The Real World: Then and Now

August 9, 2013

Maybe I was always liberal and socially progressive; maybe I was too young to comprehend that being gay would be seen by some as wrong; maybe I hadn’t been taught to hate.

I remember watching The Real World: San Francisco. (I still watch each season, and all the Challenges. They’re all awful; San Francisco was maybe the last good season, but I can’t look away.) What I don’t remember is thinking that Pedro being gay was a big deal. I don’t remember his marriage to Sean being a big deal. I just remember seeing two people in love committing to one another.

That season aired 19 years ago. Thinking about that time span—nearly a generation—makes it seem like we’ve made little progress. But when you think about 19 years in the context of our country’s age, it seems like we’ve made mountains of progress in no time at all.

The San Francisco season also aired nine years after Larry Kramer wrote his masterpiece, The Normal Heart, which chronicled the early years of the AIDS epidemic. Rent, another theatre piece that dealt with AIDS and all the people—gay, straight, addicts—who had it, would explode on the scene two years after the seminal season of The Real World. Do you think any or all of these cultural offerings helped move the discussion forward?

Since the early 80s until now, society has made respectable progress but we have a long way to go. We have a long way to go until everyone watching a Pedro and a Sean marrying is thoroughly unfazed and when people living with AIDS (as Pedro always said of himself) are no more infirmed than people with a common cold.

My condolences to Sean Sasser’s family and friends.

Read more on BuzzFeed.

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