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Family with two dads debuts on ‘Sesame Street’ during Pride Week

In a new episode, “Sesame Street” introduced new characters, from right, Dave, his husband, Frank, and their daughter, Mia. (Sesame Workshop, Richard Termine)
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A new episode of “Sesame Street” introduced a married gay couple, a segment a co-director described as a “milestone” for the iconic children’s series.

In the episode, which debuted during Pride Month and just ahead of Father’s Day, the “Sesame Street” characters are preparing for a celebration. In front of a banner that says “Family Day,” Elmo, Abby Cadabby and others are ticking off a list of who will be at the party when human character Nina says her brother, Dave, is driving over with his family.

Soon, Dave and his husband, Frank, arrive at the party with their daughter, Mia.

“Sesame Street has always been a welcoming place of diversity and inclusion,” Alan Muraoka, one of the show’s actors who co-directed the episode, wrote in a post on Facebook. “Love is love, and we are so happy to add this special family to our Sesame family. Happy Pride to all!!!!”

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Christy Tirrell-Corbin, executive director of the Center for Early Childhood Education and Intervention at the University of Maryland, said the show has always been “ahead of the curve in terms of modeling diversity in all forms.”

Last year, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind “Sesame Street,” launched resources meant to help families talk about race and racial justice, such as with a clip of Muppets talking about differences in skin color. The show has tackled the issue of addiction, told the story of a Muppet who experiences homelessness and introduced a character with autism.

Tirrell-Corbin said in the “Family Day” episode, the introduction of a family with two dads was done in a “very natural way.”

“One of the many wonderful things about young children is they are very accepting — it’s really when they are exposed to attitudes or context where there’s bias that they begin to develop those biases,” she said.

A new episode of "Sesame Street" that aired during Pride Week debuted a family with two dads. (Video: Sesame Workshop, Photo: Sesame Workshop, Richard Termine/Sesame Workshop)

In the introduction of Dave, Frank and Mia, there was no bias, she said. “There was no, ‘this is a different type of family than you’re used to.’ It was just, ‘this is one of many types of families,’ " Tirrell-Corbin said.

Naomi A. Moland, who has written a book about “Sesame Street” and is on the faculty at American University’s School of International Service, said the segment reflects the way “Sesame Street” is “so creative in tackling complex issues in child-friendly ways.”

“They would say, okay, what do kids need to know? They don’t need to know anything about sex or marriage necessarily or religion,” Moland said during an interview. “They just need to know there are some families that have two dads.”

She said the show often focuses on commonalities such as the way Mia talks about making lasagna with her parents in the “Family Day” episode, and Abby says “our family likes to cook together, too.”

“It’s a subtle but effective way to say, ‘that’s a family just like us,’ ” Moland said.

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In 2018, amid speculation about the sexual orientation of two puppets, Bert and Ernie, Sesame Workshop said the characters “remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.” Later, Moland wrote an op-ed arguing the show needed to bring human LGBTQ+ characters to the American version of the show.

“It’s been a really long time coming,” Moland told The Washington Post.

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and chief executive of the advocacy organization GLAAD, said the milestone for “Sesame Street” is indicative of LGBTQ representation improving overall in family and children’s programming. She recalled that the first time the GLAAD media awards — which the organization says honors media “for fair, accurate, and inclusive representations of LGBTQ people and issues,” — included a family and children’s program category in 2018, it struggled to find five nominees.

The most recent year, Ellis said, there were so many nominees that the organization had to create a second similar category.

Tirrell-Corbin said, as an educational researcher, she encourages parents to watch shows such as “Sesame Street” with their children.

“It allows for conversation to happen naturally, it opens up the opportunity for a parent to talk to their children about different family types and express support for families of same-sex parents, blended families, single-parent families and biracial families,” she said.

During the episode, at the Family Day party, a character observes that “all of our families are so different.”

“There’s all kinds of different families,” Frank responds. “But what makes us a family is that we love each other.”

Moland said she got goose bumps thinking about her son, who is 2 years old, eventually watching an episode such as this.

“I think that would come very soon where we might say, 'Oh look that girl has two dads, just like you have two moms,” she said. “It’s just a way of normalizing it.”

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