All The Evidence Riley Is LGBTQ+ In Inside Out (2024)

Warning! This article contains SPOILERS for the Inside Out movies.


  • Riley's inclusion in the LGBTQ+ community in the Inside Out movies is supported by rainbow imagery and Emotions hinting at nonbinary identities.
  • Riley's interactions with Val in Inside Out 2 suggest a potential crush on another girl, adding depth to her character exploration.
  • The representation of Joy's repressive nature towards Riley's male crushes in Inside Out 2 hints at themes of compulsory heterosexuality and LGBTQ+ exploration in the franchise.

There are many theories about Riley being part of the LGBTQ+ community in the Inside Out movies, with evidence building throughout the films to help explain why. The first Inside Out film came out in 2015, the same year marriage equality was passed in the United States, meaning questions about gender and sexuality were on many people’s minds. Almost a decade later, Inside Out 2 was released in 2024 when viewers expected Pixar’s poor LGBTQ+ track record to have improved.

Though there have been many hints that Riley could be LGBTQ+ in the Inside Out movies, many viewers have become resigned to the belief that Disney/Pixar isn’t ready to make a popular young character LGBTQ+. 2022’s Strange World was considered a failure for Disney, and it was also Disney’s first animated feature film to include an openly LGBTQ+ main character. There is still hope that the potential Inside Out 3 movie can explore Riley being LGBTQ+ in a way that’s more than just subtext thanks to all the evidence that points in that direction.


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9 The Inside Out Movies Include Rainbow Imagery

Rainbows Are Associated With The LGBTQ+ Community

All The Evidence Riley Is LGBTQ+ In Inside Out (2)

Riley’s rainbow shirt is one of the biggest examples of rainbow imagery in the Inside Out movies; it was also an Inside Out 2 Easter egg. In the first Inside Out movie, Riley wears a rainbow shirt at the start of Inside Out, and when her family announces they’re moving, she starts wearing darker colors. This is representative of her depression and repressed emotions, but Riley’s favorite shirt having rainbow stripes could also be a hint at her being part of the LGBTQ+ community.

In Inside Out 2, Riley physically grows out of the shirt, which makes the Emotions and Riley sad as it represents another change in her. It’s also a hint at what happens during puberty, a time in which many people start thinking more about their sexuality. The Emotions are also given different colors and her memory Orbs fill up the colors of the rainbow and the pride flag. Riley’s parents also have colorful Emotions, but they aren’t as vibrant as Riley’s.


Every Core Memory Riley Has In The Inside Out Movies

Riley's personality in Inside Out and Inside Out 2 is built off of core memories from her life that help define her behaviors and choices.

8 Riley’s Emotions Have Different Genders In The Inside Out Movies

Riley’s Emotions Hint At Her Being Nonbinary

All The Evidence Riley Is LGBTQ+ In Inside Out (4)

One popular Inside Out Riley theory revolves around her Emotions’ genders. The Inside Out movies have given glimpses into the minds of other characters, namely the parents' minds. Yet, their Emotions fit more within the gender binary than Riley’s. All her dad’s Emotions are unambiguously male and all her mother’s Emotions are unambiguously female. Yet, Riley’s Emotions have caused some gender questions, for viewers and her character alike.

Riley has 10 Emotions in Inside Out2, voiced by actors of different genders. Female voice actors dominate her Emotions, but three (Fear, Anger, and Embarrassment) are voiced by male actors. Additionally, she has Emotions that don’t appear to fit within the gender binary. Anxiety and Embarrassment, who were new additions when Riley went through puberty in Inside Out 2 appear genderfluid. This strongly implies that Riley is not just exploring her sexuality, she’s also exploring her gender.


Every Emotion In The Inside Out Movies Explained

The Inside Out films explore the 10 emotions inside Riley’s head that evolve throughout the franchise as she grows up and her circ*mstances change.

7 Riley’s Interactions With Val In Inside Out 2

Riley’s Admiration Of Val Appears More Than Friendly

All The Evidence Riley Is LGBTQ+ In Inside Out (6)

When the Inside Out 2 trailer was first released, many viewers got excited about the hints that Riley was having her first canon crush on another girl. Val was introduced in Inside Out 2 as the older, cooler girl Riley aspired to be like and wanted to be friends with. Many queer people related to the moment Riley first saw Val in person, as shown in the trailer. Anxiety actor Maya Hawke even spoke about the reaction in a SiriusXM interview.

Though Riley never says she has a crush on Val, somewhat repeating a queerbaiting problem, her behavior falls in line with what many would consider a typical crush. In Inside Out, Riley has a crush on a boy named Jordan. He is the star of the short Riley’s First Date? where Riley insists they’re just going ice skating as friends. Jordan briefly appears again in Inside Out 2 on her Mount Crushmore and in Anxiety’s plans for high school.

