Fred McFeely Rogers, the gentle host of the long-running children’s TV program Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, apparently found men and women attractive, according to a quote recently unearthed from Maxwell King’s 2018 biography The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers.
Here’s the section from King’s book mentioning Rogers’ sexuality:
In conversation with one of his friends, the openly gay Dr. William Hirsch, Fred Rogers himself concluded that if sexuality was measured on a scale of one to ten: “Well, you know, I must be right smack in the middle. Because I have found women attractive and I have found men attractive.”
It’s unclear whether the quote above came from Hirsch or Rogers himself.
It’s also unclear whether Rogers ever dated or fooled around with men (not that it would matter, seeing as a person can be bisexual without sleeping with more than one gender). Rogers married his one and only wife, Joanne Byrd, in 1952 and they had two children together.
Regardless, some are now hailing Mr. Rogers as a new bisexual icon.
Mr. Rogers: “I have found women attractive, and I have found men attractive.”
MR. ROGERS IS A BISEXUAL ICON?? 20biteen is off to a strong start https://t.co/fsS5JX7Mtq
— ex-blue hair oakland boy (@WellsLucasSanto) March 5, 2019
mr rogers is bi what a great day
— taylor behnke (@ItsRadishTime) March 5, 2019
Mr. Rogers is bi culture
— This is Bi Culture (@thisisbiculture) March 5, 2019
Today twitter found the passage in Mr. Rogers biography where he says he’s equally attracted to men and women, so of course the hets are out in full force trying to frame it as not meaning he’s bisexual
Fuck off straights he belongs to us now.
— Caitlin, not Caitlyn (@alltsun_nodere) March 6, 2019
This news is particularly exciting to us since in 2014 we ran an article entitled, “Does Mister Rogers Set Off Your Gaydar?”
King’s book also says that Rogers himself was often labelled “a sissy,” or gay:
As his longtime associate Eliot Daley put it: “Fred is one of the strongest people I have ever met in my life. So if they are saying he’s gay because … that’s a surrogate for saying he’s weak, that’s not right, because he’s incredibly strong.” He adds: “He wasn’t a very masculine person, he wasn’t a very feminine person; he was androgynous.”
King notes that in a 1975 interview for The New York Times, Rogers said, “I’m not John Wayne, so consequently for some people I’m not the model for the man in the house.”
That’s good because John Wayne was kind of a jerk.
François Clemmons, an openly gay actor who played Officer Clemmons on the show, said that while Rogers discouraged him from coming out as gay on the show, noting that some viewers would be uncomfortable with it, Rogers still accepted Clemmons as a gay man.
Clemmons applauded Rogers for teaching children kindness and empathy on his show.