“To all who come to this happy place, welcome.” Despite the right-wing-aligning political donations and the botched public response to queer fans so far this year, Walt Disney’s famous words are still true. And despite Walt Disney World’s recent controversy, every queer family knows the bittersweet truth: We’re still going to Disney this summer. Because Disney Parks are still some of the safest and most affirming places for LGBTQ+ people to vacation in the U.S. and around the world.
But welcome doesn’t always mean comfortable, especially for park guests who identify outside the cis binary. Sure, you’re safe and heavily monitored by discreet Disney security at all times, but there’s a big part of the guest experience that doesn’t feel welcoming at all.
Disney Parks in the U.S. – both Disneyland and Disney World – still don’t offer unisex bathrooms. But there is another option—one with more privacy. You just have to know where to go. Whether your child is beginning to transition and you’re trying to limit triggering experiences or you’re an adult who is just looking for a single stall to avoid gendered spaces, here’s where you can use the bathroom in peace at Disney World and Disneyland.
The Bathroom Loophole
So, here’s the loophole: Disney doesn’t have unisex or gender-neutral bathrooms. But they do have private, single-room toilets that you can use. They’re called companion restrooms and these spaces are intended for wheelchair users and their caregivers. Disney encourages any guests to use these restrooms if they feel more comfortable, but it’s kind of a passive way for Disney to say they have offerings for everyone without actually having offerings for everyone. Because, unfortunately, when queer guests use these rooms, it takes resources away from wheelchair users. It’s a band-aid solution, one that I hope Disney addresses soon.
But in the meantime, it’s an option if you’re not comfortable using gendered spaces. Before your next trip, download the Disneyland Mobile app or My Disney Experience app for Disney World so you can easily find the nearest companion restroom in the parks in real-time. Though, some are better than others. (Just take a peek at reviews on Refuge Restrooms.) Here are some of the best companion restrooms in each park in the U.S. These winning spaces have been chosen based on location, low-key vibe, and AC.
Magic Kingdom is undoubtedly the most gendered park. It’s cis-hetero everywhere you look. But it can be an incredibly gender-affirming place, too. The park’s Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique offers packages to play dress-up and glitter makeup is always an option. But restrooms feel less gender fluid. It’s pretty cookie-cutter boy-girl-boy-girl from Fantasyland to Frontierland. That’s why the Rockettower Plaza Stage companion restroom in between Carousel of Progress and Space Mountain in Tomorrowland is our winner. Is the decoration cute? No. It’s a no-fuss outdoor room right in between the women’s and men’s restrooms.
It’s less crowded compared to the bottleneck behemoth that is the Tangled bathroom in Fantasyland. “The Rapunzel restrooms are super loud and super gendered,” says Franky Junior. Junior, a park regular and former Disney Cast Member knows Disney World like the back of his hand. He says a better option in Fantasyland is the Enchanted Forest companion restroom next to Bonjour! Village Gifts and Gaston’s Tavern. It’s tucked away in a nook and most people forget it’s there.
At Epcot, the American Pavilion in the World Showcase may have the worst food, but it’s got the best toilets. It’s that good. Located to the right of The American Adventure building, you’ll find a quaint little pergola with some of the cleanest public restrooms. And the AC is bone-chilling cold, which is a luxury for the summer in Central Florida. The American Adventure companion restroom is nestled right next to the larger restrooms and unlike some of the other country pavilions, this restroom is pretty quiet and it’s heavily shaded. And that’s a winning combo.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Right now, this park has the new stuff, the must-do rides. And amid the pandemic, a lot of people haven’t been able to get down to Orlando and experience it yet. So, it creates this frenzied environment where families with kids travel around at warp speed trying to do everything in one day. It doesn’t help that this park is a tight squeeze in terms of layout. It’s crowded and there isn’t a quiet nook restroom anywhere in this park.
For the best companion restroom, I’d go with Black Spire Outpost Courtyard companion restrooms in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Most people go to the one in the market area, but this second restroom is in a less-trafficked part of the land. And like much of the Star Wars aesthetic, it’s less gendered in general. There are more queer people in this area of the park. And sometimes that’s a nice reassurance – just seeing someone else with a rainbow Mickey pin on.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Disney World has pretty strict rules for what guests see “on stage” in the parks as a means to hide what happens behind the scenes when creating an immersive world. Typically, that means cast members have to use separate bathrooms located “backstage,” but for Animal Kingdom, the largest park, the rules are different. Some cast members are allowed to use guest restrooms depending on the location of their workstations.
For Franky Junior, he was able to use on-stage restrooms while working in the park and found the gendered restrooms to be mostly positive and even gender-affirming. However, his top pick for a companion restroom is in Dinoland – Chester & Hester’s Dinosaur Treasures companion restrooms – simply because people forget it’s there. The door to the companion restroom isn’t sandwiched in between the gendered spaces. It’s located off to the side next to water fountains so it’s less awkward if you have to stand and wait on another guest.
In some ways, any bathroom at Disneyland is more trans-friendly and nonbinary-friendly because it’s Disneyland. Anaheim’s proximity to LA means a much more diverse group of guests and I typically see more queer people at Disneyland. That sense of community makes navigating restrooms less stressful for my family.
“In California, you have more safety nets,” said Junior. “You feel a lot more reassured because you see more guests with loud, queer-identifying clothes and accessories. So you feel a lot safer in that aspect.” Of course, there are several companion restrooms in the parks here, too. And the Black Spire Outpost Courtyard companion restrooms in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is a solid go-to.
Disney California Adventure
Speaking of new, over at Disney California Adventure the new Avengers Campus has two companion restrooms side-by-side near Web Slingers: A Spider-Man Adventure. It’s one of the few spots in the parks to have multiple restrooms in one location to decrease guests’ wait time. Another great pick for kids is the Flo’s V8 Cafe companion restroom in Cars Land because it’s one of the only companion restrooms on Disney property without stereotypical “men’s” or “women’s” signs.
Welcoming Spaces for Trans and Nonbinary Guests
Even in the queer community, choosing where and which bathroom to use on vacation isn’t something that a lot of us have to think about. For cis queer people, there’s a lot of privilege that comes with that. But traveling with someone outside the cis binary is eye-opening and humbling. There are obstacles and microaggressions everywhere.
In addition to companion restrooms, Disney Parks seem to be on the right path in creating a comfortable space for nonbinary and transgender guests to enjoy its popular attractions and rides. In fact, Disney Parks finally stopped calling guests “princes” and “princesses.” And in the past year, Disneyland and Disney World have updated their cast member guidelines so that guests are greeted with “Hello friends!” or “Hello everyone!” instead. Park guests now hear “dreamers of all ages” instead of “ladies and gentlemen.”
It’s a big and important shift. However, using companion restrooms is just a band-aid for queer guests. We need something more. Creating unisex bathrooms that don’t take away resources or existing spaces from wheelchair users and their caregivers would certainly make a lot more LGBTQ+ guests feel not only welcome but seen. And that’s the real magic.