For years the LGBTQ community insisted that Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie were homosexual. That belief was given new life when Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman told the LGBTQ news site Queerty that they were a gay couple.
Saltzman, who joined Sesame Street in 1984 and is gay himself, said their relationship is a reflection of his partnership with film editor Arnold Glassman.
I was Ernie. I look more Bert-ish. And [Arnold] as a film editor — if you thought of Bert with a job in the world, wouldn’t that be perfect? Bert with his paper clips and organization? And I was the jokester. So it was the Bert and Ernie relationship, and I was already with Arnie when I came to Sesame Street.
Sesame Workshop, who owns Sesame Street says no, they are not. In a statement today they said:
As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets™ do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.
Also, contrary to what Saltzman states, Jon Stone who joined Sesame Street at its inception told Michael Davis for his 2009 book, Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street, that Bert and Ernie were a reflection of the real-life friendship between Jim Henson and Frank Oz who originated the Bert and Ernie.
Regardless of the statement, I’m certain those in the LGBTQ community will insist otherwise. For me, who grew up with them in the 70s (I may still have a Bert doll packed away somewhere), they’ll be good friends which is what they were always intended to be.