Dean Eastmond, a queer journalist and healthcare campaigner who shared his cancer journey with the world has passed away at the age of 21.

Dean’s boyfriend Adam announced the news on Twitter yesterday (September 3), writing: “This morning the most caring, loving, beautiful person was taken from us. I love you Dean & you, your words & light will shine on forever.”

He touched many people over the year he had been sharing his journey, and the sadness at his passing was shared by people the world over. Troye Sivan, who had previously donated money towards Dean’s treatment, wrote: “So sad to wake up to this news today. Dean was an inspiration to all of us.”

Dean Eastmond (c) was presented with an Attitude Pride Award by Nick Grimshaw (l) at July’s Attitude Pride Awards, host by Gok Wan (l).

Drag Race judge Michelle Visage tweeted “He lived and went out like a beautiful queen,” while Olly Alexander wrote: “dean was a true inspiration and his work and passion and kindness will not be forgotten. rest in power dean x”

Earlier this year he was one of the honourees at the 2017 Attitude Pride Awards. Below is an extract from an interview with Dean about his experience with cancer:

Little more than a year ago, Dean Eastmond was like many other queer university students around the country; enjoying life in the company of friends from across the rainbow spectrum.

In June 2016 — the same week as the Pulse nightclub shooting — Dean was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of cancer. “I felt a pain in my chest in January of last year,” said Dean. “By May, there was a lump the size of a grapefruit. I thought it was a bump from partying too hard on a night out, or a broken rib. But I went to A&E and they told me it was a tumour. A couple of weeks later, after tests and scans, they gave me the official diagnosis.”

Dean, a journalist and co-founder of queer magazine HISKIND, was no stranger to trauma. When he was 16, he was the victim of a sexual assault by a male friend, something he wrote about in The Independent in 2015 — breaking years of silence. He then opened up again, sharing his experience to help other young people fighting cancer. He penned articles for The Guardian, Teen Vogue and Vice, in a way that’s engaging, accessible and slightly tongue-in-cheek. Or, as he described it, “putting humour in the tumour.”

Dean added: “Writing about my cancer takes my mind off it. There’s always been this sense of wanting to give back. I feel the only way to do that for me is by using my skill
set, and if my experiences and feelings about being gay and being someone with cancer can help someone else, then I might be doing my part.”

Due to the treatment required, Dean was told early on that he would become infertile. After discussing the implications of this with Adam, his partner of two years, he decided to use the sperm bank at the hospital, but there was a hitch.

“They told me that, because I was gay, if I died or became mentally incapable, my partner wouldn’t be able to use my sperm sample,” he said. “To me, that was like another closed door.”

He set about getting the policy changed, working with Buzzfeed UK to expose the outdated legislation and win an apology from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

Shortly afterwards the HFEA confirmed that the process for same-sex couples has now been brought in line with that for heterosexuals. “To let something like that slide, that could affect someone else down the road, would be wrong of me,” explained Dean. “Brave LGBT+ people fought for me in the past, so I should take up that torch. I know it’s not on the same level as fighting for the major rights, but it’s the least I can do.”

When we spoke to Dean, he remained hopeful that one day he’d get the all clear. “The thing that’s got me through the past year has been the LGBT+ community,” he said. “Going into this next chapter, I know it’s going to be the same rejects, queers, queens and everything in between who stick around. “Knowing that I belong in that bubble is the most incredible thing. I’m fighting to be back in there.”