300 episodes: As of this very day, that’s how long Grey’s Anatomy has been on air. This evening, the show will join a very small and exclusive club. It will also become the first female produced and lead television show to hold such an honor.
During its time on air Grey’s has given its queer female audience more than a few memories. There have been three queer women regulars on Grey’s Anatomy; Callie, Arizona, and for two seasons in the middle, Leah. The show also produced four queer women reoccurring characters; Penny, Eliza, Carina and Erica. That’s seven women who helped open some minds and make a more realistic representation of the world. Taken together, they make up the largest cohort of its kind in network television history. Grey’s Anatomy also gave us the largest and most celebrated gay wedding on a network television drama to date, and the most heart-wrenching lesbian divorce this side of Bette and Tina. Not to even mention, of course, the longest running queer character on network television!
Sometimes, simply being there in the long haul matters. It counts. Even when it gets boring and overlooked because you always know you can depend on it. Come Thursday, you can always get your fix. There are always another episode waiting for you in your Netflix queue. Grey’s has been that comfort blanket for a lot of us. I want to hightlight that familiarity and say: thank you.
There’s a lot to celebrate! Let’s take a little winding trip down memory lane. Indulge in a little nostalgia, if you will. Without further adeu, here are my Completely Un-Scientific Ranking of Grey’s Anatomy’s 30 Greatest Gay and Trans Moments over the last 300 hours of our lives together:
30. Penny existed. And no, I’m still not ready to talk about it. (Season 12)
Oh “Perfect Penny”.
I am sure that there are some Penny Blake fans out there. I am not here to rain on your parade. She made the list, okay?? That’s what I have to give her. Plus, let’s look at it like this: Callie moving herself and Sofia cross-country, stalling her career and isolating herself from her friends in the process, over a woman she’s been dating for just a few months, is essentially U-Hauling on steroids.
29. “You Can’t be Kind of a Lesbian” (Episode 5.07 “Rise Up”)
I’m not going to say that this type of biphobia doesn’t exist within queer women’s communities. It does.That why I’m including it in the list.
But man, this hurts.
28. Callie Dancing in her Underwear, Part 1 (Episode 3.02 “I Am A Tree”) and Part 2 (Episode 10.5 “I Bet It Stung”)
Oh wait… there’s more…
Sexy? YES! Specifically gay? If we are counting my feelings watching these scenes, then also Yes.
27. This Quiet, Subtle Moment from the Sweetest Old Lesbian Couple (Episode 7.05 “Almost Grown”)
Joanne: A trainee? Cutting into Ellie’s brain? No.
Derek: I know it sounds like a leap, but these doctors study and assist for years. At some point, we have to let them operate. It’s how we make new surgeons.
Joanne: Let them learn on someone else.
Ellie: Who? Someone who’s too scared to interrogate the doctors? They have to learn on someone, might as well be an old lady.
Joanne: You’re my old lady. This should be my call.
Ellie: You’re a teacher, Joanne. Let the kids learn.
Joanne: [to Derek] She’s my life. She has been my life for 40 years. Do you hear me?
Cue the waterworks. I know that for a lot of people, this less than a minute of dialogue will barely register as a blip. But whenever I see this scene, my heart leaps. Ellie has been Joanne’s entire world for 40 years, and no one bats an eye.These are the type of small moments of recognition that I wish were normalized across all of television.
26. This Young Trans Couple Came to Wreck Your Hearts (Episode 9.14 “The Face of Change”)
Brian and Jess first met at a transgender support group in Seattle. Jess was taken away by Brian from the first moment she saw him, but never thought he’d notice her. Brian tells her that would’ve been impossible. Today is Brian’s top surgery; he’s been saving up forever for it. Brian’s father shows up at the last minute. He becomes violent, misgendering his son and blaming Jess for things that are nobody’s fault. Because there is no “fault” in being trans, it’s natural as breathing air.
Jess remains firm, she will be there for Brian throughout his surgery. She’s his family now. Brian comes through just fine, and his father isn’t there when he wakes up, but Jess is. She’s still holding his hand. She never left.
25. Arizona’s Brother Tim Couldn’t Wait To Dance So Hard At Her Wedding (Episode 7.20 “White Wedding”)
But he died serving in the army. He didn’t get to live to see it. I’m not crying! You’re crying!
24. Callie Worries that She’s “Not a Good Enough” Lesbian (Episode 7.05 “Almost Grown”)
Callie: She’s a much better lesbian. I mean, I was sort of a late bloomer in that area, but she’s got this whole circle of lesbian friends, you know? It’s just like, like this subculture. And, uh, I’m always just… I’m always just a little bit left out, Just a little bit talked down to because I have a long history of enjoying sex with men, which I don’t think is something I have to apologize for.
