Billy Porter hits back at critics who’ve complained about his upcoming appearance on Sesame Street

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Pose star Billy Porter has responded to critics who are upset that he’ll appear on the upcoming 51st season of Sesame Street.

Last week, the iconic children’s television show shared several photos of the 50-year-old actor on set filming the 51st season, in which he re-wore the velvet tuxedo gown and jacket by designer Christian Siriano that he first donned at the 2019 Oscars.

This led to some backlash from critics who called it ‘disappointing’ and even signed a petition to get the episode pulled — but Billy thinks those who don’t like it should butt out. 

The 51st season doesn’t have a premiere date yet, but will have 35 episodes which will premiere first on HBO Max and then air for free on PBS Kids. 

The decades-long children show has has countless celebrity guests on over the years, but Billy’s inclusion has sparked strong opinions.

Much of the reaction has been incredibly positive, though several critics have come out to say that Billy wearing a dress on the show in inappropriate for children.

Billy begs to differ. 

‘If you don’t like it, don’t watch it,’ he told the Page Six, adding that it’s odd that people see a man in a dress and immediately think of ‘perverted demon sex.’

‘Like, what about me singing with a penguin [on the show]has anything to do with what I’m doing in my bedroom?’ he went on

‘The really interesting thing for me is that that’s what it’s all about when it comes to LGBTQ people — the first thing everyone wants to talk about is how we having sex.

‘Stay out of my bedroom and you will be fine — that is none of your business.’   

Sesame Street had shared the news on social media, posting several photos of his time on set with Elmo and the gang.

‘Billy Porter bringing those fierce vibes to Sesame Street,’ the show wrote, later adding that it was ‘an iconic day with an iconic person.’ 

‘Y’all, talk about iconic… I was tickled to meet @elmo and the gang at @sesamestreet!’ Billy replied.

The post has earned over 20,000 likes on Facebook and thousands of comments, many from supporters.

But there were also critics, including Arkansas state senator Jason Rapert, who raged that ‘taxpayer dollars [are]being used to promote the radical LGBTQ agenda.’

He also promoted a petition to get the episode pulled, which accuses Sesame Street of trying to ‘sexualize children using drag queens.’ 

Other social media users had their own criticism.

‘Disgraceful! Poisoning the children of America’s minds while stealing their innocence! The Left is grooming our children! Wake up! What happened to education??! I will no longer support PBS! God help us if we ever have a draft,’ wrote one.

‘No, please no! This is the most disappointing post yet of 2020. The family as a traditional entity should be respected. If people want to do this on their own, that’s their decision, but to parade this in front of the youngest of kids is WRONG,’ wrote another. My family will no longer be watching Sesame Street.’

However, the comments have been predominantly positive, with those applauding Sesame Street drowning out the critics on the platform. 

‘Soooo amazing!!!!!!!! Thank you, Billy Porter!! if I had seen someone like you on TV when I was that age, coming out would have been so much easier and happier,’ wrote one man. 

‘Thank you to Sesame Street for always putting children’s development and safety at the forefront. You are still doing so much GOOD, no matter what the ignorant haters say.’

Another wrote: ‘So grateful I was raised watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. The characters you grow up loving assure you that you are perfect just the way you are.’

‘I’m glad he found a reason to wear that fabulous dress second time!’ added a third. 

‘Thank you to Sesame Street for always putting children’s development and safety at the forefront. You are still doing so much GOOD, no matter what the ignorant haters say.’

Another wrote: ‘So grateful I was raised watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. The characters you grow up loving assure you that you are perfect just the way you are.’

‘I’m glad he found a reason to wear that fabulous dress second time!’ added a third. 

‘Way to go Sesame Street,’ said another. ‘All I see here is diversity, acceptance, confidence, beauty, and love.

Billy himself has spoken out about not having people like himself to look up to as a kid, and the damage that being labeled a ‘sissy’ caused.

‘The hetero normative construct that masculinity is better silenced me for many years. It was like my masculinity was in question before I could even comprehend the thought,’ he told Allure in January.

‘I was sent to a psychologist at five years old because I was a sissy and my family was afraid. I love them. They didn’t know. It was a different time.’ 

He recalled one of his earliest childhood memories: He was in kindergarten, and every Wednesday after school he’d sit with a white men for an hour, where it was drilled into him ‘that something’s wrong with you and you need to be fixed based on “You’re not masculine enough.”‘

‘I carried that with me for my whole life until, like, two and a half minutes ago. You know?’ he said.

So while now he is know for his incredible, showstopping red carpet looks — including his voluminous tuxedo gown at the 2019 Oscars and his embellished suit and pink satin-lined cape at the 2019 Golden Globes — for a long time, he’d kept that part of him bottled up for fear of being an outcast.

‘Flamboyance was a silencing mechanism for a long time with me,’ he said. ‘Flamboyant was code for “You’re a f****t, and we don’t want you.” 

‘Flamboyant was a word that was used to marginalize me and pigeonhole me and keep me in a box. You get in the room, you give them flamboyant, and then they come back to you with, “He’s too flamboyant.”‘ 

Billy also spoke about his fashion sense in the interview, saying: ‘I always wanted to express myself in my clothes differently. And I always had great taste. And expensive taste.’

Sesame Street, meanwhile, has had several gay celebrities make appearances over the years, even if Billy is the first to wear a dress.

What’s more, viewers had long speculated that Bert and Ernie are gay — and in 2018, a former writer of the show said that he always thought they were, and he compared them to himself and his male partner.

‘I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were [gay],’ Mark Saltzman told Queerty. 

‘I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them. The other thing was, more than one person referred to Arnie and I as “Bert and Ernie.”‘

Sesame Workshop, however, denied this to NBC News.

‘As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. 

‘Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.’

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