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Matthew Wayne Shepard, † October 12, 1998

East SideToday marks 14 years since the passing of Matthew Shepard.

What strikes me now is how vivid my memories are of that week 14 years ago leading up to today, 14 years ago.

I was living on Braeside Drive, in Bloomington, in an apartment complex that I’ve done my best to forget—rarely pausing to recall my 12 months there—but when it comes to this week, I am transported right back to the apartment.

After 11 and ½ months of not thinking about that apartment, I can suddenly remember everything—the futon in my living room, the enormous, awful desk in the living room, the sparsely decorated bedroom, the clear plastic shower curtain covered in yellow smiley faces. The enormous walk-in closet that I crawled into wanting to be in a room more comfortable than my bathroom, that didn’t have windows to the outside world so that I could cry and feel safe.

The vividness of my memories regarding Matthew Shepard are, now, tempered by the reality that young people today often don’t know his name, or if they do, they have trouble placing it – knowing who he is and why he’s famous.

I guess it makes it all the more important, at least to me, that I pause and reflect on what Matthew Shepard means to me.

So much of me and my decisions are because of him. When I teach, he affects how I teach. When I’m out to new friends, he affects how open I am with new friends. When I read stories about GLBT youth, I understand those stories through the lens of Matthew Shepard.

As I’ve said before, Matthew Shepard’s murder is one of the most important things that has ever happened to me.

Not only do I remember the apartment, but I also still clearly recall the feelings I had when I heard the first bit of news, how my world came crashing in on me, how I spent hours and days hitting reload on the different websites, wanting to find out the latest news, looking for anything I could find, hoping for the best, fearing the worst.

Last year I talked about Making It Better – in particular for the University of Wyoming’s Rainbow Resource Center, pledging to donate at least $100/100€ (whichever is more, based on me currently living in Germany) each year. I kept that promise in 2011, and I more than fulfilled that promise in 2012, when I donated over $1,500 to the office. And this coming January I will again more than fulfill my base pledge.

As I’ve said before, I really wish that I didn’t know Matthew Shepard’s name.

But I do.

For historical reference, see 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, or any of the many times he’s been mentioned on my blog via a search for Matthew Shepard.

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