June 1 marks the beginning of Pride Month, the celebration held each June to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York City, which catapulted the LGBTQ fight for equality.
Today, we kick off a series of stories recognizing the contributions of South Floridians to this fight.
Visibility has been key to the movement’s success — and perhaps no one was more visible than the brave man who came out and shared his story right in your living room.
Local 10 News visited with the sister of Pedro Zamora whose public battle with HIV as a cast member on MTV’s “The Real World” brought awareness to the disease in the 1990s.
“Pedro Zamora was a special child. A gift from God to our family,” his sister Mily Zamora says in Spanish.
Pedro was 7 when he arrived in Miami from Cuba in 1980. Five years later, his mother died of cancer.
Mily Zamora says her younger brother began “having emotional issues” after the death of their mother.
Pedro would try filling his void in school, becoming an honor student at Hialeah High School and in sexual relationships, unprotected.
At age 17 a blood donation revealed he was HIV positive.
“My father a very stern Cuban man but with an extraordinary ability to love,” Mily Zamora says. “He always opened his arms to Pedro, loving him until the day he died with all the love a father can give.”
Pedro committed himself to educate young people about safe sex, visiting schools across South Florida.
His dedication to spreading awareness and fighting the stigma went national when he was cast on MTV’s “The Real World.”
For the first time, many across the country saw someone living with AIDS and openly gay.
His exchange of vows to his boyfriend was the first same-sex commitment ceremony in TV history.
But as his popularity grew, Pedro’s health began to fail.
A last wish granted by President Bill Clinton, brought his siblings from Cuba to his bedside at Mercy Hospital in Miami days before his death on Nov. 11, 1994.
“I miss him every day. Every day, especially when the family is together,” Mily says.
Today, Pedro Zamora’s legacy lives on.
A scholarship fund supports students focusing on health justice issues.
Mily also keeps her brother’s memory alive, advocating for love and acceptance in all families.
“It is incredible how ignorant many families still are,” she says, “not accepting, not loving and refusing to be with their sons and daughters because they are gay or lesbian.”
ALSO SEE: Cards for Chad: See how you can support LGBTQ teens who are bullied in South Florida