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Scarlett Nation » Gay Rights » …it’s a puppet.

…it’s a puppet.

For the record, I never thought Bert and Ernie were gay. Had Alice Snuffleupagus and Big Bird moved in together, I wouldn’t have thought they were shagging either, because they’re puppets.

The people currently demanding that Bert and Ernie are allowed a civil partnership are not really talking about then being ‘allowed’ a civil partnership. It’s not that the homophobic producers are demanding they stay on the DL. If you are one of those people who object on the grounds that ‘Bert and Ernie aren’t gay’, well, of course they’re not. They’re puppets.

But then, of course, a lot of puppets get married. Lots of cartoons and fairytales are peppered with endless references to ‘mum and dad’, to the handsome prince marrying his one true princess. Why shouldn’t children be made aware that other types of relationships exist? What’s the difference between Bert and Ernie having a relationship and Kermit and Miss Piggy?

Some have argued that it’s something that young children won’t understand. Coleen Nolan, on this morning’s This Morning, even asked if this wasn’t more likely to make kids ask ‘what’s going on there?’ and thus make it a ‘bigger deal’ for them. Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve never hesitated before introducing my boyfriend to a young child. I suppose I would have been taken aback if said child had ever responded with ‘what does that mean? What do you two do together? What’s sex?’ But of course, they never do. They accept what they’re told if you’re straightforward and honest about it, and they wouldn’t be any different if I were introducing my girlfriend. Never once has a young child asked me about the mechanics of a pig and a frog getting it on.

Moreover, if a child is going to react with such shock and confusion, I’d sooner it be whilst watching Sesame Street than when meeting their mates two dads for the first time. Because homosexuality is not a niche part of society that can be ignore or avoided, it’s not something some people get up to sometimes, it’s part of who some people are, all of the time. As well as there being no reason to shield children from it, there is also no way that we can. And as far as I can tell, we have two choices:

1. We expose children to homosexuality in the same way we expose them to heterosexuality, so that it’s something they’re used to, and we discuss any questions they have in a frank and honest way.
2. We try and keep homosexuality a secret so that by the time our children are first exposed to it looks strange and have their questioned answered by other people, with their own agendas, at times where it might be uncomfortable or offend someone.

Personally, I think it would be a wonderful and positive thing if Bert and Ernie were to get married. I think that programs like Sesame Street can actually be invaluable in teaching tolerance and understanding, and they’ve accepted that role in the past – the South African version of the show features Kami, a puppet who is HIV positive. The reason for introducing this character was to help young children understand the condition, show empathy to those living with HIV and AIDs and tackle the fear and stigma surrounding those who have positive status. If children are able to process an issue like that, and if a children’s TV show can take the responsibility for teaching about it, then why not other issues?

Regardless of your own view on homosexuality, your children will be growing up in a world where it exists, and we should all be hoping that our children grow up to be open minded and understanding about people who have a different lifestyle. Because if you can’t live in an equal society on SESAME STREET, then really, there is no hope.

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Co-founder and contributor to Scarlett Nation.

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