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Breaking Boundaries: 10 Fabulous LGBTQ Disney Characters In The Spotlight!

Breaking Boundaries: 10 Fabulous LGBTQ Disney Characters In The Spotlight!

We’ve all caught wind of the headlines and seen the flurry of activity on Twitter and similar platforms. Gay kisses causing movies to be banned, queer main characters leading to films being relegated to the obscure corners of streaming services. Many of you are likely familiar with the uproar, but what’s the root cause? Why does the inclusion of LGBTQ Disney Characters stir such controversy and become such a pressing issue?

A few modern examples such as Pixar’s Lightyear and Disney’s Strange World – respectively responsible for both the above quotes – have set the internet ablaze with conflict, with one side taking all manner of different angle on such scenes and story details being ‘unnecessary’ or ‘harmful’, and the other side insisting that the move is insignificant and not worthy being argued over at worst, and an important piece of LGBTQ representation at best.

Who could have known that a single kiss or a single character’s sexual orientation would have such a dramatic impact on a movie’s release and the attitude of companies?

Well, to be entirely honest, we all knew. We’ve spoken about the profit-based reasons for queer characters being chronically left out of movies and animation, and the nature of ‘queer-coding’ and the vilification of queer people before, but what about the social reasons, and the conservative nature of production companies? LGBTQ representation has been an important issue in the animation industry for decades, with companies such as Disney taking up the forefront a lot of the time with their sometimes iffy and generally insensitive footing when dealing with the matter. 

Although it isn’t much, to criticize the production issues when it comes to LGBTQ representation in animation and Disney movies specifically is not to ignore the LGBTQ or queer icon characters that we have come to know and love over the years. They may be lonely, but that doesn’t make them less deserving!

It’s worth to note that most of the content in this article is subjective and based off of the opinions of fans and common conjecture, so don’t take it personally if the overview of your favorite character doesn’t match up to what you think of them. Fiction is an artform designed for fun, so let’s get out there and see what the top 10 LGBTQ Disney characters have to offer!

Breaking Boundaries: 10 Fabulous LGBTQ Disney Characters In The Spotlight!

#1) Raya and Namaari from Raya and the Last Dragon

Raya and the Last Dragon was Disney’s 2021 attempt to reenter the fantasy genre, featuring a grand quest to save a segregated world from absolute doom, and a surprising amount of touching metaphors and moments to go with the movie’s vibrant setting.

The movie’s main character Raya is one of the few of her kind – presented to the story as powerful and independent, as well as not seeming particularly interested in romance as a whole, she takes the plot into her own hands and makes things work without much help from anyone else. This includes not letting the rival kingdom Fang get in her way, even when she is betrayed by Fang’s princess Namaari, who attempts to steal the mysterious Dragon Gem from under Raya’s father’s protective eye. What comes next is a brief fight, and the Gem shattering to release a deadly plague of beings called the Druun.

The movie includes numerous subtle references suggesting that the LGBTQ Disney Characters have romantic feelings for each other, particularly when they reconcile their differences and bring their kingdoms together, undergoing a genuine ‘enemies to lovers’ transformation. Some critics expressed disappointment with the film’s release due to the absence of a clear romantic connection between the LGBTQ Disney Characters. However, the anticipation of them becoming a couple was widespread in related media, mostly met with positive reactions. It’s possible that those who might have criticized an overtly confirmed romantic relationship for the LGBTQ Disney Characters found satisfaction in the ambiguity of their bond.

Raya and Namaari from Raya and the Last Dragon - LGBTQ Disney Characters

#2) Alisha Hawthorne from Lightyear

Just like Strange World after it – which we discuss alongside Ethan Clade in another article – Lightyear was another movie that saw backlash and a consequently damaged release due to having LGBTQ representing characters amongst its cast. While the movie certainly had its other flaws – such as being a little hard to take as being the movie that Andy watched, and that inspired Buzz Lightyear’s character as a whole – it is an absolute shame that something with so much dedication put into it saw controversy due to one fleeting moment.

The moment in question? Most of you probably know where this is going already, but it has something to do with the character we are covering in this overview – Alisha Hawthorne. Working alongside Buzz in the Star Command, Alisha and our titular character are both amongst those stranded upon the alien planet where the movie takes place. Kind, frank, and Buzz’s best friend, she is a strong backbone for the rest of the ship’s crew

When Buzz sets off to attempt to calibrate a hyperspace engine and ends up experiencing skips in time, however, Alisha remains on the alien planet, and ends up living out her life normally despite their situations – making a family, and eventually sharing a kiss with her wife upon one of Buzz’s brief returns from outer space.

Alisha’s inclusion into the film and this kiss resulted in Lightyear being banned in China, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Bahrain, Indonesia, Turkey, and Malaysia.

