RIP Groundbreaking ‘Real World’ Star + AIDS Activist Sean Sasser

Photo: (Facebook.com/MichaelJonKaplan)

Photo: (Facebook.com/MichaelJonKaplan)

Sean Sasser, an AIDS Activist who gained public attention when he dated Pedro Zamora on the legendary “Real World: San Francisco” passed away at the age of 44.

To put his age in context, Jennifer Lopez, Jennifer Aniston and Will Smith are 44. Sean still had a long future ahead of him, but the short life he lived was inspiring and groundbreaking. Sean was an AIDS activist and lived with HIV for 25 years. As Queerty noted, he also worked for “numerous political and social organizations.” In May, Washington Blade interviewed Sean about being the pastry chef for RIS in Washington, DC. Sean said he was “fascinated with food and cooking since he was young.”

“According to his life partner, Michael Kaplan, Sasser died of mesothelioma, a rare cancer of the lungs. No other information was released immediately about his medical condition, but mesothelioma has been linked to a weakened immune system in some people with AIDS,” wrote Queerty.

Michael, who is CEO and president of the AIDS fighting nonprofit AIDS United, wrote on his Facebook page, “Sean was many things to many people — to me, he was the love of my life, my spouse, and all that is good. To others, he’s been a mentor, a foster parent, a pastry chef, an activist, an artists, a care taker, a family member, a best friend, and admired colleague, a tv personality and so much more. To each and every one of us, he was something special.”

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Photo: (Twitter/JuddWinick)

Pedro Zamora, who starred on Season 3 of “The Real World,” was one of the first openly gay men living with HIV on television. This was in 1994, back when LGBTQ people barely existed on mainstream TV. As kid of the 90′s, I had no TV-watching restrictions (thanks, Mom and Dad!) so I watched MTV 24/7. I remember the genuine, sweet romance between Sean and Pedro. It was the first LGBTQ couple that I had ever come across, and as young girl, it made me realize that we’re all the same, regardless of whom we want to date.

On one of the last episodes of the season, titled “Love Rules,” Sean and Pedro have a commitment ceremony and exchange vows and well as wedding bands. As Buzzfeed wrote, they were “exchanging wedding bands a decade before any same-sex couples could legally marry in the United States.” In the episode, Sean’s friend Eric said some beautiful words at the ceremony: “In your love, you remind us that life is about now. Love is about being there for another. It think it’s with real bravery that you open your hearts to each other. I think it’s with real hope that you promise your lives to each other.”

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Photo: (MTV)

You can watch the “Love Rules,” episode below. At the 15:20 mark, the commitment ceremony begins. We send our deepest condolences to Sean’s family and friends. He died too soon, but what an impact he made while he was here with us.

+ Watch “Real World: San Francisco” Love Rules episode.

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