Pedro Zamora, Sexuality, and AIDS Education: The Autobiographical Self, Activism, and The Real World

by Christopher Pullen


This book is in the Cambria Global Performing Arts Series headed by John M. Clum (Duke University).

Pedro Zamora was an openly gay AIDS activist of Cuban descent, who became a worldwide media phenomenon, particularly after his participation in The Real World television documentary series, set in San Francisco in 1994, where he openly represented his life as a person living with AIDS.

Although Zamora passed away the same year he was on The Real World at only twenty-two years old, his life story continues to be an important contribution to contemporary debates on AIDS education, given how he was such an icon for sexual diversity.

Offering a comprehensive biographical narrative which brings together a wide range of media sources, including not only close examination of The Real World television series itself, the biographical film Pedro, educational documentaries to which Zamora contributed, and news reports from The Miami Herald, The Wall Street Journal, and POZ Magazine, key elements of Zamora’s story are brought together for the first time. This frames the significance of the Zamora family and sheds light on Zamora’s political strategy and ideology.

This study also explores the work of other AIDS activists and educational processes, offering a theoretical foundation framing the notion of the “autobiographical self,” as a process in which individuals use their personal stories relative to activism and the politics of identity. This includes analysis of the work of Suzi Lovegrove (1955–1987), Ryan White (1971–1990), Vito Russo (1946–1990), Paul Monette (1945–1995), Marlon Riggs (1957–1994), and Xoliswa Sitole .

Through the examination of these case studies in relation to Zamora’s work, key critical themes emerge within the book. These include the significance of the “mutable self” as a contemporary way of presenting personal identity that allows the individual to reveal vulnerability but also express strength in self-awareness and the ability to connect to audiences; the significance of finitude or mortality within AIDS narratives as well as the context of war or conflict as a cultural point of identification; the personal context of the postcolonial autobiographer and their ability to reveal tensions between the borderlines of cultural difference; the connection that may be made between the philosophies of educational theorist Carl Rogers and the ideas of Pedro Zamora; the notion of the shared autobiographical project, evident in the significance of working with peers; and the propensity for the autobiographer to relate the life story of the mother, in providing a sense of union.

This book illuminates the significance of the work of Pedro Zamora and places in context contemporary needs for both HIV/AIDS education and the personal political context of sexual diversity.

The book includes 23 images. It is a must read for those in LGBT studies, communications, social work, and the performing arts.


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