Thursday, October 11, 2012

Matthew Shepard . . . . "I was ten years old. . . . "

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.[1] Shepard's murder brought national and international attention to the contention of hate crime legislation at the state and federal levels.[2]
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. . .

  1. The Laramie Project - Preview - YouTube 25, 2006 - 4 min - Uploaded by Riotgirrl
    The true story of an American town in the wake of the murder of Matthew Shepard .
  2. The Laramie Project - YouTube 6, 2012 - 95 min - Uploaded by LaramieProjectMovie
    Moisés Kaufman and members of New York's Tectonic TheaterProject went to Laramie, Wyoming after the ...

                                                                                                        justin o'shea


jimm said...

Thanks for this Justin. I watched the youtube vid.

it seems like some ppl spend a lifetime 'hating.' Must be a miserable existence.

Some ppl in the vid question why we need special laws for ppl who are different. Can anyone here define what a hate crime is? How or why it's different from any other crime?

Gary Kelly said...

I was trying to think of an event that shaped my life after reading how the tragic death of Matthew Shepard shaped yours, JustinO.

I was 24, working as a clerk in a government office. One day, I walked past a young bloke's desk. He stood, confronted me, and told me that I was dead meat... that he would see me outside after work.

His remarks were heard by another young bloke; an Italian sitting at a nearby desk. He came over, told the first bloke that if he wanted to bash me, he would have to deal with him first. I didn't even know the Italian guy. Anyway, his intervention certainly put paid to the first bloke's threat. He sat down quietly and resumed shuffling his papers.

Later, at almost knock-off time, the Italian came to my desk and asked me if I wanted a lift home. Shortly afterwards, out in the street, I was introduced to my knight in shining armor's steed... a little Italian Fiat 500 Bambino hehe. What an odd car for a hero to drive, I remember thinking.

When I asked him why he came to my rescue he simply shrugged, "I don't like bullies."

It was my first encounter with a bully, and to this day I still don't understand what motivated him to single me out for a bashing. However, I suspect he recognized something in me that he loathed about himself.

Shortly afterwards I got my first job in radio and I never saw the Italian or his little Bambino again. That was well over 40 years ago and I'll never forget him.

Coop said...

I want to meet Matthew when I get to heaven. ;-) (assuming I ever decide to cross over, of course) What happened to him was senseless. And I have no doubt that Jesus was with him that night and not with the morons who committed the crime.
I said a prayer for Matthew last year when you shared this... just in case.

Justino, you'll never finish your project to discover who you are why you are. :-)


Justin, just finished watching the 95min version. Thank You so Much. I knew of the tragedy of Matt Shepard,
never the scope that went into this project. There is still plenty of hate that travels everywhere. Religion plays such a huge role in all of our daily lives. Many are looking at why we believe what causes so much of their hate for us. Jesus
never said anything in the New Testament, about same sex loving one
another. Or did He not when "Saying to
Love One Another as I have Loved You" Maybe it is taking on the
body of a human that He knew all the
urges that were within Himself. Got to think about that one. HUH. Thanks
again, it was really powerful, I couldn't stop watching.

J said...

I can hardly bear to see pictures of that fence. The flowers can't hide the desolation.

Coop said...

I don't think we can understand why these meat-heads these morons did this. I can't say I care, either. But does psychology try and understand it? Is that one of its objectives?

Coop said...

Jimm, I don't believe in hate crime laws. What happened to Matthew was tragic and inexcusable; regardless of the motivation behind it.

I think you're saying the same thing... a crime is a crime is a crime.

JustinO'Shea said...

So, Coopsta from the Noth Shoaaah. . are you likewise saying we do not need to say/talk about GAY-marriage. . we just talk about MARRIAGE. . .?

. . . that we ARE in the MAINSTREAM and should stop using terms/ ideas which push us...shove us over the edge to exclusion?

. . ..are you saying/suggesting that? ;-)

Coop said...

I don't see the connection, Justino.

The problem is not a lack of hate crime laws. The problem is that crimes against gay people, disabled people, racial minorities, (and other people who are different) may not be prosecuted, taken seriously, etc. etc. We are striving for EQUALITY, right?

Should there be one law to charge people who commit crimes against gay people, another one for crimes against African Americans, another one for crimes against Women... and on and on?

JustinO'Shea said...

You don't see any connection? It follows right after your statement.
Follow the thought. . .don't be so Republican literal. . . LOLOL

p.s. not "hardly sorry". . just partially. . .LOL

Gary Kelly said...

What are you guys talking about? Is it possible to murder someone you don't hate? I think it is. And if that's the case, then a murder driven by hate is different to a murder that's not.

jimm said...

Actually, i wanted to make a point to help define (in part, at least) what makes a hate crime different and why I believe these laws are necessary.

Think of it in simpler terms.

In the dark of night, someone burns a cross on a black families front lawn. They didn't strike fear in only that one black family, but in all black families of that community.

In Matthew Shephard's case, the crime was more than just a murder. It sent a targeted, chilling, and fearful message to all gays in the community.

Coop said...

We can't legally require people to stop hating us.

Gary, I see your point. It still sounds like splitting hairs to me because murder is always wrong.

Coop said...

Back to Justin's point about the connection I'm missing. Is it "we are not in the mainstream... so we need hate crime laws"? I hate to say this, but my brain will annoy me if I don't: Is that the kool-aid I'm supposed to drink?
The problem I see is that people in the justice system in certain parts of the country are apt to overlook crimes against gay people and many other groups. That should be fixed. I'm repeating repeating repeating myself. So i'll zip my lips.

Coop said...

We Want to be in the mainstream, considered as equal people, etc. etc. That's a good thing. So how will special laws help? Won't they just set us apart?

Gary Kelly said...

True, Coop. We can't stop people hating us. But you know what they say about sticks and stones.

As to murder is murder, some people might say that about Bin Laden's execution. It's all a matter of perspective.

No wonder the Law is so complex. It takes an army of lawyers to make sense of it, and even they can't agree.