You are damn right that you have nothing to apologize for. You are doing great, sweetie!
23. Leah “I’m All About that Kinsey Scale Life, Yo!” Murphy (Episode 10.06 “Map of You”)
May we all be lucky enough to slide over to Arizona’s way one day.
24. Callie Torres Just Wants to Have Pizza and Beer in Bed with Her Wife, OK? And Have Lots and Lots of Sex. (Episode 8.06 “Poker Face”)
Listen, I’m not saying that this scene started a lot of my personal fantasies and taught me some things about myself. But I’m also not not saying it, if you know what I mean.
23. Dr. Webber is the World’s Greatest Wingman, We Should Have Known it All Along (Episode 12.07 “Something Against You”)
20. Rosalind Warren Makes Her Debut (Episode 11.02 “The Great Pretender”)
This episode is somewhat of a mixed bag. On the positive side of things, we are introduced to a trans character directly related to a series regular, Dr. Ben Warren. We also get to watch Dr. Miranda Bailey model good allyship and demonstrate best practices of how to cope with a family member’s coming out. That’s incredibly important to have on one of the most watched nights of television.
On the other hand, Rosalind is played by a cis male actor, which only furthers the malicious and incorrect stereotype that trans women aren’t really “women”. Also, after this episode Rosalind isn’t mentioned again until SEASON 14! There was so much potential for Rosalind’s future on the show, but Grey’s didn’t commit to making the jump.
19. Calzona Shower Sex (episode 6.11 “Blink”)
Need I say more?
18. Callie Runs from her Queerness, Declares She’s a “Huge Fan of Penis” (Episode 4.13 “Piece of My Heart”)
Sometimes it takes our best friends to help us see ourselves clearly. Addison certainly was that person for Callie, asking “Do you speak the Vagina Monologues now?”
And sometimes, when we see ourselves for the first real time, we run as fast as we can in the opposite direction. It happens. This is a judgement free zone.
17. Eliza Minnick has game. Arizona Robbins has better game. (Episode 13.09 “You Haven’t Done Nothin”)
Point. Set. Match.
16. Callie Needs Rules for “Exploring the Motherland” (Episode 5.04 “Brave New World”)
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaawkard. The most awkward first date I have ever seen. Which also means it’s also the most realistic first date I’ve ever seen.
15. Alexandra Billings is Brilliant in Every Role She Takes On, Her Episode of Grey’s Anatomy is No Different (Episode 3.07 “Where the Boys Are”)
Donna (Alexandra Billings) and her wife Vicky are in for Donna’s gender affirmation surgery. Donna’s pre-op labs show that she has breast cancer. Her hormones are essentially feeding the tumor. If she continues with the treatment she will most certainly die.
Donna continues with the surgery anyway. She would rather die as herself than live another moment as somebody else. Vicky worries, and almost leaves, but ultimately returns to her side. Where was she going to go, she wonders. Donna is her very best friend.
14. Grey’s tackles “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (Episode 4.14 “The Becoming”)
Todd and Darren share a love that dare not speak its name.
Yes, “soldiers in love” is trite and cliché. But I dare you to watch this and not cry. I DARE YOU.
13. Seriously, Everything About Dr. Carina DeLuca (Season 14)
I cannot believe that in its 14th season, Grey’s Anatomy is still bestowing us with such gifts. The show is arguably bolder, funnier, and more feminist than it ever was before (and that’s saying a lot!). No character demonstrates that narrative growth better than Dr.
12. Arizona Robbins is the Shane McCutcheon of Grey Sloan Memorial (Episode 8.18 “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”)
Arizona: Her. And Her. Hmm, and her? Over by the soda machine? Yeah, twice.
Callie: Ok, that’s Noelle. She’s not even gay.
Arizona: Well, she was that night.
WELL. SHE. WAS. THAT. NIGHT.
11. L-E-G-E-N-D-A-R-Y (Episode 12.01 “Sledgehammer”)
Being a Shane sometimes has its own drawbacks, ya know?
10. Wilson Cruz Visits to Fight the Good Fight Against DOMA (Episode 7.12 “Start Me Up”)
Kyle: This was supposed to be the best day of our lives. You think I’m silly, I know. With the horses and the bagpipes. So does he. We don’t get marriage in Washington. We get domestic partnerships. We get to go to city hall, stand in line, and sign some papers. So call me crazy, but I just wanted the big day that everybody else gets.