Riley acts similarly to how she did with Jordan around Val, and one can even argue her crush is heightened. Val takes Riley under her wing but is occasionally taken aback by Riley’s interest in her. Riley is far more obsessed with Val than anyone else in Inside Out 2. Envy admires Val far more than she’s jealous of her, which is further evidence that as Riley goes through puberty, she’s learning that when she believes she should feel envy like straight girls, she instead has romantic feelings.


Inside Out 2 Got Two Emotions Wrong (But They Still Work)

Inside Out 2 introduced new emotions as Riley entered puberty, but even though it got two of them wrong, they still work as they are complex emotions.

6 Inside Out 2’s New Emotion Casting

The Casting For The Emotions Made Them Queer-Coded

All The Evidence Riley Is LGBTQ+ In Inside Out (8)

As aforementioned, Hawke spoke about the queer-coding of Riley during the Inside Out 2 press tour. The three new main Emotions in Inside Out played by female actors are Anxiety (Hawke), Envy (Ayo Edebiri), and Eunnui (Adèle Exarchopoulos). All three actors are known for playing queer characters and have spoken about their relationships with the LGBTQ+ community. Hawke has shared her relationship with her queer fans and her character Robin in Stranger Things (2016-present), whom she suggested should be a lesbian to the writers. Hawke also played a lesbian in Netflix’s Do Revenge (2022).

Maya Hawke has never explicitly said she's queer, but has suggested she's unlabeled.

While talking to Refinery29 about playing a lesbian in Bottoms (2023), Edebiri labeled herself queer, and both Hawke and Edebiri have been considered young queer icons. On top of this, Exarchopoulos is best known for starring in the 2013 lesbian romance Blue is the Warmest Colour. Hawke, Edeberi, and Exarchopoulos being cast in Inside Out 2 with their relationship with queer fans made the Emotions queer-coded for said queer fans.


The Inside Out 2 cast is missing some major players from the first film, but the Pixar sequel brings back plenty of iconic voice actors.

5 Riley’s Crush On Lance Slashblade

Lance Looks Genderfluid In Inside Out 2

All The Evidence Riley Is LGBTQ+ In Inside Out (10)

If Riley isn’t straight, whether she is bisexual, a lesbian, or another sexuality in the Inside Out movies is still unclear. As aforementioned, she has canon crushes on boys like Jordan and dreams of imaginary boyfriends who would “die for [her].” Appearing on Mount Crushmore with Jordan is Lance Slashblade, an overdramatic character from a video game Riley used to play. Lance is first introduced in Inside Out 2 through the Vault, where Riley keeps all her secrets.

One of these secrets is her crush on Lance, which could be a secret because he’s an embarrassing character who has a horrible special power. Yet, Riley’s crush could also be a secret because of his appearance. With his long flowing hair and costume that exposes his midriff, Lance’s character could be read as genderfluid; he has both traditionally feminine and masculine physical and emotional traits. Her crush on Lance Slashblade could be a secret because Riley’s attracted to multiple genders.


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4 Riley’s Boy Bands Island Disappearing In Inside Out 2

Riley Has Other Interests In Inside Out 2

All The Evidence Riley Is LGBTQ+ In Inside Out (12)

Throughout Inside Out 2, the Emotions have a few goals for Riley: make the varsity Firehawks squad and befriend Val, so she’s not alone in high school without her two best middle school friends. Anxiety in particular will stop at almost nothing to make these dreams become a reality. This includes changing parts of her personality to make other people like her more and make her seem mature. In Inside Out 2, Riley and her friends are obsessed with a group called Get Up And Glow.

There is no mention of the band members’ names or full posters with them, so there’s a possibility that Get Up and Glow wasn’t even a boy band. Regardless, when she realizes the older cool girls see the band as immature, she easily leaves them beyond. Riley’s Boy Band Island disappears, suggesting she conflates maturity with leaving childish things like boy band obsessions behind. Riley wants Val to like her, and though she still likes the band, approval from her potential crush on a girl means more to her than boys.


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3 Joy Isn’t Interested In Riley’s Male Crushes Like The Other Female Emotions

Joy Is In Charge Of Riley’s Happiness

All The Evidence Riley Is LGBTQ+ In Inside Out (14)

In the Inside Out movies, Joy runs Riley’s Headquarters, where everything to do with her Emotions and memories is created and organized. Joy can be controlling, but she learns some important lessons at the end of Inside Out. She experiences some regression in Inside Out 2 when confronted with the new challenge of high school, the pressure of forming Riley’s Sense of Self, and the new Emotions brought on by puberty.


The ending of Inside Out shows the inner workings of several characters and demonstrates how "negative" emotions like Anger and Sadness are important.

