Sesame Street executive: Bert and Ernie are gay if you want them to be

Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie, who are said by many to be gay, ride the "Music Makes us Family" float in the 116th Tournament Of Roses Parade on January 1, 2005

Sesame Street executive Brown Johnson has said that Bert and Ernie are gay if fans think they are.

The executive vice president of Sesame Workshop, the non-profit which created Sesame Street, told The Hollywood Reporter: “People can think whatever they want [about Bert and Ernie].”

“You want to think they’re gay? Okay. You want to think they’re not gay? They’re not gay,” added Johnson, who has won Emmy Awards for her work on Sesame Street and Nick Jr. cartoon Little Bill.

Are Bert and Ernie a couple?

Fans have long speculated over the sexuality of Sesame Street pair Bert and Ernie, two male puppets who live together.

This theory came to a head in September 2018, when gay Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman told Queerty: “I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were [gay]. I didn’t have any other way to contextualise them.”

He also revealed that some people in his social circle referred to him and his partner, film editor Arnold Glassman, as Bert and Ernie.

“They are two guys who love each other. That’s who they are.”

Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman

The comments led to an extraordinary statement from Sesame Workshop, which insisted the pair were only “friends,” adding: “Even though they are identifiable as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics, they remain puppets, and have no sexual orientation.”

Saltzman responded to the furore by downplaying his original remarks. Speaking to The New York Times, he said: “As a writer, you just bring what you know into your work.

“Somehow, in the uproar, that turned into Bert and Ernie being gay. There is a difference.”

Saltzman added: “They are two guys who love each other. That’s who they are.”

Bert and Ernie have long been seen as gay partners

Regardless, Bert and Ernie are considered by many in the LGBT+ community to be gay icons, with some even adopting them as a symbolic gay couple.

After same-sex marriage was legalised in New York in 2011, fans set up a petition on asking for the show’s creators to have Bert and Ernie get married on screen.

In 1994, Sesame Street boss Gary Knell denied that the puppets had sexualities, saying Bert and Ernie “are not gay, they are not straight, they are puppets.”

Bert and Ernie, who have long been rumoured to be gay, stand with 20 newly donated Jim Henson puppets and props on the anniversary of his birthday during an event at the Smithsonian National American History Museum in Washington, DC, on September 24, 2013

Bert and Ernie with their Sesame Street friends (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty)

Despite this statement, speculation about the nature of Bert and Ernie’s relationship has not died down.

In 2014, Bert and Ernie were at the centre of another controversy, after a cake was ordered in Northern Ireland sporting an image of them along with the words: “Support Gay Marriage.”

Ashers Baking Company’s owners refused to bake the cake, and said that they run their business “according to Christian values and beliefs.”

In October 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in the bakery’s favour, deciding it was not guilty of discrimination.