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What exactly were Mister Rogers' views towards the LGBTQ community?

In many ways, Rogers was well ahead of his time, boldly pushing boundaries in the right directions.

Screenshot via YouTube official trailer, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"

Mister Rogers consistently shared love and kindness.

A few nights ago, I was sitting in a dark theater — popcorn in hand and tears leaking down my face — embarrassingly bent out of a shape from a movietrailer. Fred Rogers was to blame.

The whimsical theme song to "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" concluded a short but powerfully nostalgic preview for the new documentary about the soft-spoken star, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" And yeah, I'd morphed into a teary-eyed hot mess in a matter of seconds.



A question popped into my queer little brain right then, though, and I'm not entirely sure why:

Could Rogers have quietly been a homophobe?

He was a religious dude who grew up in a wildly different era than today. It's a toxic combination that, if we're overgeneralizing and I reflect on my personal experience, tends to produce the worst kinds of homophobes. Had the former Presbyterian minister been as saintly to queers like me as he'd been to seemingly everyone else?

I needed answers! So I went searching.

big-hearted, television show, compassion, counterculture

History suggests Rogers saw humanity in LGBTQ community.

Photo pulled from YouTube official trailer, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"


But first, let it be known that I respect Rogers and cherish the mark his big-hearted series left on me and generations past; I certainly wasn't looking for justifications to write a "Mister Rogers" hit piece. In a dark and dreary world, Rogers was a reliably bright light, and I wanted whatever I discovered to confirm my suspicions that the beloved children's advocate was a benevolent force for good — and nothing else.

But one thing I've come to learn as a jaded gay man is that the more flawless a fave of mine seems to be, the harder they fall from the high pedestal I've placed them on once their shortcomings inevitably air. Rogers could very well be the latest victim of my hero-worshipping, I warned myself, opening a Google tab with a preemptive cringe.

Here are the two big things I discovered:

1. Rogers' unfaltering kindness and compassion certainly extended to the LGBTQ community.

Rogers didn't go on the record with specific opinions about LGBTQ people or the matters that affect them (at least from what I could find). But others have reported their experiences with him on the topic. By putting those puzzle pieces together, I would confidently argue that Rogers saw the humanity in LGBTQ people.

He didn't let his faith box him into any certain ideology regarding gay people or their rights. Michael G. Long, who authored the biographical "Peaceful Neighbor: Discovering the Countercultural Mister Rogers," noted Rogers' church in Pittsburgh was and continues to be inclusive to the LGBTQ community. Rogers' widow, Joanne, has said her husband had close friends who were gay, according to Slate.

He also stood strong against outside pressures to use his platform to condemn same-gender relationships, according to Vox's Todd VanDerWerff. Panning homosexuality likely would have been applauded by many parents tuning in, as mainstream America widely embraced homophobic attitudes throughout much of Rogers' reign.

But doing such a thing on-air never felt right to the sweater-loving saint. "He felt everybody was, in some way, a reflection of God," VanDerWerff wrote.


2. But Rogers wasn't immune to the backward views society has held of queer people.

While Rogers hired and befriended Francois Clemmons — a gay man who played Officer Clemmons in the series for 25 years — he didn't necessarily want the show associated with Clemmons' sexual orientation, either.

After word got back to Rogers that Clemmons had been spotted in a gay bar, Rogers asked the actor to avoid such venues, fearful Clemmons' sexuality would bring negative attention to the show.

"It was not a personal statement of how he felt about me," Clemmons assured UU World in 2016, noting the two remained close friends. "It had to do with the economics of the show."

Rogers urged him to stay in the closet, believing Clemmons' sexuality may alienate viewers. He encouraged him to marry a woman, too. Clemmons did — and the relationship ended in divorce a few years later.

It's difficult to reconcile the harmful actions of an icon who lived in a different time.

I wish Rogers had addressed Clemmons' predicament differently, of course. I wish he'd celebrated Clemmons' queerness on screen and off and allowed the actor to sashay his way on stage one trailblazing episode, rainbow flag held high.

