Mister Rogers Came Out of the Closet and We Missed It
It turns out that Mister Rogers, America's favorite neighbor, has always been the bisexual icon we didn't know we needed.
It feels like Fred Rogers — better known to most as Mister Rogers, everyone's friendliest childhood neighbor — is having something of a resurgence thanks to Morgan Neville's award-winning Won't You Be My Neighbor and the upcoming biopic that will star Tom Hanks as the former minister turned TV personality.
But as you may have noticed, his name has been all over social media this week because people are coming to learn that Mister Rogers might have actually identified as a member of the LGBTQ community.
Unsurprisingly, Mister Rogers never referred to himself as explicitly "bisexual," but terminology aside, Twitter seems to have dug up an interview in which he declared he fell right in the middle of the sexuality spectrum, finding both men and women of equal attraction.
The discovery followed from a conversation between a queer YouTuber and her grandma.
It was a recent Twitter thread that spurred on the discovery of Mister Rogers' bisexuality. YouTuber Cece Ewing posted about a recent conversation she had with her grandmother, in which the grandmother was surprisingly the one to break the news.
"Wildest thing that's happened to me lately is when I went to talk to my grandmother and she was like, 'Did you know Mr. Rogers was bisexual?'" Cece's thread began. "And my gay ass, gay of the family, Miss Family Homosexual had to be like 'he was WHAT?'"
"After she watched the new documentary, she read the Mr. Rogers' biography," Cece continued. "Apparently he never used the word but in an interview where he was asked if he was gay, he said something like 'I'm not gay, but I suppose if you look at attraction as a kind of line ... I would probably be somewhere in the middle' and like. WHAT.'
It's well known to fans of Mister Roger's (and who isn't a fan?!) that he was incredibly tolerant and open-minded with his thinking, so much so that many of his views were considered groundbreaking at the time.
If you happened to catch Won't You Be My Neighbor, you'll remember Officer François Clemmons, one of the first African-Americans with a recurring role on a kids' TV show, first appeared in Mister Rogers' Neighborhood back in 1968. Together, François and Mister Rogers made a bold statement by sharing a foot bath at the height of desegregation.
Mister Rogers celebrated people for their differences and lived by the motto of liking people for being "just the way they are." He taught audiences that a person cannot be defined by merely one quality and according to director Morgan Neville, "What I think was really unique about what Mister Rogers was doing is that he embraced people's uniqueness."
"He had people on who you didn't see on TV. Not just racial diversity, but ... special needs children, which [he had on] all the time," he told ABC News. "He celebrated people for their differences."
Here's what Mister Rogers said about his sexuality.
Because of his sensitivity and dedication to children, in addition probably to the way he didn't subscribe to the mainstream presentations of masculinity in that era, Mister Rogers was often labeled as "gay" or a "sissy." He himself told the New York Times back in 1975 that because he's "not John Wayne," people have trouble seeing him as "the model for the man in the house."
But what he did concede was that sexuality was more of a spectrum, and in a conversation with the openly gay Dr. William Hirsch, the two discussed something like the Kinsey Scale (or Heterosexual-Homosexual Rating Scale). Mister Rogers was quoted as saying: "Well, you know, I must be right smack in the middle. Because I have found women attractive, and I have found men attractive."
The internet is ecstatic they've found a bisexual icon in Mister Rogers.
As you can probably imagine, queers, bisexuals, and really all of the other letters that make up the LGBTQ community were proud to discover Mister Rogers was actually a bisexual icon. "I can't believe Mr. Rogers is actually the Saint of Bisexuals," tweeted one person, "the kindest bisexual, the bisexual we all aspire to be as kind and loving as."
Another wrote, "That sound you hear across Twitter is the shrieking of a thousand bisexual adults delighted to find out a childhood hero, Mr. Rogers, is one of our own."
"MR ROGERS IS THE BISEXUAL ICON THAT WE NEED IN 2019!!!!!" added someone else. This Pride, let's not forget to celebrate everyone's favorite neighbor.
Won't You Be My Neighbor? is streaming for free on Hulu.