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Answer of the Day: Shonda Rhimes on Why She Has Many Gay Characters on Her Shows

by Melissa Silverstein
December 11, 2012 1:30 PM
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Shonda Rhimes got asked this question from a clearly idiotic viewer and being Shonda Rhimes she took the opportunity to use the question to answer a much larger societal question.

Question: love your shows but why all the gay and lesbian story lines?

Answer: Because I believe everyone should get to see themselves reflected on TV. EVERYONE. And because I love all my gay and lesbian friends. AND because I think same-sex marriage is the civil rights fight of our era and back when being a person of color was the civil rights fight, people like Norman Lear put black people on TV and helped change some minds. So you know, it's gotta be paid forward. As long as we are willing to sit by while one person is not free, none of us are free.

And FINALLY: because as long as someone feels like it is okay to ask the question "why all the gay people on your shows", then there is still a HUGE problem that needs to be solved. It's like asking "Why all the black people on your shows". (Which is, in fact, why there are also a lot of people of color on my shows . Cause people keep asking. Like it's unusual. Which means we have a LONG way to go). Okay, done preaching.

Keep on preaching Shonda.  We are so with you.

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  • fedupgirl | June 1, 2013 11:05 PMReply

    @LoJONES, love it, thank you for clearing things up. As a woman of color I find it sickening that Ms. Rhimes thinks the rest of us are stupid. I followed her career and shows that she has on television and the truth is, you are correct, not until the "scandal" with Grey's anatomy did she all of a sudden find the "gay way" to be her way. smh. Just admit you screwed up and move on. thanks for the insightful and blunt look into the obvious lie she is selling america regarding her sudden love and appreciation for the homosexuals. ... then she tried to add insult to injury by comparing it to the black struggle be it truthful or not, her reasons for doing it is not for the love of gays but for the fear of getting cancelled!

  • Lojones | February 8, 2013 10:02 PMReply

    With regards to the answer Shonda Rhimes gave, it is anything but honest. In fact - it's not even close to the truth. I have every single episode of Grey's Anatomy saved. In the beginning seasons of that show, homosexual characters were as about as absent from view as they are in any other cross section of the population. The first gay character turned out to be Joe the Bartender, but even he wasn't turned into a gay character until many storylines had passed and the show long established. There were no gay doctors. There were no gay nurses. In short - Ms. Rhimes treated the subject of homosexuality as a barely recognized afterthought. This went on long into the establishment of this series. This show had absolutely NO SIGNS that pushing homosexuality into the show at every single opportunity was this woman's chief goal, and it certainly didn't demonstrate any deep rooted concerns she supposedly had for any of her "gay friends".

    What caused this to change?

    TR Knightly was publicly outed and berated by co-star Isaiah Washington, and when Knightly was going to come out afterwards and admit to his sexuality - he claimed that Rhimes begged him not to. She denied that of course, but Shonda was so concerned about a genuinely gay actor on her staff who played the shows most lovable character that she had no problem giving his character George less and less screen time per episode until he up and decided to walk away from the show. A $14 million dollar contract wasn't enough to get him to suck it up and take the abuse - and gay activists came out in droves and gave Rhimes an earful.

    Suddenly - homosexually and its issues start appearing on virtually every episode. Gay doctors materialize out of nowhere. When one leaves, another comes in to take their place. Gay patients come in every episode, and now she even has cross-dressers and transvestites coming in. But the biggest insult was when Rhimes had Dr. Torres, who up to that moment had demonstrated nothing but interest in men, having relationships with men and only having sex with men...go full lesbian virtually overnight. How does that play to the crowd that says homosexuality is a choice? Great job, Rhimes, another stereotype - just what gays wanted.

    For Rhimes to pretend to act oblivious to the question - shucking and jiving about how no one should be looking funny at the sudden and nauseatingly over-the-top pushing of homosexuality into every topic of every episode (as if she had always done it from the start) makes her a straight up fraud, and she knows it. The question she was asked was a relevant, good question and one I had been asking myself for the past few seasons. Shonda Rhimes is suffering from an extreme case of homosexual Stockholm Syndrome and needs to stop pandering to make up for her callous treatment of a tremendously talented gay actor who called her out on her shoddy treatment of him.

  • BNow | January 7, 2013 2:18 PMReply

    @Tannie- You are one of the most ignorant people I have read a quote from in this new year. I encourage you to read up on the Stonewall Riots and educate yourself on the subject you so freely speak about. If after learning all the history that is available and you still feel this way, then there are deeper concerns for who you are as a person and your beliefs and understandings of the true meanings of the Civil Rights era.

  • Debbie | January 3, 2013 2:34 AMReply

    W@Tannie; I have a few questions for you. Why do you feel it's necessary to ask this question? Is it in response to something other than what was written in the article above? And what in this article has you so appalled?? Because, from what I read Shonda was simply saying that just as there was a need for black people back in the day to have options to see themselves and be seen on tv with positive story-lines (I know I wanted and needed it as a black child), people who are gay have that need as well.