But that's the thing: The rainbow flag wasn't associated with LGBTQ pride when Clemmons considered leaving the closet, because LGBTQ pride wasn't even a thing in those pre-Stonewall days (at least in the mainstream). It's not reasonable for me to expect a straight, cisgender man — even a superhero like Rogers — to possess a visionary moral compass and will to champion queer rights half a century before same-gender marriage even became normalized.

Rogers was extraordinary — but he wasn't a social justice clairvoyant.

Mister Rogers' empathetic nature pushed him, and his viewers, to be bold and continually grow in wonderful ways.

It's what has helped enshrine my appreciation for him and his show.

He adored kids and relentlessly fought for their wellbeing. His show regularly took on important and tough topics, like racism, the messiness of divorce, and the importance of inclusion. In many ways, Rogers was well ahead of his time, boldly pushing boundaries in the right directions.

Even on queer issues, Rogers evolved as time went on.


As Long wrote for HuffPost in 2014, Rogers' perspective on Clemmons' sexuality shifted throughout the years:

"Rogers evidently believed Clemmons would tank his career had he come out as a gay man in the late 1960s. But — and this is a crucial point —Rogers later revised his counsel to his younger friend. As countless gays came out more publicly following the Stonewall uprising, Rogers even urged Clemmons to enter into a longterm and stable gay relationship. And he always warmly welcomed Clemmons’ gay friends whenever they visited the television set in Pittsburgh."

I can't speak for Mister Rogers, of course. But he was the one who always told me, "I like you just the way you are."

If he were around today, I'd like to think queer kids would feel right at home in his neighborhood, too.

Watch the trailer (that made me cry) for "Won't You Be My Neightbor?" below:

This article was written by Robbie Couch and originally appeared on 06.07.18


The world has come a long way in the past few decades when it comes to acceptance of people in the LGBTQ+ community. Those of us who grew up in pre-millennial generations remember a very different time, when hiding one's sexual orientation or identity was the norm, homophobic jokes barely batted an eye, and seeing someone living an "out and proud" life was far less common than it is today.

That was the world Dan Levy grew up in. The Schitt's Creek actor and co-creator was born in 1983, and on the day of the series finale of Schitt's Creek, his mom Deborah Divine shared a tweet that perfectly encapsulates not only the changes we've seen in society since then, but the impact Levy himself has had on that world.

She wrote:


"Today I regret every single second of worry back in the uninformed 80's-wondering how the world was going to treat my brilliant little boy who loved to twirl. Little did I know that he was going to kick that old world's ass to the curb and create a brand new one."

Oof, my heart.

It's difficult to measure the mark Dan Levy (and family) made with the hit TV show Schitt's Creek, but it's significant. It's not like we hadn't seen LGBTQ+ representation on television before—we just hadn't seen it quite like this. In most shows with LGBTQ+ characters, their identity was either a conflict or a punchline, as were people's reactions to them. Generally speaking, homophobia has dominated the storyline of such characters, whether it played out in comedy or drama.

In Schitt's Creek, Levy created a world where there was no homophobia. It just didn't exist amongst the characters in the show. The closest we came to seeing it was when Patrick was worried about how his parents would react to finding out he had a boyfriend, but that turned out to be a momentary fear that was immediately squelched by his parents' unreserved acceptance.

The rest of the time, all we saw in the town of Schitt's Creek was an embracing of the characters for who they were, quirky outfits notwithstanding. What we experienced in that world was an example of what the world could be.

And it was done with simple storytelling. The romcom sweetness David and Patrick's relationship from "meet cute" to marriage was something we've rarely seen with a same-sex couple on screen. Honestly, the joyful normalness of it all probably did more to help people understand and accept gay relationships than most overt activism ever could. Activism is important for advocating for rights and justice, but those battles are a lot easier to fight when people's hearts are on your side. And people's hearts are what Dan Levy has played a role in changing most.

He comes by it honestly. In a speech for GLAAD last year, Levy said that his family's unconditional love and support—as exemplified by his mom's tweet—were what made him feel safe to come out at 18.

Dan Levy reflects on creating Schitt's Creek, “A place where everybody fits in."youtu.be

"Had I not had the love to give me a sense of security, I don't know if I would have found my way out of the closet, let alone create the opportunity for myself to tell stories on television that have effected some kind of positive change in the world," he said. "Support, encouragement and love: three relatively simple acts of kindness that can change the course of a person's life."

