With all the news, content, and impending end of the world going on, it’s easy to miss a few things. For instance, a Fred Rogers biography came out last year, The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King, former director of the Fred Rogers Center. The popular documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, also came out last year so it may have stolen some of The Good Neighbor’s shine. But there is light in even the darkest corners of Twitter, which dug up an interesting tidbit from that biography: Mr. Rogers may have been bisexual.
Anyway, 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?” and my gay ass, gay of the family, Miss Family Homosexual had to be like “he was WHAT?”
— ProblemsofaBookNerd (@CeceEwing_) March 3, 2019
Miss Family Homosexual’s grandma was referring to this passage from The Good Neighbor:
“Well you know, I must be right smack in the middle,” Rogers said of his sexuality, if measured on a scale. “Because I have found women attractive, and I have found men attractive.”
Who’s to say if Mr. Rogers ever acted on those same-sex attractions—perhaps in his youthful days he rode the Neighborhood Trolley to that other Neighborhood of Make-Believe, the Castro, before settling down with Mrs. Rogers. Either way, I guess the signs were there. After all, could a man who wore a cardigan that well be 100% heterosexual? Methinks not.
But whatever his sexual proclivities, Mr. Rogers apparently had a few very good gay friends, including Dr. Hirsch and in particular, François Clemmons. Known as Officer Clemmons on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Clemmons and Rogers famously shared an interracial foot bath on screen during the tumultuous and racially fraught year of 1968. Rogers, however, did ask Clemmons to stay away from gay bars—not out of his own prejudices but so as not to alienate conservative viewers.
In fact, Fred asked Clemmons to make a few sacrifices, such as asking him not to wear his earring on television and suggesting that he enter a marriage of convenience. But regardless of those concessions, Clemmons regards Rogers as a surrogate father, and the first man to tell him that he loves him.
Ah, it’s a beautiful day in #20BiTeen.