“General Hospital” has a revolutionary queer storyline

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Over the last three months, General Hospital has developed a drawn out storyline for the character Kristina Davis (played by Lexi Ainsworth) that had her keeping a secret from her mother, father and sisters. Kristina was suspended in her first year at Wesleyan because she offered her professor sex in order to get a passing grade. The surprise factor came when it was revealed that Professor Parker Forsyth, is a woman.

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What’s interesting about this specific soap story is that it isn’t one of illicit romance, nor of a predatory lesbian teacher, as we’ve seen too many times before. Instead, Kristina is trying to figure out her sexual identity based on her feelings for her married professor, who turned her into the ethics committee so she wouldn’t be in danger of losing her job. Parker (Ashley Jones) is genuinely concerned for Kristina, and while there is a companionship and a flirtation between the two, Parker is forthright that nothing can happen between them, which is frustrating and sad for Kristina, who doesn’t understand how she can have feelings like this for a woman and not be able to act on them.

When Kristina finally comes out to her sisters about Parker, she blushes and says things like, “Hot doesn’t even begin to describe it. Beguiling, captivating, with these eyes that just brand you.” Her infatuation with Parker has taken over her life, and now she’s homeless and lying to her parents until they find out she’s not in school. (Kristina’s sisters Molly and Sam were helping her and keeping her secrets, both of them also trying to offer advice on owning her sexuality.)

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Luckily, Kristina’s step-sister’s Sam’s brother Lucas is out and proud, and she is able to ask him and his boyfriend, Brad, for help, too, although she poses it as asking for a friend who “thought they were straight, but then this thing happened, and now they’re not so sure.” Like her sisters, they tell her coming out can be difficult, but ultimately “leads to a happier life.” They tell her sexuality is a spectrum, and in these conversations Kristina has, labels like sexually fluid, bisexual and polysexual all arise. There’s even a moment where she’s writing in her diary about Rowan Blanchard coming out, and Kristina is so flummoxed by how Rowan can be sure she’s queer when she’s only 14, and Kristina herself is in college, struggling to figure out what her feelings for Parker mean. 

“I don’t judge you for having a mad crush on a woman,” Molly says to Kristina.

“It’s not just a mad crush,” Kristina says. “Parker is amazing.” She notes that she knows and loves plenty of gay people: “But when it’s you, it just feels different. Like if I’m really bi, can you imagine what dad would say? Or even our super progressive mother?”

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Molly says she thinks their mother would love her anyway; that there are plenty of out bisexual people in the world, namechecking Lady Gaga and Billie Jo Armstrong of Green Day. This certainly has to be a first on American soap operas.

Coming out to her parents are stalled by some dramatic happenings in their own lives, from a hostage situation at a wedding to a court case. (You know, typical soap stuff!) But when the drama settles, her mom and dad want to know what’s going on with her. Finally, it comes out that Kristina has been suspended for coming on to a teacher, but they assume it must have been a man, despite the fact Kristina’s mom had met Parker once when she stopped by the house. (Heteronormativity FTW!)

When Kristina’s dad decides to send someone up to the school to poke around and find out more about Kristina’s incident, she begs him to stop and let her handle her own life. He agrees and praises her for being such a good person. Then who shows up at her door? Parker.

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Parker heard someone was on campus asking about her, and she wants to make sure Kristina is OK. Kristina doesn’t know why Parker keeps coming to her house to see her if she won’t let anything happen between them. Parker says she’s flattered, but that Kristina probably had feelings for other women before, she just saw Parker as “safe.”

“How are you safe!?” Kristina asks.

Parker argues that her unavailability—being married, her professor—made her a safe way to let “feelings surface.” The forbidden nature of the relationship was, in essence, a way for Kristina to carefully tread in the wading pool of the lady pond. Kristina kisses Parker, and while it lasts a few seconds longer than Parker should let it, she ultimately tells Kristina nothing can happen between them, but she wants to be there for her should she need someone to talk about things with. She’s been through something similar before, and she’s not even saying Kristina needs to come out to her parents, but she should just see her sexuality as one part of who she is as a woman; a special woman. Kristina rejects Parker’s calling her “special”; it just makes it harder on her to hear that there’s no chance they can be together.

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Even though Parker is gone (for now!), Kristina is still a major part of General Hospital, and she has yet to come out to her parents, which spoilers indicate this will be a continuing storyline. Even though there have been similar coming out stories on soaps before (such as on All My ChildrenBold & the Beautiful and Guiding Light), a regular lesbian or bisexual character is still somewhat revolutionary. Recently, SoapShows.com polled readers to ask if they liked the Kristina/Parker storyline and 42% said no, offering they would prefer Kristina to be involved with someone her own age. In another poll, some fans said they didn’t believe Kristina would be interested in a woman because she’s “been with so many men in the past.”

But Lexi Ainsworth herself is thrilled to be portraying this kind of role, which is still all too rare on daytime TV.

“I definitely think it’s an honor to be trusted with a storyline like this, especially because [executive producer] Frank [Valentini] and I haven’t worked together for very long,” she said. I’m so thankful that he’s been so trusting in my ability to contribute to the storyline the right way. General Hospital has always been so great about touching in subjects like this–socially relevant subjects and this is a huge one. Everyone is talking right now about how sexuality is fluid, and there are so many people who have come out and said that they’re not just attracted to one sex. They’re attracted to who they’re attracted to, whether it be man, woman, or transgender.”

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We’ll keep watching and let you know what happens for Kristina and her self-discovery. The respectful nature in which they handle the same-sex teacher/student storyline has been pretty fantastic so far, and here’s hoping it continues as such. 

General Hospital airs weekdays on ABC.

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