Rescue Me’s Unusual Coming-Out Scene


Tommy (Denis Leary)
Colleen (Natalie Distler)

Last week’s episode
of Rescue Me,
a new FX series about a group of New York City firefighters two years
after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, offered a most unusual —
and unexpected — coming-out scene.

In the series’ eighth episode (“Inches”), Firefighter Tommy (played by Denis
) is called over to his
ex-wife’s house after their teenage daughter Colleen (Natalie
) is suspended for making
out in the hallway at school. “That’s against the rules now?” Tommy
asks his wife Janet (played by Andrea
) in surprise, to which
Janet responds, “with her girlfriend!” Tommy is secretly thrilled,
telling Janet to “look on the bright side: lesbians are big business
right now. We teach her how to play golf, we’re way ahead of the game.”
But Janet is not amused, and tells Tommy to come over and talk to
Colleen, because “she won’t listen to me.”

What ensues is one of the oddest father-daughter conversations ever
seen on television, as Tommy enters Colleen’s bedroom where she is
sitting at her desk working on her computer:

TOMMY (sitting on the bed):
So your mom says…
COLLEEN (whirling around to face him): Dad, I have a girlfriend, okay?
What’s the big deal? You’re the one who always said not to judge people
by the color of their skin. Not to jump to conclusions about people.
How we could always come tell you anything and it would be okay,
because the one thing you wouldn’t put up with was us lying or being
dishonest, right?
TOMMY: Yeah.
COLLEEN: So I’m being honest, okay? (gets up and gestures passionately)
I have a girlfriend who I really, really, really
like and who is really, really smart. And we get in trouble for kissing
in the hallways when there are like kids having sex in the stairwells.
It’s a joke!
TOMMY (nodding): It’s a travesty.
COLLEEN (pauses): What?
TOMMY: It’s wrong.
COLLEEN (surprised): What, the me having a girlfriend thing, or the sex
in the hallways thing?
TOMMY: No, the whole injustice thing. They shouldn’t be, uh,
persecuting you.
COLLEEN (sitting down next to Tommy on the bed): Really?
TOMMY: Yeah, you should be free to be who you are. That’s why your
grandparents came to this country, so you could be a lesbian if you
wanted to be.
COLLEEN: They did?
TOMMY: Kinda…well…yeah.
COLLEEN: So you’re not mad?
TOMMY (hugging her): No, no, honey. Not at all.

“Well it’s official,” Tommy tells his wife after leaving Colleen’s
room. “She gone lesbo.” When Janet expresses alarm, Tommy assures her,
“I’m sure it’s just a phase, I mean didn’t you kiss a couple of girls
in high school?” “No, I didn’t.” “Oh, well that must have been wishful
thinking. Anyway, we better get stock in some k.d. lang albums.”

Tommy’s easy acceptance of his daughter’s lesbian relationship appears
to stem more from a dislike (and distrust) of men in general, and of
his daughter’s previous boyfriend (referred to as “that Murphy kid”) in
particular, than being a champion of lesbianism. But whatever his
motivation, his supportive reaction is a far cry from the negative
reaction most TV parents have to a child’s revelation that she’s
lesbian or bisexual.

From the hilarity of Tommy’s assertion that his ancestors came to
America “so you could be a lesbian” to his support (and even outright
glee) of his daughter’s lesbian relationship, this is a lesbian
storyline that defies expectations — just like the series

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