A tribute to Dean Eastmond: Friend, activist, fighter and inspiration
Feature
Posted on 2 Oct 2017

LGBT+ journalist and University of Birmingham student Dean Eastmond lost his battle with cancer on Sunday 3 September. During his second year at university, Dean was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a rare and aggressive bone and soft tissue cancer. Taking himself to A&E after thinking he’d merely bruised his rib, he was dealt the difficult news that it was, in fact, an 8cm by 10cm tumour growing from his ninth rib.

Months of intense treatment at the QE in Birmingham, including chemotherapy and an operation (he also tried Proton Beam Therapy in the US), spurred him on to use his writing to bring about change.

With a vast amount of experience writing for a variety of publications, including the Guardian, the independent and Teen Vogue, at 19 years of age Dean launched queer culture magazine HISKIND. Using this platform, he shared his journey via the honesty of his writing, campaigning for LGBT rights and fighting against inequalities that LGBT people face in the health-care system.

After being informed that his treatment was likely to cause infertility, he went to a sperm bank. While there, he was told after donating his sperm that if he died and his partner was a woman, she’d be able to use his sperm to have a child, but because his partner was a man, this was not the case. His frustration and anger caused him to contact the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority, exposing them in an article for BuzzFeed and getting the rule changed.

Alongside his influential campaigning articles, Dean’s cancer columns for HISKIND touched so many people. His authentic tone and honest approach saw him write frankly about subjects including fertility, hair loss and mental health. 

Winning the 2017 Attitude Pride award for his incredible work, Dean’s brave and truthful words have empowered and inspired so many. His passion for writing sparked a lot of positive change for the LGBT+ community, inspiring the fight for equal fertility rights and the campaign for LGBT+ training for nurses and hospital staff. Despite his personal situation, he continued to raise awareness, provide comfort for fellow cancer sufferers and effect real change with his campaigning for LGBT rights. 

Dean found his own comfort in the LGBT+ community. He told Attitude: “The thing that has got me through the last year has been the community, knowing that it’s going to be the same people that stick around, the rejects, the queers, the queens and everything in-between that I’m proud to know and be part of.”
The day he was diagnosed with cancer, Dean joined hundreds of people at the Orlando Pulse Shootings vigil in Birmingham, standing hand in hand with others from the city’s LGBT+ scene. 

He wrote: “I was standing among people who cared for and loved those around them, acknowledging that it could easily have been them, me, you, us, on that night in Pulse.”

The support for Dean throughout his cancer treatment was astounding. Nicole Scherzinger tweeted: “I'm so inspired by your strength and bravery, Dean. May God bless you and your journey. Sending you all my prayers and love.” 

Then there were the stars of RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR), creating #DeanEastmondSlays, which was tweeted by queens including Sharon Needles, Alexis Michelle, Shangela and Jinkx Monsoon.

Astounded by the influx of tweets, when Dean found out that his cancer had spread and that he had little chance of surviving, he tweeted: “If this turns into me writing a bucket list, you just know me being painted by every RPDR girl will be at the very top of that list.” 

After leaving the QE to spend some time in his family home in Weymouth, Dean was visited by Charlie Hides, who spent the day with him and gave him a complete RuPaul’s Drag Race-inspired makeover. 

Dean passed away just days afterwards, and the internet broke with an unbelievable number of messages of love and support. Stars such as Zoe Ball, Gok Wan, Judge Rinder and Sir Matthew Bourne expressed their admiration for the young journalist. Dean touched many people’s lives through his selfless ability to use his platform in the most positive of ways. He did so much for the LGBT+ community and continued to push forwards - never settling, always keen to work harder to fight for equality. At a time when a lot of people would’ve sat back and focused on themselves, Dean forged ahead with his campaigning, in so doing illustrating the immense spirit and passion that he brought to everything he did.

Dean did more in his 21 years of life than many will do in their entire lifetime. His legacy will live on through the power of his writing.

Written by Amy Stutz.

 

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