April 2001

"You can't tell a hero by his size. I'm just a Teeny Little Super Guy." - Teeny Little Super Guy Theme Song

Childhood is, for me, a mostly happy blur (wow, what a thing to consider after last month's column!). As much as there has always been a part of me that has been outcast, a part of me always felt at home. There was always one place that I was, and forever will be, welcome, besides my own home. That second home of my childhood was a place I can guarantee almost every one of you visited at one time or another as well.

Sesame Street. The name alone conjures up in all of us a plethora of happy memories (or it should). Big Bird, Elmo, Kermit, Bert, Ernie, Cookie Monster, the Count, Polly Darton, Telly, Oscar, Grover, Bob, Maria, Luis, Gina, and many others are all familiar friends to us. People my age remember Maria and Luis' wedding. Those a few years older remember Mr. Hooper's death. We ALL know the songs. Monsterpiece Theatre. Teeny Little Super Guy. Sesame Street News, Super Grover, Rubber Ducky. Sesame Street is a part of our culture, completely and indisputably. Anyone who as a child felt that they didn't fit in could just turn on PBS and automatically feel welcome. Black, white, Asian, Latino, deaf, blind, monsters of all kinds, were all equally loved and respected. Sesame Street is the one place in the world anyone could go and be accepted.

I speak of Sesame Street as a place - and not as merely a television show. And some of you are sitting there, shaking your heads thinking, "She's in college - doesn't she know that monsters aren't real and it's all a soundstage?" Well, of course I know that. I watched the "Biography" special on Sesame Street. I saw the puppeteers and actors - saw the puppets *on* the arms of these men and women, saw outtakes. I saw the man who plays Elmo be interviewed - heard the voice of Elmo come out of the mouth of a tall handsome black man. Saw a man emerge from the Big Bird costume. But that doesn't make Sesame Street any less real to me - and if you're a child at heart as well it will be the same for you. The Sesame Street monsters are very old friends of mine - and among the most treasured that any person could have. The grown ups and children are familiar, welcome faces.

What does Sesame Street mean to me, as a lesbian? Well, I remember being at a Safe Schools conference during my senior year of high school, and attending a workshop on media images of GLBT people. The leader of the workshop asked us to name media images of GLBT people. Quietly, to my friends that were there, I joked, "Bert and Ernie." A minute later, someone said it out loud, and Bert and Ernie were put up on the board as gay images from the media. Someone asked one of the people who plays them about it, once, and, I'm paraphrasing, but "they're puppets, they don't exist below the waist!" was the gist of the answer. Which is true. But if a boy took Bert and Ernie to be a nice gay couple that is loved and accepted by all those around them, and that makes that boy feel better about his same-sex crushes on the guys on his Little League team, then that's awesome. But basically, Sesame Street to me is all about everyone, absolutely everyone, being accepted and loved for who they are. And that is something that I think the real world should aspire to. Someday, though, I want to live on Sesame Street, preferably in an apartment close to Bert and Ernie. Yet... that's just because I've always loved Ernie. Rubber Ducky really is the one.


Bethany-Faith Kimball really is 18 years old and a freshman at UMass-Amherst, despite what you may think after reading this column. She enjoys email and can be reached at k41632@yahoo.com

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