The generations after mine have grown up with the word "gay" meaning homosexual and to a world where HIV+/AIDS was a part of everyday language. When I was a child "gay" still meant happy and there were only whispers about an odd disease killing what seemed to be mostly the homosexual population.
By the time I was a pre-teen I watched my first video in health class about a man stricken with this disease. When I was in High School I began to participate in AIDS walks in Manhattan-something that made me feel very accomplished as though I was contributing to my community and I was proud to lend my support.
Towards my last year of High School/first year of College I learned about a young man who would open my heart and mind to understanding the true devastation of this disease and also teach me about living life to the complete fullest. Because when you are young you never think anything really bad will happen to you. I awoke from that slumber learning that I was so very wrong.
Pedro Zamora was a Cuban Immigrant who grow up in Miami, Florida who was gay and contracted HIV+ when he was just seventeen years old. He began to learn more about the disease and eventually became an AIDS activist and educator. I don't know if he realized then the power of his story, his presence, and simply of just who he was but this young guy blew people away with his speaking engagements. He was really able to connect with people, especially young people and open their eyes to the dangers and truths about unprotected sex and of the disease itself.
The Real World was a show that in many ways defined my generation. If you were between the ages of 16-24 during the early 1990's then this show really blew your socks off. It wasn't because of the occasional drama on the show but because it was like watching yourself in someone else's shoes doing the mistakes you were making but just making it on national television. Well, Pedro decided to audition for the show which led him to becoming a member of that cast. He educated his roommates and was able to reach a wider audience and educate millions of people because of the show. Pedro eventually passed on in 1994 just as the show aired it last episode of RW: San Fransisco.
Pedro meant a lot to me all the years ago. When he spoke it was like he was speaking to me. I felt a connection to him, not only because of his youth but also because he was Latino. I felt like he could be my friend if we had ever met and I felt like he spoke for our generation-so eloquently too. I don't know how to fully express what he meant to me and what he means to me today. All I can say simply is that he inspired me and how he lived his life inspires me still.
MTV's Tribute to Pedro~worth watching all the parts!
My generation grew up with something that created paranoia, fear, and prejudice. Today we call it AIDS and the younger generations don't even bat an eye. It doesn't mean a lot to them because when they grew up people understood it more. When I was a child people were afraid, they panicked, they treated others with the disease unjustly (ex: Ryan White), and homosexuality was very much a stigma as well as those afflicted with this disease.
Today we are learning to accept our brothers and sisters who are gay for who they are. We don't shun loved ones who are afflicted with this disease, we have more tolerance all around. We know so much more now, especially that anyone can become HIV+ and that being gay isn't a death sentence.
Pedro was a huge reason why my generation grew to learn tolerance and grew to become more educated. And when Pedro married his husband Sean he taught me that love is love (among consenting adults of course). He opened my eyes to a world I wasn't a part of and because of him my heart and mind are more open, more aware, more sensitive, and more understanding.
Pedro is a hero and he is one of my hero's. His legacy lives on especially to those who listened to his message. Once you watch him in the video above you will see what I mean. You just grow to love him like a brother, your son, or your best friend. I weep every time I watch the last parts of his life because I knew he could have done so much more. But in his 22 years of life he did change his generation and he changed the world. Pretty amazing huh?
Is there anyone who had affected you or inspired you in the way Pedro has to me?