The news that Tommy Kirk died the other day at age 79 filled me with a sense of irony and, yes, sadness.
I grew up with Tommy Kirk appearing on my TV screen. He was one of the child stars employed by the Disney company. He was a Mousketeer. He appeared in TV dramas along with other fan favorites. His was as much of a household name as, say, Annette Funicello.
Tommy Kirk also was a gay performer. He “came out” as a teenager. The price he paid for his honesty? Disney fired him essentially on the spot. Ain’t no way the entertainment giant was going to allow a gay youngster perform before audiences comprising children.
It didn’t matter, of course, that Kirk didn’t portray gay characters. Not ever! To borrow a phrase, Kirk played it straight.
That was then. The Disney Corporation has traveled many symbolic miles since that dark time. It now has Gay Pride Days at its theme parks, namely at Disneyland and at Walt Disney World.
I am glad to see the company has opened its corporate heart and it seeks to understand that one’s sexual orientation is not merely a matter of choice. It is who people are. Period. Full stop.
As for Tommy Kirk, well, he paid the price for his employers’ lack of understanding back then. May he rest in peace.
I just want to thank him for the memories he gave me as a youngster who laughed and cried at the performances he delivered.