Today, October 12, 2004, marks the 6th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s murder.
As has become habit with me, I want to take a few minutes to reflect on Matthew Shepard and what he meant to me-somebody who was uncannily like me, and yet so unlike me.
I left Laramie, Wyoming, in May 1998, graduating from the Political Science Department. Matthew arrived in August 1998, matriculating into the Political Science Department. His adviser was somebody I knew personally and respected, and who eventually appeared on television after Matthew’s murder.
We never met. I did not know Matthew.
However, his murder impacted me significantly. Suddenly Laramie, the city I had come to think of as my second home after Denver, was making not just local news, but global news-and a community I had thought of as being relatively tolerant was being painted with broad brush strokes as intolerant and hateful.
It was not the Laramie I knew.
But that’s the funny thing-when news happens to a town, it’s hard to control what happens. The media descended upon the town and they told their story. Local boys murdered the university gay boy. The city didn’t want to think it was that kind of town, but as Zubaida Ula points out in The Laramie Project (DE), it did happen in Laramie, and that “We (Laramie Citizens) ARE like this:”
As it happens, Matthew’s murder was a pivotal moment for me.
I had been taking tentative steps out of the closet, feeling my way and trying to figure out how gay I was going to be. After his murder, my steps became more concrete and assertive.
Any more, I’m flaming.