Tonight, when I headed out from my Rotterdam hotel, I had intended to go to a bar that I was familiar with—much to my surprise, it was closed today, so I wandered around Rotterdam a bit before discovering “dè Kameleon,” a gay bar right down the street from my two regular Rotterdam haunts.
“Dè Kameleon” is a friendly gay bar, with vibrant lighting and a strong, loud, constant music beat, although running a fair number of tunes I was unfamiliar with (anything in Dutch). It was around the time that I entered the bar that I suddenly realized that tomorrow (now today, for me) was the seventh anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death.
Strangely, fate could not have led me to a better bar, for when I visited the bathroom, I suddenly realized that the tile was brown and gold, the colors of the University of Wyoming, my alma mater, and that of Matthew Shepard, had he not been brutally murdered.
The bar is remarkably friendly, and I was tipping well (well for Europe, in America I would have been treated like shit for my 20 euro cent tips), well enough that the bartender quicky came to like me. (And trust me, had I not had been so well liked, I never would have not have had any reason to notice the bathroom tile’s colors.)
So while the bar’s music was pumping, and the cute guy was dancing, at midnight I paused to reflect upon Matthew Shepard.
The fact is that Matthew Shepard may have had more influence upon my life than any other single individual. Matthew was responsible for me crawling back into my closet in Bloomington and crying myself to sleep, surrounded by my clothing. Matthew was responsible for me declaring openly to a number of people in my life that I was gay. Matthew was responsible for me realizing that academics need to actively incorporate homosexual situations into classes where it seemingly has no “raison d’être.” Matthew was responsible for me taking bigger, bolder steps to explore my sexuality and explore whom I am.
Matthew Shepard, because of his murder, has made me a better person.
Does that mean his murder was a good thing?
No, it most definitely was not. If I did not know his name today, I would never have crawled into my closet crying myself to sleep. If I did not know his name, I would have continued down the path of quasi-out, where I was out, but not really out., but I was happy.
Yes, it was a good thing. His murder motivated thousands of people to come out and protest, motivated people to stand-up and speak out, motivated gay individuals to become a whole heck of a lot more visible in society—including me.
So I am mixed, and I hope Dennis and Judy Shepard, Matthew’s parents, understand my mixed feelings about this. I truly wish that Matthew had never been murdered. I wish that I did not know his name today. I wish he was one of a million out, proud, and gay faces—one of the masses whose name I did not know because there are just too many gay faces for me to know every name.
At midnight yesterday (well, an hour before I wrote this, my time zone), as I was contemplating my first free beer, I paused, paused to offer a short prayer—and considering I am pretty much an atheist, it was remarkable. During my short pause I reflected on pretty much everything previously noted—the fact that he was the most influential individual in my life, the fact that I wish I didn’t know his name, and that he has done an awful lot, through his unfortunate death, to help gay, lesbian, and transgendered rights.
I remember the night of October 12, 1998, quite vividly. It had one of my two most intense, real feeling, dreams. So real that I would have sworn, when I woke up, that it was real.
In the dream, Matthew visited me. He offered some words of wisdom and told me to get on with my life.
Seriously, the dream was that real.
For the record, the other featured my high school English teacher, Mrs. Roads, who came to me and answered some odd-ball questions that were causing me problems at the time.
Matthew Shepard remains the most influential person in my life only because his life was so cruelly taken.
The world truly is a better place.
(Last year’s rememberance.)
(00:15 13/Oct/05) For those of you who care and have noticed, I changed some text within this entry, after I included the bar’s web site. This is because I gave the blog’s address to Patrick, one of the bartenders, and I did not want to retain a sentence or two that although positive in my book could have been misinterpreted by another person, particularly a non-native speaker of English and somebody unfamiliar with American customs.
I highly recommend the bar to all, if you visit my Flickr account, I will be posting a picture of the bar’s outside within a day or two.
Also, I feel compelled to chant…