The star of the MTV reality show helped break down cultural barriers on American television by being one of the first openly gay individuals to appear regularly on screen
Real World Star Dies. Sean Sasser, the gay rights activist and star of MTV's The Real World: San Francisco, has passed away following a long battle with HIV. Sasser, whose relationship with fellow Real World housemate Pedro Zamora was one of the first gay relationships to be broadcast into American homes when it aired in 1994, with Zamora's death later that year opening Sasser up to the world of political campaigning and LGBT activism for the majority of the rest of his life.
Sasser had been battling HIV for 25 long years before he eventually succumbed to the disease on Wednesday (7 August). He died from mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer, which had developed from his weakened immune system caused by the HIV virus, which had only been diagnosed last month. The news of his passing was told to CNN by Sasser's longtime partner, Michael Kaplan, who said that the reality star and activist had passed away in the couple's Washington home.
Although not an original member of the Real World: San Francisco line-up, Sasser was introduced to the show through his then boyfriend Zamora, with the then-couple's everyday battle with HIV opening up a generation to a life many had never witnessed before. The two exchanged vows in a civil ceremony aired on the show in 1994, the first time a ceremony like it had been shown on American television. With Zamora's health beginning to take a turn for the worse during filming of the same season, he died just after the airing of the final episode of the season.
Sasser continued to work as an AIDs activist after Zamora's death and continued to work hard to ensure the gay community had it's voice heard. President Bill Clinton once referred to him as the man who "changed the face of HIV and AIDS in America forever."
David 'Puck' Rainey starred with Zamora on Real World: San Francisco