October 12, 2008

Remembering Matthew

I've known for weeks this day was coming up. Messages in emails, on Facebook, through texts....messages of love and rememberance for those still alive...those who lived through it.

I only met Matthew Shepard twice. Both times were quick greetings as we rushed to various classes or clubs. I remember thinking, at the time, that sooner or later I'd find out more about him. We had several friends in common. Then the world changed.

News came in that a UW student had been found beaten in a pasture....then it became known that it was someone we knew. For the first time ever I saw my friends, a very out-going, community centered, activist group of people hold their breath. What could be done? What was going to happen? Would our little pocket of individuality and safety chisled out in the corner of Wyoming be destroyed? Why would someone do this?

When the news broke that Matthew was gay the air seemed to change. Vigils were held at the hospital, praying for healing. Several groups on campus took up arms...and armbands to show support for Matthew, his parents, and the community. My mother was calling me daily for reports on my best friend's (and others she'd met) welfare...and to warn me about doing to much with them. She was afraid that the conservative Wyoming mentality would kick in and be aimed at me for associating with homosexuals. I tied several ribbons onto my backpack, car, coat...anywhere I could find and took to answering the phones and running media interference for Jim.

Under the deluge and assult of international media attention I watched my town pull itself up, gather the loose pieces, and make a decision. Hate is not a Wyoming value. I watched people who had only inklings of the good they could do become strong, focused, inspirational leaders.

I wasn't involved with the first counter-action against Rev. Phelps' protest shows, but I do remember the encouragement passed on to our angels from Laramie residents and police officers....You're doing good, keep it up. 

Ten years later, Matthew's mother feels that not a lot has changed in the world. Only a handful of states have hate crime laws in place...many of those specificially do not include gay, lesbian, or transgender citizens. People are still scared. People are still abused, attacked, persecuted for being themselves. However, I feel a lot has changed. I would never wish the death Matthew experienced on anyone, but his death ushered in a boat load of self-awareness. A small Wyoming town learned what it means to stand together. Many individuals learned that one voice can make a change. Many learned what it means to be themselves. Maybe we haven't achieved the monumental changes that Matt's death illustrated a need for, but I know deep in my heart that God feels the same way....You are doing good. Keep it up.


His Sinfulness said...

Yes - good work is being done. Like this post, for instance.