Queerly Not Straight: The Fragility of Heterosexuality in the Face of Bert and Ernie

In an effort to build a space for queer people like myself, every Tuesday I’ll be posting opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community (and occasionally about the Latinx/WOC community since I am Latinx.) Welcome to Queerly Not Straight! Enjoy and leave a comment below if you have a suggestion for what I should cover next.

It’s such a curious thing when heterosexuals are threatened by homosexuality.

This past week, Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman, confirmed that he drew from his personal experiences with his partner while writing Bert and Ernie.

“I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were. I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them,” said Saltzman to Queerty, a gay news and entertainment site, “I don’t think I’d know how else to write them, but as a loving couple.”

To many, including myself, this felt like vindication. I’ve watched Sesame Street since I was a little girl and I knew they were gay. I knew it in my little queer heart that these two people loved each other and were partners. And I had no problem with it. In fact, the only time I did encounter a problem with it, is when I brought it up to my heterosexual mom.

To put it lightly, my mom flipped the fuck out. She couldn’t understand or see how I could think that Bert and Ernie were gay. She was upset, felt like I was being indoctrinated or being taken down the road of the evil gays. In reality, I just saw two people who cared for each other and were…just…together. And despite my mother’s efforts to show me the way, my queerness survived and thrived because I CHOSE IT and because it had always been a part of me, long before Bert and Ernie.

That brings me to the reaction of parents on Twitter at the wave of support for a gay Bert and Ernie. They were like my mother, times 10. They were adamant that muppets/puppets had no sexual orientation and that it was wrong to push this on children at such a young age. Newsflash, Elmo had parents, a couple of the Sesame Street puppets had girlfriends, and Miss Piggy and Kermit from the Muppets have been smashing for ages.

So parents that are complaining about a queer Bert and Ernie aren’t worried if their kids are seeing a couple on TV. They’re worried about seeing a homosexual couple on TV. Which brings me to the whole point of this Bert and Ernie rant: is heterosexuality so fragile that just the thought of kids experiencing any semblance of a gay lifestyle, cause for a riot?

As a queer person, I can tell you that I survived years upon years of heterosexual couples smashing, getting married, holding hands, and all that jazz. And you know what? I still turned out gay/bisexual/queer. I’m not threatened or bothered by heterosexuals so why the hell are hetereosexuals so damn worried about me and the thought of their kids ending up like me.

I’m a queer person who works and is trying my hardest to find a new job.

I’m a queer person who loves to read books and go to town on those adult coloring books.

I’m a queer person who will fight you, with my words of course, if you say anything bad about Peter Parker, aka my son.

I’m a queer person who cries at the site of two homosexuals holding hands in a movie.

Do I seem like a threat to you?

Is this what heterosexuals fear for their children if they experience Bert and Ernie or a gay character on the latest Disney movie, Marvel comic, or kids book? If you fear me, then you’ve got to check yourself, big time! I am nothing to fear. I’m just trying to live my life, survive the day, and keep growing as a person.

My queerness endured the over three decades of heterosexual TV. What makes you think that your kids aren’t already there? We’re born like this. And the more time that heterosexuals spend freaking out over homosexual characters in their kids content, the more they alienate their own children who already know they’re queer, gay, or homosexual.

“But we want to give our kids a choice and not force this down their throats before they’re old enough to make their own decisions,” heterosexual parents argue. Newsflash, you are already teaching your kids what is “normal” in this world by your actions, the things you consume on a daily basis over various digital platforms, and IN YOUR VERY OWN HOME! You don’t think that kids see and learn from you? That they think a mother and a father is the “norm” because you taught it to them? I thought you didn’t want to force anything upon them? I thought you wanted to give them a choice?

Therein lies the hypocrisy of heterosexual parents losing their shit over a homosexual Bert and Ernie. They claim that they don’t want their kids to imprint on these queer lifestyles without realizing that they are already teaching their kids the “norm” and asserting what isn’t the “norm.” If your kid is gay, homosexual, or queer, there’s nothing you can do to stop it. They just are and your continued hate spewing and fear mongering over the evil gays teaching your kids how to be gay, isn’t going to change that.

And if by the end of this you still think I’m wrong, that children shouldn’t be exposed to a gay Bert and Ernie, I want you to go find a mirror. Go and look at yourself. Did you do it? Ok. Now ask yourself, “Is heterosexuality so fragile that I’m threatened by two men or women holding hands? Am I filled with hate over something that I don’t think is the “norm”? Do I want my kids to learn that gay lifestyles aren’t acceptable, possibly leading them to feel alone and not deserving of my love?”

This is what YOU are teaching your children when you rant and rave about the dangers of heterosexual, gay, or queer lifestyles. You’re teaching them to hate themselves, that they aren’t worth your love, and that they need to hide from you. Is that what you really want?

If the answer is “no,” then let go of your fear at the thought of a gay Bert and Ernie and start reevaluating the fragility of heterosexuality in the face of gay lifestyles.

If the answer is “yes,” then go back to the top of this article and read it again. Because your kids are already being imprinted on and being taught about what is the “norm” by you. Don’t contribute to their self loathing. Show them how much you love them no matter who they choose to love.

Queerly Not Straight posts every Tuesday with opinion pieces, listicals, reviews, and more focused on the LGBT community (and occasionally about the Latinx community since I am Latinx.)

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