    So unless I've jumped to conclusions and you are actually responding to someone else's response, why are you responding to her one comparison in this article by bring up the whole "black is a no-choice race issue while gay may or may not be a choice for some" argument? What's with the whole human rights only refers to "us" or should never be compared in any way to ours, even when a conversation only touches on a small area that actually Does compare?? All individual human rights issues differ some. You definitely have a right to your opinion. But, your "who had it worst, we had it bad so don't every talk to me about yours" mentality is sad. Why not find time to really learn about other peoples trials and tribulations besides your own. We are not the only people who have been repressed and had to fight for rights and more. Education can make you a better person.
    In the meantime, I applaud Shonda Rhimes for her great answer. And for caring about others and doing something positive with her writing.

  • Tannie | December 31, 2012 11:42 PMReply

    Read my statement below and somebody please answer this question; intelligently: "what inhumane Rights gays do not have that compares to black people getting hosed down, lynched burned and beat upon?"

  • Eileen | January 1, 2013 12:24 PM

    For starters, look up the name Matthew Shepard.

  • Tannie | December 31, 2012 11:26 PMReply

    Black people didn't choose to be Black!!!! Gays choose to be gay. It's a "lifestyle". So being a black woman, I cannot compare the civil rights of the 60s to someone fighting for something you can already do . Gays can live with each other, get any job they want, even get their partner added to their medical insurance. They are not told to sit to thd back of the bus, or wait by a dumpster in te back of a restaurant for a meal, or have signs over restrooms that specify whether they can use it or not!!! I am. appauled when those comparisons are used. It's sad.and a slap in the FACE of what was truly fought for!!!

  • KIM | May 10, 2013 7:36 AM

    Please. Slavery, JimCrow, Segregation was a systematic denial to blacks by their own country. Matthew Shephered is not an the league of black who was systematically murdered and denied rights. of live!!!

  • Debbie | January 3, 2013 3:10 AM

    Please see my response above under Debbie - @Tannie.

  • Ms. Noxema Jackson | January 2, 2013 1:46 PM

    I bet you were the brightest in your class weren't you?

  • D | January 2, 2013 1:23 PM

    You have a BLESSED day, Tannie.

  • GSJ007 | January 2, 2013 12:41 PM

    Clearly, you are igonorant of the struggles of gays. But even so, you are in no position to determine who is eligible for civil rights. Civil rights is something that everyone should be entitled to. You are no different from those in the past who thought being black was inferior. Furthermore, being gay is no more a choice than being straight. Don't believe everything you hear.

  • Eileen | January 1, 2013 12:23 PM

    You could probably use a history lesson in the struggles of gay people and their oppression and a lesson in just being a decent human being with even the slightest bit of empathy. So that's my wish for you in the New Year!

  • Mzpeaches | December 25, 2012 5:14 PMReply

    Thank you for standing up for what you believe

  • Mad | December 23, 2012 11:11 PMReply

    probably the ONLY redeeming quality about her shows...and that they are racially diverse but that's pretty much it.

  • freedom | December 15, 2012 10:17 PMReply

    asking someone to understand your view while showing total ignorance towards their beliefs seems hypocritical. civil rights are not contingent on whether you agree or not . having different ideas about something doesn't make anyone a idiot. accepting. is the seed of acceptance. having the right to be who you are without any opposition whatsover. is a true freedom that in reality doesnt. exist 100% for anyone.

  • Pattie | December 13, 2012 12:14 AMReply

    Thank you for speaking out for ALL civil/human rights. Thank you for having guests that mirror real life. I'm not black, I'm not gay, but everyone should be able to live their own life and everyone should have a voice.

  • clm | December 12, 2012 1:22 AMReply


  • clm | December 12, 2012 1:22 AMReply


  • Tyesha Barr | December 11, 2012 10:45 PMReply

    Shonda, I agree with you 100%. I am a lesbian and I'm so tired of the world dis owning us because of what we like. People don't understand that they are taking away our rights because of their opinion about us. I feel if GOD doesn't judge us, how can man do it? People are saying you are an idiot when they are the real idiots. At the end of the day, GOD WILL JUDGE EVERYONE THE SAME WAY THEY JUDGED OTHER PEOPLE!

  • People are ignorant | April 24, 2014 7:46 PM

    How do you know God doesn't judge you?

  • eclesio1 | December 11, 2012 9:04 PMReply

    Why is the viewer idiotic for asking that question I think you are a idiot for being mad at her opinion and you fools stop putting gay rights on the same level as civil rights in case you don't know racism still exist no one has to love gays because society says so. besides shonda rhimes aint CHRIST. Use to love that show, but never watching it again you are the real idiots blind fools your answer should have been different instead of defending gays

  • loca | February 1, 2013 5:53 PM

    an idiot. Not a idiot. Isn't or is not. Not aint. We all have a freedom of speech

  • lmg | December 12, 2012 2:05 PM rights ARE civil rights!

  • Deinara | December 12, 2012 1:19 PM


  • Jennifer | December 11, 2012 9:53 PM

    So let me get this right: you're stating that shonda is an idiot for getting upset over the viewer's opinion. However, you're insulting Shonda for defending gays. She is voicing her own opinion. So would that make you an idiot for becoming upset over shonda's opinion?

  • Senya | December 11, 2012 7:27 PMReply

    It because they are very nice

  • Kenya | December 11, 2012 7:25 PMReply

    Great answer!
    Great shows!
    <3 Shonda Rhimes

  • Charla | December 11, 2012 7:25 PMReply

    Very well spoken! Thank you Shonda Rhimes for not being afraid to tell REAL life stories.

  • KIM | December 11, 2012 3:49 PMReply


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