I remember walking down into “boystown” (the north Halstead area of Chicago, and the center of the city’s Gay community). There were lots of people standing around outside the bars, and restaurants along Halsted Street, talking about what had happened in Wyoming. A makeshift memorial had been set up on the corner of Halsted and Roscoe.
In 1998 I had just moved to Chicago after being overseas in South Korea. I was in the middle of my own “coming out” process, and was gathering up my courage to have “the talk” with my parents when I went home for Thanksgiving in a few weeks time. I will admit the news of Matthew Shepard’s brutal murder shook me up. Suddenly the decisions I was making to live openly and honestly as who I was, had potentially fatal consequences.
On an intellectual level you always knew that there were “gay bashers” out there. People who were so conflicted about their own sexuality that they felt the way to “cure” themselves was to attack others for what they feared most about themselves. Yet now those hypothetical risks, were not so hypothetical. What's more, those cosequences now had a face, and a name.
Thirteen years later, I marvel at how my own life has changed. I am married to an amazing man, we have incredible friends and loving families who remind us every day, that the world is not as bleak and dark a place as it seemed, on that October night in 1998.
Yet I am still saddened and angry that there are many people in America who honestly feel that Matthew Shepard got what “he had coming to him”. That demonizing , discriminating against, and even murdering Gays and Lesbians is somehow “doing God’s work”.
The Matthew Shepard Foundation: http://www.matthewshepard.org/
The Trevor Project: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/
The Ben Cohen Stand Up Foundation: http://www.standupfoundation.com/
The We Give a Damn Campaign: http://www.wegiveadamn.org/