Zamora and Sasser were a young same sex couple in the 1990s, both living with HIV. Zamora had full blown AIDS, was better known for his role in the "Real World" 1994 San Francisco. Zamora choose to be in the spot light as not just a person living HIV but also a homosexual man with the same desires as most people in their early twenties. They later in the show exchanged vows and rings on MTV, making their commitment ceremony the first ever televised in the USA.
As the oldest children born in this century are sixteen years old or younger, few know the world Zamora and Sasser had to over come to bring them the world we are evolving to today. This was a different world most people would recognize, for one, people didn't have phones and computers with them everywhere. Society was very different when it came to the subjects of sexual orientation and HIV. The media was either in the negative towards anything positive towards the gay community or were trying to be neutral to the obvious bigotry. Many people were still uneducated about HIV and the importances of Zamora work was more evident when looking back at this society before he came into the spotlight.
Pedro Zamora was born in Cuba, immigrated to the United States in 1980. His family resided in Miami Florida, where Pedro grew up. He found out he was HIV positive at the age of 17. He claimed it was from a sexual encounter because that was the only thing he did to expose himself. He had unprotected sex. HIV treatments were still new and the death rate was considered a 100% fatal. Zamora was given a death sentences as it would seem. However Zamora used his diagnosis to push him to graduate high school early and dedicate his life to educate the public about the disease. He also wanted to give a positive face of those living with HIV. He never forgot he had his disease, but he didn't let that define him and was able to have a happy fulfilling life.
Zamora met Sean Sasser before when both were with other partners, but reconnected when Zamora joined the cast of the "Real World" San Francisco. Sasser was 19 years old when he discovered his HIV status, was living in San Francisco and working as a chef. The two men had a publicized relationship challenging societies perspective on so many levels. Not just two men, but individuals with HIV being responsible but sexually active. A concept that most people back then would never consider. The two would talk about their disease and their story at schools and other public events to spread awareness.
|Photo courtesy of MTV Real World SF copyright 1994|
When Zamora returned to Miami to briefly visit his family, he gave the impression of them as a very loving and understand family. They were worried about his health. They showered him with love and affection from the moment they saw him. By all accounts they seemed very accepting of him, it was assumed his sexuality was included in that package. While Zamora was in Florida, he ran a fever and had trouble finding a doctor or hospital that would see him. Along with all Zamora covered, the issue of young people not being able to afford health insurances, especially those with HIV status, was also brought up briefly.
When Zamora returned home to San Francisco, he and his partner became engaged and arranged for a ceremony to exchange vows and rings. There was a small ceremony done on TV on the "Real World" San Francisco and this was the first same sex vow exchange ceremony ever televised in the United States. Although Zamora friend and roommate came to celebrate, Zamora family were noticeably missing. Nothing was said about this, it is assumed they simply couldn't travel across country. At the end of the program, Zamora and Sasser drive off together to start a new life as a couple. Things seemed to be looking up for the two.
Sasser left the spot light for a while. He eventually opened up his own pastry restaurant in Washington DC in 2012. In time he legally married his partner Michael Kaplan in 2013, but sadly Sasser died August 7th 2013 of mesothelioma. He was 44 years old. He died having achieved so much in his short life, but without the fame. He was a humble part of the history the LGBTQ community, with much he had helped accomplished in the long struggle of equality and human compassion. Sasser was a man who lived and loved, but also went a step further. He made the decision to dedicate his life unselfishly towards changing the world for the better, even if he didn't get to enjoy it as the generations later on will.
|Twitted by Judd Winick|
I hope in time we will remember theses two men as the martyr's of love and acceptance they truly were. For they gave up privacy and lived much in the public eye so that others would not feel alone in their struggles. They gave the world a sacrifice through their love, their life and even their death. They helped the older generation move past old time prejudice and raise the new generation with a level of acceptance that transformed the 1990s life as cold and bigoted. There is etiquette and a level of respect that wasn't there in 25 years ago. Theses are truly two lives that didn't live in vain.