Sesame Street has taught me so many things. As a child it taught me how to count, how to sing and how to recognize different shapes. I never thought that at 50 years old, Sesame Street would still be teaching me. But this week it taught me something new. This week I learned that some of my friends are not like the others. Some of my friends just don't belong.
When Bert and Ernie appeared on the upcoming cover of the New Yorker cuddling and watching the Supreme Court judges on TV, there was an uproar. "Disgusting!", "Sickening!" some of my friends declared. I zoomed in on the picture but did not see anything. I was certain there must have been something in it that only straight people could see, so I posted a question on Facebook. "I see two Muppets cuddling and watching TV, what do you see?"
Apparently I was missing a lot. "It's just about as disgusting as you can get!" One of my Facebook friends, a Methodist minister said. Another friend said "Male heterosexual friends don't ever tend to cuddle. So they are implying a romance between the two." I used the addition skills that I learned from The Count: two men plus one sofa equals disgust. I'm pretty sure if they saw what my husband and I do, they would be mentally puking in my face.
But here is the thing. This is not Sesame Street; it is The New Yorker magazine. I'm pretty sure that Bert and Ernie won't be performing any full frontal acrobatics on TV. "Well, it is on the front page of a magazine and how do I begin to explain that to my children?" A friend replied. I'm pretty certain that The New Yorker never finds its way into many of my friend's homes, but for argument's sake, let's say that their children spot the cover among the dozen or so various magazines at the check-out line that displays half naked men and women selling sex and offering instructions on achieving the perfect orgasm.
What would a child think? Here are two male adult Muppets, one leaning his head on the other watching TV with a picture of the Supreme Court Judges sitting in black robes. Maybe a child would wonder why they are watching such a boring show. Maybe a child would think that one of them is sad. Would a child wonder if they were about to have sex? I don't think so. What does a child think when he sees Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog Ker noodling? How about Gonzo and Camilla? Camilla is a chicken and Gonzo is a... I'm not sure what he is but clearly these are two different species involved in some type of relationship. Do we need to explain bestiality to our children?
Here is what a child thinks when she sees two men sitting arm and arm next to each other on the sofa. She thinks that they like each other, heck they might even love each other. Is that too difficult to explain? She thinks the same thing when she sees mommy and daddy hugging. And I'm certain that a child whose parents are gay would love to see this magazine cover, because it means that all relationships are represented and recognized. A child does not sexualize Muppets, adults do. If you look at a picture of two inanimate male puppets, visualize sex and ask, "What is this teaching my children?" when all that your child sees is love, then maybe it's better to ask "What can my children teach me?"
William Dameron's personal blog is The Authentic Life