Why can’t puppets Bert and Ernie be gay?

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Why can’t puppets Bert and Ernie be gay?

"Sesame Street’s" most famous duo Bert and Ernie first appeared in 1969, the same year as the Stonewall Riots, which to the nation’s surprise catapulted the LGBTQ Liberation Movement. And at that time, the idea of partnering these two lovable striped-sweater-wearing puppets as gay was as inconceivable as the idea of legalized same-sex marriage.

But four-plus decades later with Bert and Ernie’s relationship outliving many heterosexual living arrangements―roommates or married―and mirroring the subtle ways in which LGBTQ couples discreetly went about their lives back in the day, the question of whether the guys are gay is not only apropos, but so, too, is the question of their nuptials.

"They are not gay, they are not straight, they are puppets," President and CEO of Sesame Workshop, Gary Knell said. "They don’t exist below the waist."

The funny thing about the dominance of heteronormativity in society, I’ve learned as a lesbian, is that it is always assumed―whether it’s above or below the waists of people or puppets. And, oddly, heteronormativity is also assumed without questions, expected without exception, and explained even in its silence.

But Knell is not entirely truthful in his reply that the puppets are neither gay nor straight.

My favorite Jim Henson Muppet is the over-the-top heterosexual prima-Donna, femme fatale, and sex-siren Miss Piggy. And the love of her life, Kermit the frog, unwittingly marries her in "The Muppets Take Manhattan."

"Sesame Street" has always moved and grooved with the times. Its concept of "Muppet diplomacy," a term coined to depict "Sesame Street’s" efforts to educate children around the world, has tackled tough social issues like HIV/AIDS, child obesity, 9/11 and military deployment, to name a few, and has danced and sang with mega rock stars and hip-hop artists like Bono, Beyonce, and Justin Beiber.

Is it possible that my "gaydar" is off about "Sesame Street"? Perhaps. But hasn’t "Sesame Street" over the years, in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, winked and nodded to the LGBTQ community?

For example, was it mere coincidence that during "Coming Out Month" of October 2010 African American lesbian comedian Wanda Sykes appeared on the show? But Sykes is not the only openly LGBTQ person who appeared on the show. Openly gay guest stars like Neil Patrick Harris played a "shoe fairy," and will.i.am of the "Black Eyed Peas" sang "What I Am?," a song about self- acceptance, creating an online kerfuffle about its underlying message.

Is it now time for "Sesame Street’s" under-the-radar winks