“Queer characters that changed my life” is a series documenting LGBTQ-identified characters in media and what they mean to us.
When I was 10, I met Dr. Calliope Iphegenia Torres. She danced her way onto my screen during the second season of Grey’s Anatomy, and I hated her. She was loud, cocky and mean to characters I had already spent 2 years learning to love. She was everything that I, as a young girl, had been taught not to be. I stopped watching Grey’s Anatomy about a season later.
5 years later, I sat quietly at a computer around midnight and came out for the first time. I had met a friend on Tumblr through the Grey’s Anatomy fandom – the first out lesbian I had ever consciously spoken to – and was slowly coming to terms with my non-straight identity. In the weeks and months prior, I had started rewatching Grey’s Anatomy after the DVDs went on sale at my local Blockbuster. In season 4, Callie kisses her first girlfriend, Erica. Erica was a character that was bred to be hated by audiences and, in turn, made a lot of people angry with Callie. But, nonetheless, in 2007 Callie Torres climbed out of the closet and was one of the most notable bisexual characters television has ever seen.
Throughout her 10 seasons on Grey’s Anatomy, Callie Torres revolutionized what it meant to be queer in the 21st century. Despite her departure at the end of season 12, Callie holds the title for the longest running queer character in television history. She was daring, she was blunt and she was unabashedly every piece of herself at once.
When I came out, I lost almost every other piece of me. I grew up Jewish and was a competitive dancer, but at the time I couldn’t understand how I could be a queer, God-loving person and still fit into the world that I knew. And, at 15, that was all I wanted. I didn’t want to be strong, I wanted to be normal. But Callie Torres changed that for me. She taught me that I can be proud of whatever I am, and that I could kick ass as that person. I credit Callie for helping me recreate my life after I came out, and for helping me through some of my toughest days.
While there were many times that I didn’t agree with Callie’s choices, she never wavered on her pride or confidence and for that I am grateful. My appreciation for her character led me to befriend a group of older queer women on Tumblr who guided me through the most confusing and trying times of my coming out process. Without Callie, I wouldn’t have been able to confidently walk in the world as a queer person. But with her badass self in the back of my mind always cheering me on, I stand tall every day knowing that I am enough.