The internet learned that, according to a biography, Fred Rogers may have been bisexual. And then Facebook broke yesterday. Coincidence?
Years after his death, beloved childhood icon Mister Rogers is still making headlines. This time he’s doing it by giving hope and support to bisexual children (and adults) around the world.
Speculation came to light recently after a passage from Mister Rogers biography The Good Neighbor: The Life and Works of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King started floating around Twitter. Naturally the LGBTQ (specifically the B, thank you very much) realm of Twitter was on fire with discussion. Could our beloved childhood neighbor really, truly be one of us?
Thanks to the person who found the quote! For all those asking, here you go: https://t.co/Z2A5o5oTWP— ProblemsofaBookNerd (@CeceEwing_) March 5, 2019
“Well, you know I must be right smack in the middle. Because I have found women attractive, and I have found men attractive,” said Rogers in the biography. The conversation in question from the book is between Rogers and his openly gay longtime friend, Dr. William Hirsch.
Rogers is renowned the world over for being the living embodiment of how to truly be a good human being to not only yourself but those around you in the world. Rogers himself, and of course Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, broke massive ground in its time, in regards to racial, gender, and social barriers.
He got straight to the point in his explanations for children of why it was so important to ignore stereotypes and be supportive of your peers, regardless of whether or not you looked like them, lived like them, or believed in what they did. He was the true embodiment of a real good neighbor and ally.
Some will ask why, if Rogers really did identify as bisexual, he did not come out during his lifetime. Even leaving aside the idea that any one of us “owes” anyone else our coming out to begin with, there is an understandable explanation for why this would be the case.
While Rogers broke down racial and gender stereotypes on television, loudly defending the LGBTQ community was a step that may have been too risky in 1960s America, even for him. Privately, he advised against friend and costar Francois Clemmons (who played Officer Clemmons) coming out for a long time, and advised him to marry a woman (whom he divorced six years later).
Post-Stonewall riots, however, Rogers reportedly revised his support of such issues. While Rogers never became an open advocate for the LGBTQ community, he did make one thing clear to the children and adults watching his show.
“I like you just the way you are,” Rogers always emphasized. And for anyone who has ever felt othered, or like who you are just wasn’t enough, even for your own community, there is nothing more empowering than those words.
We like you just the way you are, too, Mister Rogers. We like the way you refused to ever let us all feel anything other than loved, wanted, and valued. Also, pink and purple never looked better on anyone else.