Walt Whitman comes to town for a poetry reading, as well as some spa treatments.
Some of the residents are a bit suspicious of Mr. Whitman's "frank" writings, but most people see this as a great cultural and (if the hotel spa is sucessful) business opportunity for the Colorado Springs community.
However, when locals learn of Walt Whitman's homosexuality, many find subtle ways to encourage him to leave town.
Space is no longer availiable in town for the poetry reading, all the hotels are suddenly fully booked and people talk amongst themselves about how those "nancy boys" are immoral, unnatural and possibly suffering from a sickness.
Dr. Quinn is initially quite shocked to learn that Walt Whitman is gay, and even worries about poet being alone with her son (who wants to interview the poet).
Her husband points out that Mr. Whitman is still the same person, and that in some Indian tribes, such "he-women" people are respected members of tribe.
Dr. Quinn is unsure how she feels about Whitman's sexuality, but dislikes seeing anyone being the target of prejudice.
She offers a room to Whitman and his male domestic partner (when no one else does), ensures that the poetry reading goes ahead (in a nice outside scene) and realises that Whitman would be a great teacher for young writers.
"The Body Electric" is a fairly acurate depiction of Walt Whitman, his writing, life experiences and, yes, his sexuality.
Walt Whitman was gay or bisexual, although he had to be somewhat discrete about it, in light of the laws and prevailing attitudes that existed at the time.
This episode does a pretty good job dealing with the likely prejudices that many of the locals would have, while also showing some more nuanced viewpoints.
At the time, scientific research into human sexuality was still in its early stages (and much of it was done in Europe).
At the time, efforts to change anti gay laws and social attitudes were also in their early stages (and also mostly happening in Europe).
The episode does acknowledge that several native Indian tribes have traditionally seen gay men as being respectable people representing a third gender.
Although, I suspect that Colorado Springs -as designed by the show - had gay residents.
Yes, they would have had to remain in the closet (or leave town), but its a bit silly to think that the only gay person in this town was just visiting.
The downside to this episode is that it does not show or tell you much about the regular characters that audiences didnt know or suspect based on past episodes.
The episode is mostly a celebration of Walt Whitman's poetry. Yes, he is probably of the best American poets.
It also acknowledges the poets sexuality (and longtime boyfriend) at a time (1990s) when it was still taboo to deal honestly with historical figure's sexuality (and the history of gay rights/anti-gay bias) .
Even today, literature and history lessons in many American schools prefer the "no gays" edition .