Friday, August 09, 2013

OBITUARY: Sean (from MTV's The Real World) Is Dead

Remember Sean from MTV's The Real World? His full name is Sean Sasser and he was Pedro Zamora's boyfriend in the show and in real life. Pedro was the first HIV-positive person very many Americans got to know through his appearance on the hit MTV reality series in the mid-1990s. (They appeared in the 3rd season of the show, the one set in San Francisco in 1994). Zamora died the day after the last episode of the show in which he appeared aired, and he and Sasser held a commitment ceremony on the show which was broadcast on MTV. Even though same-sex marriage was legal nowhere in the world at the time, the desire and need for governmental recognition of same-sex couples' relationships was made very clear by the event to many of those who saw the episode.

According to Joe.My.God and other press reports, Sean Sasser died of cancer-related causes this week at age 44. Sasser and Zamora were one of the first gay and HIV-positive couples to appear on television and had an impact on how countless Americans viewed these marginalized groups.

The Root analyzes the impact of Sasser's life:
But the time when discrimination based on sexual orientation and HIV status was the national norm was not so long ago: Such bias was alive and well 19 years ago, when the third season of MTV's The Real World: San Francisco introduced a gay couple, both of whom were HIV positive.  
One half of that couple was Sean Sasser, who became engaged to Pedro Zamora, a Real World cast member, during the show's run. Sasser, who was black, and Zamora, who was Hispanic, became one of the first high-profile gay and HIV-positive couples -- and one of the first gay power couples of color -- represented in mainstream media. Their presence on the show sparked powerful discussions and debate on HIV awareness and education, same-sex marriage and a host of other issues that are regular parts of the national discourse today but were not in 1994. 
When I was growing up in a conservative part of Texas, Sasser and Zamora represented my first exposure to seeing a gay couple living their lives just like everybody else. I know I'm not the only one. Watching them strive to build a life together is one of my earliest memories of beginning to contemplate the idea that same-sex couples would want the same things that most couples do.
It's great to see another appreciation of that season of the The Real World: San Francisco and to see the names Pedro and Sean again.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God.

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