In 1992, Ryan Phillippe Played Daytime TV’s First Gay Teenager

“Kids who’d never seen themselves represented on TV or in movies would write to say what a huge support they found it to be.”

1. Gay teenage characters may be all over the place right now, but back in 1992 there were none:


2. Ryan Phillippe paved the way as he became the first gay teenage character on Daytime Soup TV:

3. Yes, that’s right. Ryan Phillippe:

Michael Loccisano / Getty Images

4. ABC’s One Life to Live introduced a new teenage character for a storyline exploring homophobia and coming out.

5. His name was Billy Douglas:

6. On the show, Ryan’s character had a boyfriend named Ricky:

7. When Billy came out to his parents his mother was pretty accepting…

8. … his father wasn’t so cool with it:

9. Ryan said of the role:

Me and the guy who played my boyfriend might’ve held hands once or twice, but that was it. The age of those characters had something to do it, but things also weren’t as liberal in 1992. Still, I felt lucky to play the first gay teenager on television —- not just daytime but television, period. What was so amazing about that for me was the response I got through fan letters that my mother and I would read together. Kids who’d never seen themselves represented on TV or in movies would write to say what a huge support they found it to be.

One kid said he’d considered suicide before seeing a character like him being accepted. I also heard from a father, a mechanic, who hadn’t spoken to his son since he came out. When our show came on in his shop, it gave him some insight and understanding as to who his son was, so it opened up communication between them.

10. For the time period, this new TV character was completely ground breaking:

11. Phillippe left One Life to Live in 1993. ABC announced the show’s cancellation in 2011.

Bryan Bedder / Getty Images

12. We love you Billy! Eh… Ryan.

13. Watch Billy come out to his parents:

14. Watch Billy talk about being gay with his friends:

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Sarah Karlan is the Deputy LGBT Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Sarah Karlan at
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