Every family vacation is bound to have a few challenges. But when  Melissa DeStefano and her family decided to book a Florida family vacation, the opportunity for conflict was even greater. The mother of two was traveling with her transgender son, and she was unsure what difficulties awaited her and her family.

Not the First Florida Family Vacation

This wasn’t the DeStefano’s first trip to Florida. About 11 years ago, the family headed to Disney World for a memorable vacation. But back then, DeStefano traveled with her two daughters. This time, the situation was a little different. Instead of bringing her two daughters, she brought her daughter and her son, Aidan.

That wasn’t the only thing unique about the trip. When DeStefano arrived, she was amazed with all of the changes in the park. In her absence, Disney underwent some major alterations – much like her family.

This time, DeStefano was able to watch her son be his true self. As the family watched Christmas lights on Cinderella’s Castle and fireworks explode in the sky, DeStefano realized for the first time that her family was whole. Everyone was authentic and content.

Florida Family Vacation
DeStefano poses with her daughter and son in Epcot. (Image provided by DeStefano)

The Struggle of a Transgender Teen

As enjoyable as the experience was, the Florida family vacation wasn’t without challenges. DeStefano feared that the TSA checks would cause a problem. Although she did everything necessary to change over her son’s documents, she feared the struggle that would come from a strip search.

Fortunately, there was no TSA incident. DeStefano was able to make it through security and on the plane with no issues. But she did have another concern. Before her son transitioned, bathroom stops were a source of anxiety. People would question why a boy was using the women’s bathroom.

Once again, DeStefano’s fears were unfounded. On this trip, her son was able to go into the men’s room and use it. There were no doubts about his gender, and there was no conflict. DeStefano also noted that all of the Disney Parks they visited had family restroom options. If a gender non-conforming individual wanted to use a bathroom, they could do so safely and without incident.

Finally, DeStefano was curious how her extended family would handle the transition. Fortunately, there was no reason to worry. Her son worried that his relationship with his cousin Kyle would change. After all, the boys hadn’t seen each other since the transition occurred. That worry was also unfounded.

Once they were together, the boys acted as they always did. There was only one incident, when Kyle used the wrong pronoun. However, that quickly turned into a comical moment. Kyle’s mother corrected him by saying, “except she is a he now and has more of a beard than you.”

Is Disney LGBTQ Friendly?

There’s no doubt that the staff at Disney World is friendly. However, DeStefano is unsure how LGBTQ friendly they might be. She noticed that the staff members appeared to have strict restrictions on uniforms and grooming. For this reason, she wonders about their stance on individuals who don’t fit inside a cookie cutter mold.

That said, DeStefano’s son did enjoy the amount of gay couples in the park. He was thrilled to see other people in the LGBTQ community be open and accepted.

The DeStefano Family also visited the breathtaking Clearwater Beach. (Image provided by DeStefano)

A Happy Ending

DeStefano and her family had a vacation that will stay ingrained in their memories for years to come.  In addition to enjoying Disney World, they also went to the Manatee Viewing Center and Clearwater Beach. Most importantly, they went to all of the places with everyone in the family comfortable with their own gender identity.

It’s Manatee Season at the Tampa Electric Company, so the DeStefano’s visited the Manatee Viewing Center while in town. (Image provided by DeStefano)