Michael G. Long remarks that when he mentions he’s working on a book about Fred Rogers, of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fame, it’s not uncommon for him to be asked about the not-so-macho Rogers’ sexuality. Noting that he had gay friends and people he knew to be gay appeared on his show, Long emphasizes there’s no evidence Rogers had sex with another man – and that either way, such speculation distracts from Rogers’ core message, which was “I like you just the way you are”:
Unconditional acceptance, arguably the most positive and compassionate message that any gay child, youth, or adult could find anywhere on television during Rogers’ tenure. Perhaps it’s this queer- and straight-friendly message that we would do well to recall as we wonder about Rogers’ sexual orientation, revealing so many of our prejudices along the way, deep-seated prejudices about the lives of gays and straights and about our own uneasiness with sexual orientations and behaviors.
At last, perhaps we should turn the camera lens toward ourselves and assure Fred Rogers that we like him just as he was: the opposite of machismo, a loving husband and father, a close friend and employer of gays, a man who grew to support at least one friend’s desire for an openly gay relationship and, above all else, a compassionate human being who assured each of us that, no matter who we are or what we do, we are always and everywhere lovable and capable of loving…
Just as they are.