a trans masc lesbian. The Little Mermaid, at its core, is a story about accepting transformation. “Part of Your World” not only exemplifies Ariel’s desire and longing to be part of the human world and want to expand her knowledge about their culture, but it also shows her need to feel comfortable in her own body by any means necessary. I can relate to this because when I was ready to transition I now realize that it may have seemed impulsive and out of nowhere to many people in my life. But in hindsight when I look back through my life I’m similar to Ariel in that I had a ‘secret cove’ of my own where I’ve accumulated memories, hints and treasures about my identity leading up to who I am now.
I’d never felt ‘comfortable’ with my body growing up. I hated people commenting on my appearance, whether it was positive or negative. I hid myself away often in isolation, a habit still ingrained in my bones, but because of my relationship with myself, my wife and my growing family I’m learning to continue to be vulnerable, open and part of the world I’m meant to be in.
7. “Belle” lyrics by Howard Ashman, Alan Menken (Beauty and the Beast, 1991)
Ask my mom and she’ll tell you that Belle was my favorite Disney Princess when I was a kid, and also that Belle is the princess I remind her of the most. We moved around a lot, and while I (usually) didn’t have too much of a problem making friends wherever we ended up next, I had to learn how to entertain myself, and more often than not, that was with books. I was definitely a “weird” kid with an active imagination who would more often than not hole herself up with some books, notebooks and folders of my own writing to create a few worlds of my own. I could always relate to Belle in that sense, and the opening of this movie with this song always makes me cry. She didn’t fit in, she drew the attention of others for daring to be outside of the status quo, and she had to learn to be okay with that.
Belle sings about longing for “adventure in the great wide somewhere” — not sure what exactly it is she’s looking for, but knowing whatever it is, it isn’t where she is now. The people there are ordinary, boring, going about their day to day lives without the spark she needs to be happy. I can definitely relate. I very rarely understood the kinds of things my peers got excited about as a kid — boys and romance and boring fashion trends, but I didn’t know what it was I was missing either. It wasn’t until I got older and discovered that there was an entire lesbian community out there that I could be a part of if I wanted. Like Belle in the Beast’s castle, the more I explored, the more I fell in love despite my initial fear. Despite people not understanding me and me not understanding them, there was a place for me out there in the great wide somewhere, and it was definitely something more than what I left behind.
6. “Go The Distance” lyrics by Alan Menken (Hercules, 1997)
Everybody wants to feel like they belong. Hercules story begins with him being stolen from the heavens and, in a turn of events, being found and raised on earth by human parents. After growing up, his super strength and clumsiness combine to make him an outsider in his community, even though he tries desperately to fit in and make himself an asset to others. “Go the Distance” is sparked by Hercules finally being told of his origins, and so he sets out to find purpose in his life, or as he puts it ‘where he belongs’. This song always had big Gay energy for me because it perfectly encapsulates that yearning for wanting to go on a journey to find where your ‘real’ home is. I always sought out community from a young age, and thankfully always found it in one way or another. I still have some distance to travel in life, but I do feel like I’ve found where I belong for now.
5. God Help the Outcasts lyrics by Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz (Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1996 )
I’m sitting on the bed in my dorm room, alone, chatting with my friends on Facebook and thinking. I’m doing a lot of things — writing, role-playing, procrastinating on sleep — and debating my sexuality again. It’s something I’ve been doing off and on since my first failed attempt at coming out, and there are so many thoughts swirling around my head. The main one is loneliness — I’m far from my friends and my family, and thanks to the aforementioned coming out attempt, things between my mom and I are strained. I’m thinking about God, and what I was taught, what I’ve heard, what I believe and how it ties into all of this. I’m watching “God Help the Outcasts” over and over again on YouTube, because it relates to what I’m writing, a plenty good excuse if anyone asks, but also because it resonates with me so much. I’m certainly feeling like an outcast, but given everything happening in the world in 2013, I’m also feeling kind of lucky.
Esmerelda wanders Notre Dame, and she prays. Not for herself, but for her people and the hardships they endure. For the outcasts, the people God is supposed to protect the most, because they cannot protect themselves. The song brought tears to my eyes. The Black Lives Matter movement was just getting started, Gay people still didn’t have the right to marry nationwide, CNN still had a comments section and I used to torture myself by scrolling them everyday, seeing how much people hated folks that looked like me, or loved the way I thought I might. The “outcasts” I knew on some level that when I came out again, it would go better and I would still have a place to go. I knew my friends would still love and support me. I knew that I would “get by,” the way a lot of Gay kids knew they likely would, but that didn’t make it less scary for us, and especially for the people that were less lucky in their lot. There’s a rift there, Esmerelda in the church — sanctuary, at least for now — and her people vulnerable on the outside. There’s a loss, disconnection even in the midst of connection, that speaks a lot to my lesbian experience.
4. “Proud of Your Boy” lyrics by Howard Ashman, Alan Menken (Aladdin, 1992)
I was (still am tbh) an avid fan of the Disneymania CD’s. They were released yearly in the early 2000’s, and in 2004 Clay Aiken did a rendition of a cut song from the film Aladdin called “Proud of Your Boy”. It was my first introduction to the song at 11 years old. The song details Aladdin’s want to make his Mom proud of him, as he feels he is a big disappointment to her. Suffice to say, there’s layers to how I relate to this song. From the common theme of wanting to make your parents or those around you proud of you, details in the song where Aladdin is in a mood of self-loathing which I knew all too well in my adolescence, and even now in adulthood from time to time, and he quips about being ‘a late bloomer’ and not being able to ‘make himself taller or handsome’. These elements of the song hit me right in the chest every time.
