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Why a Grey's Anatomy Character Meant the World to Me 

Why a Grey's Anatomy Character Meant the World to Me 

jessica capshaw

The departure of "Arizona" has left some fans bereft, especially the LGBTQ people she helped inspire. 

Last week it was announced that Grey's Anatomy would be writing two characters, Arizona Robbins and April Kepner, out of the coming season. When the news broke, many longtime fans of the show were heartbroken and furious because both characters put a face on underrepresented communities, as Arizona was queer and April was a devout Christian whose principles evolved. For many on Twitter, the loss of Arizona and April felt personal, and some began writing about other characters they'd prefer to see written out of the show.

The only series I watched religiously from August 2015 to August 2016 was Grey's Anatomy. I had heard so many rave reviews from my friends over the years, and once I moved into my freshman dorm, the time that I had used to work, cook, and commute became free time, most of which I spent catching up on Shonda Rhimes's long-running medical drama. When I reached the fifth season, around November of 2015, the series introduced me to Arizona, played by Jessica Capshaw. Arizona was intelligent, beautiful, and a lesbian.

Arizona quickly became one of my favorite characters on the show. Her generosity in taking long-running character Dr. Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) under her wing to help him discover his love for pediatrics is still one of my favorite storylines ouf of the show's entire 14 seasons. Through a plane crash, unexpected children, divorce, and loss, Arizona was undeniably herself -- a beacon of light for the LGBTQ+ community. She never apologized for her sexuality or who she was, inside and outside of the hospital. Her relationship with Callie (Sara Ramirez), another character who helped further visibility for LGBT people as one of prime-time TV's first bisexual characters, not only helped me come to terms with my own bisexuality but aided me in becoming less apologetic for who I was.

Arizona and Callie's relationship came to me at a time when I was figuring out who I was. I was a freshman in college, had recently broken up with a long-term boyfriend, and was just starting to truly explore my sexuality in 2015 (around the time Arizona was introduced on Grey's). Around the time Callie began falling for Arizona on the show, I entered my first relationship with a woman who almost exclusively dated women. We watched Grey's together, and "Calzona" was our favorite part of the show. Their relationship, without my realizing it, helped me through my first queer experience. The love and understanding Arizona showed Callie made me think harder about whether I would receive that same acceptance from my family and friends.

In December of 2015, I came out to my mom; the following April, I came out to everyone else. In hindsight, I think that Arizona and Callie's partnership was more than just a TV relationship to me. Arizona's understanding of Callie's bisexuality, after Erica (Callie's previous partner) had written it off by saying someone cannot be "half-gay," gave me a sense of belonging and acceptance, whether I realized it then or not. Watching Arizona embrace Callie and watching their subsequent relationship through good times and turmoil not only helped me but it provided positive representation of queer women for numerous other women coming to terms with their sexuality too.

Arizona was about the only lesbian character on prime-time when she made her debut on Grey's. She was smiling and bright, and she entered her first scene wearing a pair of Heely's (shoes with built-in roller skates) with her unending passion for helping the "tiny humans," as she referred to kids. She inspired Grey's fans to push beyond their preconceived limitations, to be more than what they think they may be, and to love deeper, without prejudice. Before watching Grey's, I knew how important representation was in the media. What I did not realize, until I was introduced to Arizona, was how important the representation of a queer blond girl would be to me.

While I could make this article a piece on why I believe there are better characters to write off, I don't think Arizona, with her inherent generosity, would be so appreciative of that negativity. So, thank you to Jessica Capshaw for playing the character so beautifully. Thank you to Rhimes for creating such an exemplarary character. And thank you to Arizona for being my and several others' favorite character throughout 14 seasons of Grey's. Thank you for always being "a good man in a storm," as she once referred to herself.

MICHAYLAH KIMBLER is an editorial intern with The Advocate.

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