Bert and Ernie

Has Sesame Street become more gay-friendly?

In recent months, the long-running children's program has seen openly gay stars Wanda Sykes and Neil Patrick Harris on the show, spoofed the gay-friendly True Blood, and featured a will.i.am performance of "What I Am," a tune about accepting who you really are, which triggered Internet speculation about its message.

Watch clips from Sesame Street

That followed a June 11 tweet from Bert — who, along with roommate Ernie, has long been suspected by fans to be gay — that read: "Ever notice how similar my hair is to Mr. T's? The only difference is mine is a little more 'mo,' a little less 'hawk.'" "Mo" can be slang for homosexual.

Though there is an uptick in gay-friendly content, Ellen Lewis, Sesame Street's vice president of corporate communications, told the Los Angeles Times that the show is not deliberately reaching out to a gay audience.

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"We've always reached out to a variety of actors and athletes and celebrities to appear on the show, and our programming has always appealed to adults as much as children," she says. "Honestly, the idea that anyone would interpret [this season] that way never crossed our minds."

Lewis' comment echoes her statement from three years ago when Sesame Workshop issued a cease-and-desist letter to filmmaker Peter Spears, whose film Ernest & Bertram depicted Bert and Ernie as a gay couple. Bert and Ernie "do not portray a gay couple, and there are no plans for them to do so in the future. They are puppets, not humans," Lewis said then.

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Whether or not Sesame Street is consciously appealing to gays, GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios believes the PBS series is reflecting the changing times. "As more and more loving and committed gay and lesbian couples begin families, it's important that their children see representations of their families on their favorite shows," the head of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation told the Times. "Sesame Street has a long history of teaching children about diversity and acceptance, and I don't expect that our community will be left out of that education."

Katy Perry video pulled from Sesame Street

Perhaps the biggest sign of such acceptance came last month when the show nixed a segment with Katy Perry after parents complained about her low-cut dress, Michael Jensen, editor in chief of AfterElton.com, told the paper.

"The fact that more people have objected to Katy Perry's cleavage than they have to the True Blood spoof shows how far we've come in this gay rights movement," he said.

Do you think Sesame Street has become more gay-friendly?