Matthew Wayne Shepard (December 1, 1976 – October 12, 1998) was a student at the University of Wyoming who was tortured and murdered nearLaramie, Wyoming, U.S.A., in October 1998. He was attacked on the night of October 6–7, and died at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, on October 12 from severe head injuries.
During a pre-trial hearing, a Laramie police officer testified that the violence against Shepard was due to how the attacker "[felt] about gays," per an interview of the attacker's girlfriend who said she received that explanation. Shepard's murder brought national and international attention to the contention of hate crime legislation at the state and federal levels.
In 2009, his mother Judy Shepard authored a book The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed. On October 22, 2009, the United States Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (Matthew Shepard Act for short), and on October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law.
Yes, I was 10 yrs old when this happened to Matt and I have never forgotten that night, watching the CBS evening news in the family room. and my attention perked up at the words ". . .a University of Wyoming student was tortured to death. . . .because of how his attacker felt about gays. . . ." I didn't really know what
"felt about gays" meant and afterwards I asked my parents what that meant. I don't remember exactly what they said, I guess they told me "what a ten year old needed to know and was capable of grasping." This newscast and subsequent things about Matt stayed with me. and my young psyche was working on this: I
knew someone this meant something to me in my life too.
A few years later, around the time when I was 15 years old I told my parents "I am gay". . . .and that opened up a good conversation about "what that meant for me, in my life". . . .I'm sure I've written some where in these pages about their calm and loving understanding and support. . . and Mom's comments "We know, honey, we know. . .Your Dad and I have wondered when you were going to tell us about it."
Around this time too my parents took me to see a college production of The Laramie Project. . . .'theater in the round'. . . . . .utterly mind-blowing. . . .and I began. . or rather continued my project of discovering Who and Why I am. . . . .and it goes on. . .