Joy had led the charge in repressing certain aspects of Riley’s Emotions and sending memories she didn’t like to the Memory Dump for Riley to forget about. Joy is disgusted when she meets Riley’s imaginary boyfriend in Inside Out. Later, in Inside Out 2, she is the only Emotion unimpressed with Lance Slashblade. If Joy is in charge of Riley’s happiness, she should be interested in her male crushes. Joy trying to repress Riley’s male crushes to make her happy could suggest Riley is experiencing compulsory heterosexuality, and she’s happiest when she doesn’t feel like she needs to like boys.

A satirical X, formerly known as Twitter, account posted that Pixar had confirmed Joy was canonically a lesbian. Though these were false claims, the post went viral and led to excitement from viewers who felt they’d seen the signs. Joy has also been seen as lesbian-coded in her appearance, and if Riley’s main Emotion is a lesbian, that could make Riley a lesbian as well.

2 Riley’s Deep Dark Secret Returns To The Vault

Riley’s Deep Dark Secret Could Be Even More Repressed Than She Thinks

All The Evidence Riley Is LGBTQ+ In Inside Out (16)

When Riley’s Emotions got stuck in the Vault, Deep Dark Secret helped them get out. They escaped with Bloofy, Pouchy, and Lance–who sacrificed himself for them to be free. Yet, when Sadness asks Deep Dark Secret if he will escape with them, he groans “not yet” and closes the Vault door behind him. For many viewers, this looked like a representation of being in the “closet” and not ready to come out yet.

However, when Joy returns to the Vault in the Inside Out 2 post-credits scene to free Deep Dark Secret and asks what he really is, he confesses he’s the physical manifestation of the time Riley burned a rug. Joy is surprised and relieved, thinking it was about the time Riley peed in the pool. Ashamed and embarrassed, Deep Dark Secret returns to the Vault. Yet, this being the post-credit scene suggests he could return in a future Inside Out movie.


Riley's Deep Dark Secret Reveal Makes A Popular Inside Out Theory Less Likely

Inside Out 2 is finally out, and while it is a great film, it has seemingly unconfirmed one of the most popular theories surrounding Inside Out 2.

Though this scene disappointed many who believed in the popular theory, it also suggests that there’s more to Deep Dark Secret. He’s so repressed that he can’t even fathom the embarrassment of people knowing about Riley burning a hole in the rug or peeing in a pool. Since the Inside Out movies haven’t shown these memories, they could be related to Riley’s feelings about her gender and sexuality.

Sadness is the one who tries to get Deep Dark Secret to come out first, representing how sad it makes Riley that he’s in the Vault. Then, Joy tries to help him come out, representing how happy she’d be if he came out. Embarrassment and Deep Dark Secret are voiced by male actors, hinting that her biggest source of shame is her more traditionally masculine identification and desires.


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1 The Main Lesson In The Inside Out Movies Is About Acceptance

Riley & Her Emotions Follow Journeys Similar To Coming Out

All The Evidence Riley Is LGBTQ+ In Inside Out (19)

The Inside Out movies have followed the same formula with Riley and the Emotions at different stages of her life. In Inside Out and Inside Out 2, Riley is going through big transformations in her life and she and her Emotions have to learn to accept what’s happening within them and around them. As the main Emotion, these acceptances usually revolve around Joy having a revelation, though each Emotion goes through their own journey.


Inside Out 2 Ending Explained

Inside Out 2's emotional ending highlights Riley's character growth and builds on the underlying moral themes of the original Inside Out.

Inside Out 2 has been deemed an important movie for its approach to self-identity during puberty, emotional and physical growth, a strong support system’s importance, and more. Many LGBTQ+ viewers found themselves able to identify with Riley’s journey regardless of their age. Not everyone starts to explore and accept their sexuality and gender during puberty, but coming out can feel like another puberty. It’s often a deeply emotional, transformative period in someone’s life. A future Inside Out movie could see Riley do this more canonically, but for now, there’s plenty of subtext and queer coding to sift through.

Source: SiriusXM, Flood Magazine, Equality Archive

All The Evidence Riley Is LGBTQ+ In Inside Out (21)
Inside Out 2





Inside Out 2 is the sequel to the 2015 original film, which starred a young girl named Riley with a head full of emotions. - literally. With Amy Pohler as Joy, Bill Hader as fear, Mindy Kaling as Disgust, Phyllis Smith as Sadness, and Lewis Black as Anger, the all-star cast brought to life the emotions that adolescents face as they grow, change, and adapt to new situations. This sequel, currently in development, will bring Amy Pohler back as Joy, with Riley, now a teenager.

Kelsey Mann

Release Date
June 14, 2024

Meg LeFauve
Amy Poehler , Tony Hale , Maya Hawke , Liza Lapira , Lewis Black , Phyllis Smith , Diane Lane

96 Minutes
Inside Out
All The Evidence Riley Is LGBTQ+ In Inside Out (2024)


All The Evidence Riley Is LGBTQ+ In Inside Out? ›

Riley has 10 Emotions in Inside Out 2, voiced by actors of different genders. Female voice actors dominate her Emotions, but three (Fear, Anger, and Embarrassment) are voiced by male actors. Additionally, she has Emotions that don't appear to fit within the gender binary.

