Former Toledoan starts ‘Bert and Ernie’ gay rights controversyWritten by Jason Mack | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Gay rights activist and former Toledo resident Lair Scott is attempting to use his take on the sexual orientation of “Sesame Street’s” Bert and Ernie as a platform to promote LGBTQ rights.
“It’s important, especially for children’s education, to understand and to learn that bullying people for being different is wrong,” Scott said. “It’s important for us to reach this generation of children so in the future we can live a more tolerant lifestyle around the world, not just for the gay and lesbian community but for communities all over.”
The petition “Let Bert & Ernie Get Married On Sesame Street” on Change.org started Aug. 4 and collected 9,000 signatures by Aug. 15. The Facebook page “Bert and Ernie Get Married” has more than 7,000 fans. Scott also started a “Sesame Street: Out Bert and Ernie as Gay” petition, but has decided he will cancel it and focus on the original petition.
“I don’t think it’s necessary to out Bert and Ernie as much that it’s extremely important for ‘Sesame Street’ to educate children and parents about toleration and about the new world,” Scott said. “Thousands of children that have two mommies or two daddies watch the program.
“It’s important for them to know they aren’t any different from any other children having parents.”
The story has been picked up by international media, reported by such sources as The Huffington Post, the BBC, the U.K. Daily Mail, ABC News, The Village Voice, USA Today and The Washington Times.
In a statement released Aug. 11 on the “Sesame Street” Facebook page, Sesame Workshop said, “Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves.
“Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most ‘Sesame Street’ Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.”
The statement did not convince Scott.
“I didn’t think they were gay; I knew they were gay,” he said. “When I was a little boy, I took for granted they were two men living in the same household.”
Scott said he was aware of his own bisexuality at a young age.
“I knew I was different when I was 5 years old,” Scott said. “Why can’t we introduce more characters that are diverse and include the gay and lesbian community? We’re working on different types of outlets for kids and teens to be introduced to LGBTQ characters.”
Scott’s petition has received mixed reactions from the LGBTQ community.
“I would say that a majority of them understand and get it,” Scott said. “There is a small minority that hasn’t read the petition clearly. They are outraged that I would pick on two iconic characters. They don’t understand how important it is to educate children before they become bullies against their own culture.”
Scott said he experienced bullying firsthand and speculated on the effect the movement could have had while he was growing up.
“I wouldn’t have been gay-bashed at Start High School,” Scott said. “I wouldn’t have been forced to leave Waite High School because of my activism at such an early age. I was 14 years old when I began my activism in Toledo. Others like me in Toledo could have benefited from seeing more diversity in ‘Sesame Street’ as a youngster.”
Scott thinks the petition will be a success, but not in the way most would expect.
“Bert and Ernie will never be married; that’s not going to happen,” he said. “If you were to ask me how I would introduce gay and lesbian characters on the show, I could answer that. There would be dozens upon dozens of alternatives and opportunities for that. One of them could be that a mommy and mommy or daddy and daddy couple with children move on Sesame Street.
“That would be the epitome for me, to have real characters and not Muppets portraying gay and lesbian characters. That would be the ultimate thing that should, could and probably will happen on ‘Sesame Street’ at some point.”
Tags: ABC News, Bert and Ernie, Facebook, Gay Pride, Lair Scott, Muppets, same-sex marriage, Sesame Street, the BBC, The Huffington Post, the U.K. Daily Mail, The Village Voice, The Washington Times, USA Today