Alisha Hawthorne from Lightyear- LGBTQ Disney Characters

#3) Merida from Brave

Meridia and Brave as a movie represent Pixar’s dedication to quality filmmaking in a lot of ways, ranging from the insane amount of technical development involved in the appearance of the titular character’s hair to the respect it grants to the Scottish culture that it features. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the movie could possibly be dedicated and innovative in yet another direction – by having it’s main character stand as a staple of LGBTQ representation.

Don’t get it wrong – the movie certainly contains no shown indicators to Merida having an attraction to women, but the strongly feminist narrative that the movie proudly showcases dips into those waters nonetheless. After all, the entire plot of the movie revolves around Merida’s discomfort at the traditional gender roles that her mother, Queen Elinor, wants her to play. Elinor gives her best efforts at making the Princess into a ‘true, ladylike woman’, but Merida is simply too rebellious – constantly riding out alone and seeking her own adventures while turning aside male suitors and shunning all other expectations placed on her due to her gender. 

While there is a possibility that Merida may not identify as LGBTQ, it’s equally plausible that she merely rejects societal pressure to conform to a relationship she isn’t comfortable with. Her determination to defy gender norms and societal expectations is commendable, making Merida potentially the most progressive and praiseworthy Disney Princess to date, especially among the LGBTQ Disney Characters.

Merida from Brave - LGBTQ Disney Characters

#4) Elsa from Frozen

We’ve all heard her famous song, and we’ve all seen her face plastered over every possible piece of promotional material and merchandise. But is it possible that Elsa something more than the generic princess archetype that we’ve all come to know and resent watching play out in movies over and over again?

That – of course – is up to interpretation, but the signs are there, and not everything is merely fan-canon assumption. While the famous song ‘Let it Go’ itself has become somewhat of a trademark of Disney’s more basic appeal, this does not take away from how it reflects on Elsa’s story and personality as a whole, driving her away from the archetype that she is a depiction of. 

The song was perceived as somewhat of a ‘coming out’ anthem by a lot of the film’s open-minded, older audiences, with Elsa’s seclusion (quite literally hiding herself away in a room, if not a closet) possibly coming across as a thinly-veiled analogy of the princess hiding something more than just her magical powers from the world. This impression was so strong, in fact, that fans spent most of the time during the buildup to Frozen 2 insisting that Elsa be given the representation – and girlfriend – that they felt she deserved. 

While that clearly didn’t come to pass, and all of this might be up to opinion, it remains true that ‘Let it Go’ is an anthem for being yourself despite expectations and limitations, so we can all celebrate that at least!

Elsa from Frozen- LGBTQ Disney Characters

#5) Cyrus Goodman from Andi Mack

Just like Good Luck Charlie – featured later on this list – Andi Mack is a Disney Channel live-action TV show. It was originally released in 2017, and ran until the middle of 2019, when it was cancelled due to Disney’s infamous 65-episode series limit. 

While the main character of the series is undoubtably the titular Andi Mack, a young girl with a strong heart and considerable intelligence, in this summary we’ll be talking about Cyrus Goodman – one of Andi’s best friends. Cyrus was a fan favorite from the very start, and remained in the show from the beginning to the end, but his appearance in the series was characterized most by the fact that he is the first ever Disney main character to actively come out as gay.

Cyrus’s transformation from being quiet and ashamed about his feelings for fellow boy TJ to being able to come out casually to his best friend later in the series is inspirational to say the very least. The entire arc of his inclusion into Andi Mack is surprisingly candid compared to the over-manufactured approach that Disney is known for taking toward other LGBTQ characters in their productions.

While the series had a limited run, Cyrus’s romantic interest in TJ gradually evolved into what can only be inferred as a genuine relationship, culminating in them holding hands in the final episode. It’s regrettable that this development didn’t occur earlier in the series, but the confirmation of their relationship is certainly a significant and heartwarming moment among the LGBTQ Disney Characters.

Cyrus Goodman from Andi Mack - LGBTQ Disney Characters

#6) Specter from Onward

Although the film’s release was severely damaged by the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent decline in theatre attendance and availability, Onward nonetheless stands as one of Pixar’s most underrated hits, and is yet another example of the studio’s contrast to Disney in terms of the heartfelt touch they put into filmmaking. 

The subject of this entry on the list is Specter – a cyclops police office that appears in about the midpoint of the film. Although she does not have much screen time, and appears only fleetingly throughout the movie, Specter was nonetheless the first confirmed lesbian character in a Pixar movie, and her story significance was apparently enough to see the movie banned and censored in a wide variety of countries. Voice acted by Lena Waithe, who is lesbian in real life, Specter’s relationship status is briefly explored when she and her partner Bronco – who happens to be the boyfriend of the main characters’ mother – discuss bonding with their partners’ children. Specter responds to her sense that Bronco is having difficulties bonding with his pseudo step-children by saying that she is having the same issues with her girlfriend’s children.

This one line from Specter planted her as both a milestone in Pixar’s history books and as an important step from Disney’s side as well, given that the Pixar’s owning collective is responsible for often trying to chicane Pixar away from having characters in their movies that could result in negative reactions from conservative groups, governments, and audiences.

