Sesame Street, the long-running children’s educational TV show, commemorated pride month last week with a sly Twitter post featuring monster muppets arranged in a rainbow. The tweet read: “Sesame Street is proud to support families of all shapes, sizes and colors.”
Although the post didn’t explicitly mention LGBTQ people, the rainbow-colored photo, its inclusion of the word “proud” and its publication before the final pride weekend all communicated its acknowledgement of the queer community. But is Sesame Street really a queer-friendly place, or was their tweet just a way to wink at LGBTQ viewers without committing to actual inclusion?
Muppet roommates Bert and Ernie have long been rumored to be gay: They sleep in the same bed, occasionally take baths together, were once depicted as a gay couple celebrating marriage equality on a 2015 cover of The New Yorker magazine and Bert once described his mohawk hairdo as more ‘mo,’ than ‘hawk.’
But in 2011, Sesame Street issued a statement that the two were just best friends and that “muppets do not have a sexual orientation,” a statement which ringed hollow considering the years-long romance between Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog.
Sesame Street has no openly LGBTQ muppets, but the South African version of the show has featured an HIV-positive muppet named Kami since 2002, a way to educate children about the region’s ongoing epidemic.
The show has also featured many openly gay and lesbian celebrities like Neil Patrick Harris and Wanda Sykes and has done a sexless parody of the very gay HBO series True Blood (video below).
The show also once partnered with the notorious anti-gay fast food chain Chick Fil-A by providing toys for their childrens’ meals, but Sesame Street ended that partnership after Chick Fil-A’s president voiced opposition to same-sex marriage. Following the split, Sesame Street‘s CEO donated all their profits from the partnership to Gays and Lesbians Allied Against Defamation (GLAAD).
So while Sesame Street isn’t likely to explicitly mention LGBTQ relationships on the air anytime soon, it’s at least acknowledging that LGBTQ people exist in understated but significant ways.