Is Riley in Inside Out gender neutral? ›

This further proves the point that Riley can be seen as a gender-neutral character whose experiences can be adapted for boys or girls. Though Riley's mind is female-dominated, it does still have the male influences from Anger and Fear. It is interesting that there are very few other children throughout the film.

Why does Riley have both genders in her head? ›

Another theory is that Riley is still developing as a person. This could mean that as she goes through puberty and finds her sense of self and gender identity, her emotions will change gender to reflect who she is as a person.

What is Riley's darkest secret? ›

After some hemming and hawing, it finally did, upon which we learned that Riley's secret was … she once burned a hole in a rug. I'll admit: A tiny, terrible part of me was prepared to roll my eyes at a gay revelation.

Does Inside Out have LGBTQ? ›

Eagle-eyed fans noticed potential LGBTQ+ representation in Inside Out 2's trailer, making them hope for more inclusive storytelling in the sequel. Inside Out 2's Riley isn't openly queer, continuing Pixar's trend of lackluster LGBTQ+ representation, as seen in movies like Onward and Lightyear.

Is Riley LGBTQ? ›

It wouldn't be the first time we've seen Disney tackle a queer protagonist like this, and it's also worth noting that Riley is one of the few characters presented with emotions of different genders, hinting that perhaps there is an aspect of fluidity to her identity yet to be revealed.

Is Inside Out 2 inappropriate? ›

Great film, my tween daughter said it was very accurate on what she is experiencing lately. My 8yo son wanted us to rate it a 9+ as he said some of it was confusing or a bit upsetting, and he didn't feel like he would relate to it until he was a bit older. I think that's probably accurate.

What mental illness does Riley have? ›

Depression – In incorporating depression and how “Inside Out” makes this concept relevant to its plot, Riley goes into a depression in response to a traumatic event that occurred after she moves from Minnesota to San Francisco, in the process experiencing a lot of loss (e.g., her friends, her home, and a loss of her ...

Why does Riley cry? ›

When it was time for Riley and her parents to move to San Francisco, Riley became sad and missed her life in Minnesota. Riley started to go from joyous and happy to sentimental and a bit depressed, on account of missing her life in Minnesota.

Is Riley in Inside Out a girl? ›

Riley is one of the few characters in the film to have emotions of different genders.

Who does Riley get pregnant by? ›

In the end, Riley tells Danny she is pregnant with his baby. He is happy and so is everyone else. In season 6, they seem to have everything going as planned, until Brad goes to jail.

Why was Riley crying? ›

Riley's Personality Change

A new core memory was created the day after Riley moved to San Francisco. It represented the moment she cried in class over her old home she missed. Joy prevented this memory from being used, fighting with Sadness to keep it out of the core memory holder.

Is Inside Out 2 about puberty? ›

In "Inside Out 2," Puberty takes over, bringing new emotions to the forefront of Riley's mind. While it's very much a child-friendly movie, parts of "Inside Out 2" will speak to adults in ways that kids won't get just yet.

Does Inside Out 2 exist? ›

Inside Out 2 is still currently in theaters Inside Out 2 you want to experience all the film's twists and turns in a traditional cinema. But there's also now an option to watch the film at home. As of November 25, 2024, Inside Out 2 is available on HBO Max.

Who does Riley have a crush on in Inside Out 2? ›

Yong Yea as Lance Slashblade, a heroic video game character whom Riley had a crush on when she was younger. He is similar to the character Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII.

Is Riley from Inside Out a boy? ›

Riley and Troy are the only characters in the film to have emotions of both genders. According to Pete Docter, this was done to make them as diverse as possible, while the emotions of other persons were uniformized for quick readability.

What is Riley's disorder in Inside Out? ›

Depression – In incorporating depression and how “Inside Out” makes this concept relevant to its plot, Riley goes into a depression in response to a traumatic event that occurred after she moves from Minnesota to San Francisco, in the process experiencing a lot of loss (e.g., her friends, her home, and a loss of her ...

Is Sadness from Inside Out a girl or a boy? ›

Sadness is the only female emotion to wear a turtleneck sweater and jeans. Sadness is the lead emotion in Riley's mom. Sadness seems to be a fan of tragic vampire romance stories.

Is Riley going through puberty in Inside Out? ›

SPOILER WARNING: This story mentions major spoilers for “Inside Out 2,” now playing in theaters. “Inside Out 2” sees Riley hit puberty. Along with that, her five core emotions — Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust — find themselves joined by Ennui, Embarrassment, Envy and Anxiety.

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