Stigma and Discrimination in Disney World

Stigma and Discrimination in Disney World

by Barb Cardell

Night falls, I sit in my room, Orlando Florida, looking out over the horizon and I see it, the Cinderella Castle, the dreaded Magical Kingdom that Walt Disney built, the House of the Mouse and so on… I sigh deeply and close the drapes to shut out the pixie dust and fireworks.

I ponder what it must be like to live in a magical world, a place where every princess has a prince and every story has a happy ending.  A magical place where a fairy’s death can be rescinded when people clap enough and hope enough and (flashback to early childhood) when they cry enough. Damn I hate Tinkerbell!!! See, in my life, on this bumpy road of HIV for 19 years, there is very little “happily ever after.”  My friends have died, and stayed dead, no matter how hard I wish it weren’t so.  But rather than imposing her world on mine, what if my world moved into hers.  What if Tinkerbell were HIV+?! Would she stand up, live openly as an HIV+ woman or would she let fear of stigmatization and discrimination silence her?

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2006 and 2009 Survey of Americans on HIV/AIDS, stigma and discrimination are alive and well in the US, so why not in never-never land?  Can you just imagine the movies that would never have been made if these characters were HIV+?

What if Ariel, the Little Mermaid, had AIDS?  Would the other mer-folk be afraid to swim with her?  In the US, 14% of those surveyed believe swimming in a pool with an HIV+ person can lead to infection.   47% are somewhat or very uncomfortable rooming with someone who is HIV+, so we need to apologize to the seven dwarfs, but Snow White isn’t willing to stay with you.  Would Snow White be foolish enough to eat anything prepared by an HIV+ Queen?  If she were like 51% of the surveyed population, she would be uncomfortable having food prepared (even poison apples) by someone who is HIV+.   Last but certainly not the least, is it even possible to have a “happily ever after” ending if your Prince Charming is afraid to kiss you?  Again, in the US, 37% of those asked believe that kissing someone who is HIV+ can transmit HIV.

Ok, now that I stop wowing you (and disturbing myself) with my profound Disney knowledge, I have to revise my Tinkerbell trash talking. I believe, upon further reflection, that if Tinkerbell were HIV+, she would make us proud!  She would not allow the fear that HIV might be as easily transmitted as the cooties were in kindergarten to shape her life.  I am certain that she would join the Positive Women’s Network and advocate, ensuring that the rights of infected and affected women are identified and addressed.

Now that is a fairy tale for modern times that I would love to see.

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