#7) Luz Noceda from The Owl House

The Owl House is a burning beacon of minority representation as a whole – a status that has earned it more than it’s fair share of the already overbearing Disney content advisory treatment. Despite this, and despite the fact that the show sees a limited broadcast due to the content of its story, it remains adored by fans.

While the amount of queer characters in The Owl House is far greater than just Luz alone, she is the main protagonist, and so it is fair that we focus on her for this mention. After accidentally finding her way into the Demon Realm from the human world, Luz took to her new surroundings with great zeal, and quickly takes up training to be a witch despite the fact that she is human and thus possesses no natural magical abilities. 

The story of The Owl House is unbelievably dense and well-structured, and to dive deeper into it would require another list entirely, but it remains to be said that Luz’s status as an LGBTQ characters comes both from the fact that she directly identifies as a lesbian and from her reoccurring romance arc with fellow witch in training Amity Blight.

After getting off to a rocky, competitive start, the two have become incredibly close over the span of the series, eventually sharing their first kiss and promising to go on a proper date – though their attempts to do so are more often interrupted than not. Definitely the most wholesome entry on this list!

Cyrus Goodman from Andi Mack - LGBTQ Disney Characters

#8) Shego from Kim Possible

Kim Possible is an important piece of Disney history for many – embracing a new action packed story style and more rebellious characters than ever before. This gave it a special effect on the television scene of the early 2000s and onward, leaving many shows since trying their best to keep up.

New ideas and quality aren’t the only things about Kim Possible that are said to have had an effect on its watchers, however. In fact, many fans claim one of the show’s main characters – Shego – as a gay icon and a source of awakening even though the studio has neither confirmed nor denied the character’s sexuality.

Shego is one of the show’s primary antagonists – a rock-hard, tough-as-nails villain with an eye for crime and a steeled mind. She works for Dr. Drakken, and has come head to head with the show’s titular character Kim Possible upon many occasions while doing his bidding.

The character’s sassy, intimidating attitude and the mocking tension that she offers Kim is probably a large contributing factor towards her status as a gay icon, and while there is no concrete evidence that she is queer or otherwise, fan canon has certainly decided her fate a long time ago. Her gradually strengthening feelings for Kim over the length of the show – platonic or otherwise – didn’t do much to dispel this notion, either, and instead added more fuel to the fire that was the Kim Possible fandom’s admiration of her as a character and potential queer icon.

Shego from Kim Possible - LGBTQ Disney Characters

#9) Susan and Cheryl from Good Luck Charlie

Talking about the first steps taking toward inclusion is a common theme when fans and critics alike dissect gay characters in Disney films – and is also a strong theme in this list as a whole – but one step along the path to peace is often ignored when it comes to the animation company, and that step manifests itself deep amongst the episodes of Disney channel soap opera Good Luck Charlie. 

Although the pair are only seen in one episode, and despite the fact that their relationship as a couple is explored very little, Susan and Cheryl can very truthfully be held as the first queer couple ever featured in a Disney production.

The pair appeared in the second to last episode of the series, and facilitated a skit of where Bob – Charlie’s bumbling father – laments about how he would usually take the husband of a couple that visits the house upstairs to watch sports, and that he is now confused. Susan eventually agrees to go upstairs and fill in that role while Cheryl remains downstairs and talks with Charlie’s mother Ame.

There is very little more to say about the pair than that, as we are given little more information about them, but their inclusion into the show was certainly a milestone in LGBT representation on TV. This is especially true given that the show was at its peak at the time, which means that their episode was most likely one of the most watched out of the entire series.

LGBTQ Disney Characters - Susan and Cheryl from Good Luck Charlie

#10) Honorable Mentions 

With nine LGBTQ legends in Disney films already explored, there are a still lot of honorable mentions to still discuss. After all – if it were not for the cameos, the half-confirmed relationships, and the fan-canons, we probably wouldn’t have gotten the more mainstream characters that we have in our movies today!

Although writers and Disney gave the issue the usual behind-covering treatment of ‘it is what you want to be’, Finding Dory includes a cameo from a pair of women who appear to be a couple. The shot only lasted for a brief moment, and many expectations built up about the pair after trailers released were left unfulfilled, but it was a first nonetheless.

The next honorable mention on this list is easily similar, though this time it stems from Toy Story 4. Right at the beginning of the movie, as the first day of Bonnie’s kindergarten experience takes place, one child appears to be checked in by two mothers. This was apparently enough to lead one group to label the movie ‘dangerous’, though it’s hard to see how the moment was even noticed by most viewers, let alone registered as ‘dangerous’.

Last on this list, but perhaps not the last of all examples of LGBT representation in Disney films, is a minor character in Avengers: Endgame played by the film’s director Joe Russo. The characters states that since the events of the last film he went on a date with another man, and that’s as far as that goes.

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