And I fought for it. I organized rallies. I stood in the cold outside the statehouse. I had some neanderthal throw hot coffee on me. I fought for a wedding. And waited. And they still said no.
So when we got tired of waiting, and Brady and I went to go sign the papers, I wanted it to be special. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me. And I wanted it to feel like that, not like some trip to the DMV. I wanted it to be special.
9. Leah Murphy Turns Out to be a Category 10 Clinger (Season 10)
Some of you will argue with this being ranked so high, but if Leah’s 0-100 approach to love isn’t the gayest thing you’ve seen on television, I truly don’t know what is.
8. Calzona’s First “I Love You” (Episode 6.08 “Invest in Love”)
It was quiet, shy even. It played over the closing credits. Nevertheless, it was an “I love you” heard ‘round the world.
7. Arizona Robbins: Lesbian-ic. (episode 12.12 “My Next Life”)
You can see her gayness from space.
6. The B in There Doesn’t Just Stand for Badass! (Episode 11.05 “Bend and Break”)
Bisexual Badass Callie Torres, played by actual Bisexual Badass Sara Ramirez. Bless.
5. This Little Ball of Perfection Right Here. (Episode 12.16 “When It Hurts So Bad”)
Sofia Robbin Sloan Torres. For the record.
4. “You Can’t Pray Away the Gay!” (Episode 6.05 “Invasion”)
Mr. Torres: Leviticus: Thou shall not lie with a man as one lies with a female, it is an abomination
Callie: Oh, don’t do that daddy! Don’t quote the bible at me!
Mr. Torres: The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and the sin is exceedingly grave.
Callie: Jesus: A new commandment that I give unto you, that you love one another.
Mr. Torres: Romans: but we know that laws–
Callie: Jesus: he, who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone…
Mr. Torres: So you admit it’s a sin?
Callie: Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy! Jesus: blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God! Jesus: blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven! Jesus is my savior daddy, not you! And Jesus would be ashamed of you for judging me! He would be ashamed of you for turning your back on me. He would be ashamed.
… Is there a more classic moment in all of Grey’s Anatomy history?
I think not.
3. The Entirety of Episode 12.01 “Sledgehammer.” Yes, really. The entire episode.
I wish that I could quote all 43 minutes of this episode to you directly. It’s an absolute love letter to the young queer women who have been such a backbone of the Grey’s Anatomy fandom.
Jess and Alia are high school girlfriends in love. They arrive at Grey Sloan Memorial after a mutual suicide attempt, and it’s gut wrenching from the very first moment you see them. Jess thinks that dying is the only way they will be able to stay together (I really wish that Romeo and Juliet came with trigger warnings for young readers). The girls are bullied at school, Alia is afraid to come out to her Muslim father, and Jess’ right-wing parents are sending her to a Gay Conversion Camp. It’s awful and bleak.
But, Callie sits with Jess and rubs her head. She tells her that she’s bisexual. That it will get better one day. Oh, and then Maggie punches out Jess’ homophobic mom! Arizona cheers her on, of course. And then Alia’s father turns out to be the warmest teddy bear who loves his daughter and only wants her happiness! And then Jess and Alia get a happy ending of sorts!
You will cry everyone of your gay feelings into a popcorn bowl until snot is sniveling down your nose and your eyes are red and puffy.
Just… do yourself the favor of firing up your Netflix queue and re-watching this one.
2. Callie and Arizona’s Wedding (Episode 7.20 “White Wedding”)
The only one of its kind in all of network television.
1. “You Are Glasses” (Episode 5.06 “Life During Wartime”)
No explanation needed. Ten years later, and many a queer woman can still quote this monologue directly from memory. Let’s do it one more time, together, for old time’s sake:
Erica: When I was a kid, I would get these headaches, and I went to the doctor, and they said that I needed glasses. I get the glasses, and I put them on, and I’m in the car on the way home, and suddenly I yell. Because the big green blobs that I had been staring at my whole life, they weren’t big green blobs. They were leaves on trees. And I didn’t even know I was missing the leaves. I didn’t even know that leaves existed, and then…leaves! You, [Callie Torres] are glasses.
Did I miss any of your favorites? I’m sure I did! I’m sorry in advance. (You’ll notice that I skipped a lot of seasons 9-12, or as I like to call them Calzona: The Dark Years). Do you disagree with my completely made up ratings system? I look forward to hearing you passionately tell me your thoughts in the comment section!
Happy 300th, Grey’s Anatomy. You’ve had your ups and you’ve had your downs, but through it all you have been steadfast. You’ve been there. And for that, we thank you.