For six seasons, Levy showed us a world where everyone embraces those three simple acts of kindness, so everyone is safe. What a wonderful world that turned out to be for all of us.

via Unsplash

There has been a drastic change in public opinion over homosexuality in the past thirty years, especially when it comes to parents accepting their gay children.

According to Pew Research, in 1985, 89% of parents said they'd be upset if their child came out as homosexual and just 9% said they would not be.

In 2015, 37% of parents said they'd be upset and 57% said they wouldn't be.


While public opinion is clearly going in the right direction, there is still a lot of work to be done. A recent story that popped up on Reddit shows having a LGBT child can still divide a home. However, in this case, it seems like it was a good thing.

A mother needed to vent about the horrific way her husband treated her 15-year-old son after he came out of the closet, so she created a Reddit account under the name CountryMamaLynn and posted her story on the LGBT forum.

Unfortunately, the post has since been deleted.

"My husband kicked him out while I was at work… I left work early and drove over to my house where I saw my baby boy sitting on the curb with his clothes and shit all across the damn lawn," she wrote.

She then said that Mark her, "soon-to-be ex-husband," was "not the man she thought she married" and she didn't mince words with how she felt about the way he treated her son.

"I gave that bastard a piece of my mind and told him that if he can't be a man and support his son then he can kiss my ass and find someone else to pay his bills," she continued.

So she took her son and and some belongings and booked a hotel room.

Although CountryMamaLynn isn't very familiar with the LGBT community, she did her best to become an ally and support her son by purchasing him a "a bunch of Pride stuff" and "knitting him a rainbow blanket."

Her son had kept his boyfriend of seven months a secret and and CountryMamaLynn was over the moon to meet him. "I'm getting to meet him over FaceTime tomorrow and I'm so excited! I'm doing everything I can to make him feel loved," she wrote.

She pulled no punches when talking about her husband. "I don't have to put up with this crap," CountryMamaLynn wrote. "So I told him to haul ass before I make him." She drove the point home by holding a camouflaged baseball bat duing the confrontation.

CountryMamaLynn's life changed over night after her son came out and it's had a big impact on how she sees herself, too.

"I was talking to my son… and found out my not be just a straight ally!" she wrote.

"I assumed all straight ladies were also just as attracted to other ladies as they were [to] men and I never really thought about it until now but turns out I might be bi?

"Is that the right word?" Yes, it is the right word, CountryMamaLynn.

A Bloomberg investigation of YouTube last April found that videos produced for an extreme, alt-right audience are just as popular as music, sports, and gaming on the platform.

These channels allow for the rampant spread of misinformation, hate speech, and harassment. Carlos Maza, host of "Strikethrough" a Vox-produced YouTube show that explores the challenges facing the news media in the age of Trump, perfectly illustrated the cycle of abuse in a recent tweet thread.

Maza knows the cycle first-hand because he has been targeted by conservative YouTuber Steven Crowder who routinely refers to Maza by derogatory terms such as "anchor baby" and "lispy queer."

Maza says that Crowder's comments have resulted in a "a wall of homophobic [and] racist abuse on Instagram and Twitter."

After repeatedly flagging Crowder's YouTube videos and receiving zero response, Maza took to Twitter to vent his frustration.


After the tweet thread went viral, YouTube responded by announcing it would investigate Crowder's channel.

Crowder responded to the investigation by condemning those who have harassed Maza. "I have always condemned and continue to discourage any and all forms of doxxing or targeted harassment of anyone online, ok?" he said in a video response.

But he defended calling him a "lispy queer" because "it's funny and this is a comedy show" and because Maza refers to himself as queer.

Crowder's defense is disingenuous because there's a big difference between using the term queer to refer to someone's sexual orientation versus using it as an insult. His defense is tougher to believe when he uses the term "fag" to disparage people.

Crowder also claimed that the investigation was a form of corporate censorship and an attempt by YouTube to please NBC, a Vox Media investor.

Maza responded to Crowder by calling his assertions "batshit."

And yet after all of that, YouTube's investigation proved mostly fruitless. Though the company apologized to LGBTQ groups for Crowder's harassment, they've decided to let him keep his YouTube channel.