Mister Rogers biographer Michael G. Long really doesn’t like being asked if the beloved TV personality was gay, and by the looks of his recent article ‘Wasn’t he gay?’, he must get asked a lot.
Long breaks down why people question Fred Rogers’ sexuality — he was the opposite of “machismo,” a “model of male softness and sensitivity.” He kept close company with gay men, counting them among some of his closest friends. And his core message — “I like you just the way you are” — does have a gay-friendly, queer-friendly application.
Long does an excellent job breaking these factors down, and offers thoughtful analysis on what it says about society to make assumptions based on them.
He concludes that there’s “no publicly available evidence that Rogers engaged in gay sex. None. Zip. Zilch. Nothing there.”
But Long’s frustration comes off as a bit misplaced. The way he tells it, there is something inherently wrong with the question. It’s as if asking whether Rogers was gay tarnishes his legacy in some way while at the same time feeding society’s wrongs, when really people sometimes just “read gay” to other people.
Sure, it may have something to do with stereotypes, but stereotypes don’t exist in a vacuum. Long writes, “wait a second: Lots of gay men are tough guys — muscular, aggressive, and downright rough. So the mere fact that Rogers was the opposite of macho really proves nothing about his sexual orientation.”
Absolutely right, but there are lots of gay men who are the exact opposite (and everywhere in between). If Mister Rogers sends someone’s gaydar flying, does that necessarily mean that they’re buying into flawed stereotypes on sexuality?
Going off of evidence, there is nothing to suggest Mister Rogers was gay — that much is clear. Especially since he eventually advised Francois Clemmons, who played the role of Officer Clemmons, to come out. Surely if he had counseled his friend to be open about his sexuality, he too would have dropped not-so-subtle hints if he was gay.
But who knows, maybe he was a little gay. Does it really make any difference? (No.) Is is offensive to ask? (No.)
H/t Huffington Post Gay Voices