Rickie Vasquez, My So-Called Life (1994-1995)
Rickie Vasquez is among TV's most widely recognized gay characters. Portrayed by LGBT activist Wilson Cruz on ABC's My So-Called Life, Rickie's being gay was just a part of his character and was never used as a "plot point" -- which was a rarity if you look at the heavy, after-school-special '90s dramas around at the time. He wore eyeliner and preferred to hang out in the girls' bathroom. He had a crush on a straight male friend. He started off the series being introduced as "bi" but came out as gay on the final episode of the show.
Though his homosexuality was not used as a plot foil, in a series of episodes he was kicked out of the house by his uncle for being gay, and spent Christmas homeless. Also, he was often beat up by others in his school. He eventually moved in with his sympathetic gay English teacher, Mr. Katimski (Scandal's Jeff Perry). Rickie was not only groundbreaking for being among the few openly gay characters on television at the time, but also for being a queer youth of color.