20/09/2018 18:06 BST | Updated 20/09/2018 18:06 BST

Hysteria Over Bert And Ernie's Sexuality Shows Being Gay Is Still Not Seen As 'Normal'

Gay loneliness is an epidemic and leaving queer kids to work out their lives with no authentic frame of reference is a disservice, and one we have to change

Larry Downing / Reuters

Go on, be honest – how many times have you looked down at a friend’s new-born baby boy and said with a false grimace “Aw! Well, he’s going to be a ladies’ man?”.

Or just how many staged photos of a baby boy and a baby girl posing as a couple have you liked on your Facebook feed?

After all, proselytising children in to a lifetime of heteronormativity is just a bit of harmless fun, right? Well, only if you’re straight, apparently.

Earlier this week, Sesame Street were forced to publicly confirm that co-habiting characters Bert and Ernie weren’t in fact a gay couple - claiming that ‘puppets don’t have a sexual orientation’.

Just before, news sources had reported a former show writer claiming the opposite version of events – forcing the aforementioned climbdown. One organisation shared that news on Facebook and in my infinite folly I decided to read the comments.

“Keep your agenda to yourselves!”

“It’s a children’s show, don’t spoil their innocence!”

“Can’t we just let kids be kids?”

Has the cognitive dissonance crept up and slapped you in the face yet? Apparently, when we force heterosexuality on to children, it’s fine. Yet, when the notion of queerness is shown to merely exist it becomes an agenda, it becomes sordid and too adult. After all, homosexuality is still considered a divergent sex practice and not another way to love.

It’s the same logic applied over all of society. Just look at what gay people are told by straight people in this day and age. You can be gay, but not in this bakery. Being gay is fine, but not in this restaurant. It’s okay to be gay, but not in this football stadium.

The same sort of thinking is behind the controversial casting of Jack Whitehall as Disney’s first openly gay character in the upcoming Jungle Cruise. Of course, I wouldn’t be so obtuse as to say actors can’t portray alternate sexual preferences – that would be counter-intuitive to say the least.

But, in what was a long overdue landmark moment in LGBT+ cinema, Disney opted to wrongly appoint a straight man as the gatekeeper of gay representation. A straight man who could fulfil his ‘effete’ and ‘camp’ role so as to provide straight people with an easily digestible stereotype that makes them feel comfortable. After all, what are gay people if not the captors of heteronormative whim?

Because ultimately that’s what it all boils down to – gay people are permissible as long as they don’t threaten everyone else’s sensibility. That is not the sign of an equal society but of an oppressive one.

In 2018, the majority of gay people are still scared to do something as simple as holding hands in public, and it’s no wonder why. It’s because of this noxious attitude we espouse to impressionable children, some of whom are queer – sorry, parents!

Underlying all of this behaviour is the lingering fear that seeing gay people will make children gay. Well, newsflash, soft-homophobes of Britain – I grew up with nothing but heterosexual content and I’m as gay as they come.

The foundation of my understanding of relationships was based on Minnie and Mickey Mouse, Zack Morris and Kelly Kapowski, and of course Kermit and Miss Piggy – funnily enough three children’s TV couples that nobody seems to object to. There’s no need to play spot the difference here.

The hypocrisy would be funny if it wasn’t so frightening.

Maybe the prudes of this world could let go of their bigoted hang-ups because maybe the six-year-old me, who knew he was gay, would have liked to see some version of homosexuality normalised, to know what it meant to be gay, and know that it was okay. Gay loneliness is an epidemic and leaving queer kids to work out their lives with no authentic frame of reference is a disservice, and one we have to change.