So, today I sat down and tapped away an email to the folks at Sesame Workshop, inquiring as to why there are no queer families in the ‘hood. One could counter that Ernie and Bert are the resident gay couple, but that would be conjecture as there’s been no definitive statement from the boys themselves.
Picture it, 1969, New York, a couple of struggling puppets face incredible odds as they perform in their first episode of Sesame Street. And then a miracle happens. They find themselves cast as improbable roommates and shoot to stardom before the first episode concludes, igniting whispered rumours as they say good night across the space between their single beds. Good night Bert. Good night Ernie.
Sesame Street has everything, monsters, aliens, fairies, vampires, wildlife, humans. So why can’t one or two of them be queer? A gay monster here, a trans fairy there…. Imagine our two heroes standing arm in arm on a corner in Manhattan, dazzled by the bright lights, a copy of the gay agenda peeping at a jaunty angle from Ernie’s backpack. [sigh]
Why can’t a creature of pure imagination, of contemporary mythic proportion, represent our queer families on the small screen. As LGBTQ individuals and families find their way deeper into the consciousness of mainstream societies, it becomes imperative that children see representations of themselves and their families in every aspect of their community, presented in a matter of fact way that underlines the very ordinariness of our queer lives. And by ordinary I mean we get up in the morning, eat breakfast, go to school or work, run around in the park, get sick, hopefully get better, have our hearts broken, have babies… I could go on endlessly but I think you get the picture.
I want my children to know that they are as special as and as normal as the kids that sit beside them at school; the ones with a mom and dad, who never have to advocate with the world to see their straight parents in books, on TV, in film, in music, in the coffee shop down the road. Of course, the image of mom and dad is so pervasive it’s invisible unless one stops to look. Lesbian, gay and trans families are invisible because so much of the world refuses to stop and look.
My children have a right to this recognition, and at a time in history when the tragedy of bullying has come to the foreground, institutions like Sesame Street have an obligation to fill the void. What better way to teach kids and grownups alike that queer kids and queer families are everywhere, and it’s cool. I’d settle for Bert and Ernie, but if Zoe or Abby or Cookie or Grover want to come out… I’ll be there to welcome them with Em, our kids, my rainbow flag and my big old lesbian grin.