3. Perfect Isn’t Easy lyrics Jack Feldman
Bruce Sussman (Oliver and Company, 1988)
I call this one my femme power anthem. It’s a silly little song from a very cute film, but it also reminds me of how I became comfortable in my own skin and how I wanted to present after years of hiding under ratty bucket hats, anime t-shirts, Adidas jackets and ripped jeans. I’ve always been a “girly girl,” my favorite color has been pink for all 28 years of my life and I’ve been obsessed with pretty dresses, princesses and mermaids since I was old enough to know what they were. But there came a time in my life around high school where, despite the fact that I still very much loved all these things, I didn’t feel especially comfortable in them. I complained the entire time my grandma had me participate in her sorority’s debutante ball despite getting to wear a sparkly white ball gown. All of these things were too tied to men, to straight women, to heterosexuality as a whole for me to be comfortable in it, even though I didn’t yet realize I was gay at the time. I knew I didn’t want to date, or hang around boys or draw that kind of attention, so I hid myself away.
It wasn’t until college that I came to realize that I could dress that way for myself, and for other women. Femininity as a construct can never be completely removed from the cisheteropatriarchal gaze, especially as a Black lesbian, but I learned to take the bits and pieces that I loved and shape it into something for myself and other people I want to share it with. When Georgette sings about getting ready for the day, all the effort she puts in to be perfect and beautiful and over the top and just better than everyone else. As someone who loves going a little over the top with my looks — and aims to go even higher with it one day — I find myself humming this to myself as I put on my makeup before work or a night out with my friends. Georgette is putting on a show (she is a show dog, after all) and as a proud femme lesbian so am I. Femininity is a performance and I like to think I’m winning.
2. “I See the Light” lyrics by Alan Menken, Glenn Slate (Tangled, 2010)
Tangled tells the story of young Rapunzel, who is stolen away from her parents as a baby and locked away in a tower. She watches the Festival of Lights from her tower window every year on her Birthday, which is actually her parents trying desperately to find her. This is ultimately the catalyst for the adventure in Tangled, and along the way she meets Eugene who agrees to escort her to the castle where the lights are being released. It is here on the water where they both sing the duet, “I See the Light”. There’s actually quite a bit of layers to why this song resonates with me. In Tangled, we follow Rapunzel and Eugene on separate journey’s of inner discovery. On their journey together, Eugene discovers the value in vulnerability, and Rapunzel in turn learns the value in trusting others. The song itself, for me, is shrouded in a lot of mysticism that is elevated by the beautiful animation that accompanies it. “I See the Light” being sung by both of these characters who finally accept how far they’ve come on their journey not only as separate people, but together as one, reminds me of my own relationship with my wife.
Before I met them, it was very much like I was walking through a fog, and in the years that we’ve been together I’ve learned to be vulnerable with them in ways that I never thought possible with another human being. When I hear this song, I am reminded that when I’m with them my world is bathed in light, and I feel safe to express my truest self. They were with me at the very start of my transition and urged me to take the first steps with my HRT. She helped me realize it was okay to explore my gender identity and that no matter how my body changed, she loved me all the same. Having her steadiness allowed me to explore my gender identity and feel at ease in myself, and having someone in my life to love and shower with affection is something I didn’t think I would have so early in my life, or ever. Now our family is growing and I have more love to give, and our relationship grows stronger. My world really did shift when I met my femme and I’m all the better for it.
1. A Whole New World lyrics by Tim Rice (Aladdin, 1992)
I have a very specific memory associated with this song. My wife and I, a few years into our relationship, driving home in the wee hours of the morning after a New Year’s party at a friend’s place. This song comes on the play list and we sing a duet together. We’re passing the city lights of DC and it’s peaceful, and beautiful, and I’m so in love. Aladdin was one of my favorite Disney movies as a kid, especially with Jasmine being one of only a handful of princesses of color at the time, and of course A Whole New World is one of the most magical scenes in the film. I used to rewind my VHS over and over again to try and memorize the song, and even attempted to learn it on piano once (to no avail). But the song started to mean something different to me as I got older and settled into myself.
I had never dated before I met my wife, and I had only come out a few months before I met him, in my last year of college. I’d had a fairly disastrous first attempt at coming out, in fact, and had been closeted in the three years since then. As I slowly started to become more comfortable in my skin again (no easy feat), I started to dip my toes into the (online) lesbian scene, looking in from afar, wondering where and if I would fit in. When I met my wife in a Starbucks after talking online for a few weeks, it finally started to click. It felt a little like my own lesbian Aladdin, taking my hand and introducing me to a world I’d only seen from a distance thanks to my own overprotective parents. And, much like Aladdin and Jasmine, we got to learn, grow and experience together — we still do. The song is about freedom, stepping out of your comfort zone and into something new and special and unexpected, terrifying but thrilling, and that’s what coming out (initially) felt like to me. A Whole New World takes me back to the better parts of that!
Thank you for reading! Happy Pride everyone! ❤ -Ike and Lorelei
All images seen here are ©Walt Disney Pictures