On Saturday August 27th, Conrad Ricamora was presented with the Human Rights Campaign’s Visibility Award at the Cleveland Gala. As a staff member at the LGBT Center of one of the nearby universities, I got to be in the audience as this was happening.
Ricamora is well known for his work as Oliver, the off and on again boyfriend of Connor in How to Get Away with Murder. Originally he appeared as Connor’s love interest and eventual accomplice in helping Annalise represent her clients.
Oliver is now a well-loved and inspiring openly gay and HIV positive character.
Due to his popularity, Ricamora is now a series regular on the show, which means we’ll get to see a lot more of him! He’s also been on Broadway and was Lun Tha in The King and I. HRC provided a pretty comprehensive look at his career especially with his work in raising awareness about HIV and AIDS before his speech.
What makes this visibility award so important, isn’t just that Oliver and Connor had gay sex on primetime TV. It is the continued dedication Ricamora has shown in speaking out about his experience as a gay man and on behalf of people who are living with HIV.
Assumedly everyone here at FF knows why representation is so important. From research that discusses the issues with how all women are portrayed in the media (like Miss Representation) to the work that GLAAD has done in counting just how many of the characters we see are LGBTQ, we know that media representation has a huge impact on how we view other people unlike us.
Having a character like Oliver who started as Connor’s love interest but has grown into a character just as important as the Keating 5, with his own character arc, interests, hopes, and flaws on a primetime show on one of the most successful nights for ABC, is pretty damn awesome.
In fact, Oliver’s arc and the resulting look at Connor starting pre-exposure prophylaxis was the first time PrEP had been on primetime TV as well. My first article for Fandom Following was actually about the episode clip shown at the gala.
Ricamora is not the first gay man on television, but his place in our current media as an openly gay Asian man is indicative of how far we’ve come, and how far we can go. I for one am pretty excited to see what he does next.