Grey's Anatomy is our biggest queer ally on ABC

Grey's Anatomy is our biggest queer ally on ABC

       

I’ve been excited about the lesbian wedding on Grey’s Anatomy since I started seeing photos of the two brides leaked around the Internet. Grey’s Anatomy has had a pretty good track record with gay and lesbian characters and actors since its beginning, with only a few snafus mixed in.  Queer visibility on a major network is always a huge asset to gay normalcy (for those of us who want it), so let’s take a look at the history of queers on Grey’s Anatomy.

--The big T.R. Knight versus Isaiah Washington battle.  Openly gay actor, T.R. Knight was one of the main characters in the show’s opening seasons, playing a new medical intern named George along with the title character, Meredith Grey. Another lead character, Dr. Preston Burke, the cardiothoracic surgeon, was played by Isaiah Washington. In 2006, Isaiah Washington allegedly made a derogatory comment regarding Knight’s sexuality, before Knight had come out in public. Washington apologized for his statements, but was removed from the show at the end of the season. Knight confirmed that Washington had insulted his sexuality on The Ellen DeGeneres show in 2007.

--Late in life lady lovers.  Dr. Callie Torres (played by Sara Ramirez) married intern George in the early seasons of the show. When she meets the new cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Erica Hahn (played by Brooke Smith, who ironically replaced the one-time (?) homophobe Isaiah Washington), their friendship goes beyond what either of them expect.  As their surprising chemistry builds, so does their fear of venturing beyond the boundaries of the heterosexual life.  The tension here was some of the best on the show—straight or gay—and the awkward glances and inadvertent arm brushes over the operating table were brought to almost painful acuteness by the two actors.  Eventually, Callie realizes she is something other than straight, but Hahn realizes that she had been gay her entire life, but never knew it. The show screwed up, though, when after Hahn and Callie’s relationship grows prematurely sour, Hahn leaves the hospital, never to return.  Critics cried homophobia, but I’m pretty sure that the networks thought that a pretty lesbian (Jessica Capshaw) was more palatable than a smart one, and that’s why Hahn got the ax.

--The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell episode. Darren is a soldier with a brain tumor and Todd is his “closest friend”. Todd has been called in for active duty in five days and Darren is upset about it.  Todd reassures him—with a passionate kiss—that he will never leave Darren's side.  Darren’s father walks in during that very moment and loses his cool on the two men.  Darren dies on the operating table, but Todd stands up to Darren’s father and forces him to acknowledge that he and his son were a couple. 

--The lesbian wedding.  After Hahn left the hospital, a perky, new pediatric surgeon, Dr. Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw) makes it known to Callie that she is there to pick up the pieces.  I love Arizona because she is such a non-stereotypical lesbian character—she rolls around the hospital on roller skates, she wears animal scrubs, she has long blonde hair. She is really girly, but has known that she was gay since she was a little kid.  TV and movies usually make lesbians like Arizona (read, traditionally pretty and feminine) in the dark about their sexuality and dating men until some BIG EVENT forces the truth into  their lives.  It’s refreshing to see a character so unencumbered by her sexuality. I don’t think that Callie and Arizona have as good of onscreen chemistry as did Callie and Dr. Erica Hahn, but then again, the show isn’t as good now as it was then, either. The wedding was very nice, and, surprisingly for Grey’s, kind of political. Shonda Rhimes, the show's creator, juxtaposed the non-recognized (although Washington state does have domestic partnerships) lesbian wedding that was months in the planning with a legal, gunshot heterosexual wedding that was thrown together in an afternoon. The portrayal of these two types of weddings seem to comment that there are multiple types of unions in the world, but heterosexuals have the luxury of getting married without all the difficulties (parents being upset, the world being confused, fighting for the rights) that homosexuals couples endure.  Thanks, Grey’s, for an effective, but not over-the-top commentary on gay marriage. 

 Sources and further reading:

http://www.afterelton.com/blog/danmccallum/don't-ask-don't-kiss-greys-anatomy-goes-gay-with-military-smooch

http://www.afterellen.com/blog/dorothysnarker/can-greys-anatomy-get-any-more-gay

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brooke_Smith_(actress)