Matthew Shepard

Matthew Shepard was murdered 10 years ago today.  Between the evening of oct. 6 and the am of Oct. 7, he was severely beaten by two men who initially used the “gay defense” and now claim it was meth related. Aaron James McKinney and Russell Arthur Henderson beat Mathew, pistol whipped him, and left him tied to a fence post to die. I have driven in the cold night winds in Laramie, stood in the place where he died, and it is amazing that Mathew survived as long as he did, finally breathing his last breath in hospital on Oct. 12.

8 years later, CBS ran a story featuring his killers who claimed the hate crime charges were dreamed up by one of Matthew’s friends who alerted queer rights advocates around the nation and “started a frenzy.” They, and their friends, claimed they were railroaded into claiming the “gay defense,” ie that he had been trying to pick them up and it freaked them out, because they thought they would get lighter sentences. Never mind that hate crimes law adds years to a sentence or the thinking implied here, ie killing a gay person is less important than killing a straight one. The report questioned the efficacy of the queer bashing on the basis of the two murderers’ self-report for the interview ignoring these discrepancies and their court room testimony, painting them as almost sympathetic. My girlfriend and I watched it in horror as they claimed “meth made them do it” and that Matthew had promised them drugs; something that cannot be proven nor would justify killing him if he had or undermine the idea that they ultimately killed him for being gay. When the voice over came on claiming maybe Matthew’s sexuality had nothing to do with it, my gf left the room in a rage. As friends and family of the two men said they were being “unfairly persecuted” as homophobes,  I sat there and cried.

The facts of the case have never been in dispute except on that CBS report. Matthew went to a bar to blow off some steam and avoid studying for an exam he had to take in the morning. He met Henderson and McKinney there, where they appeared to be interested in him and invited him outside. They then beat him bloody, splitting his skull in a half moon shape up the back of his head, and pistol whipping him as he begged for mercy. Fearing they would be caught and wanting to teach him a lesson for “flirting with them in the bar” they tied him to a fence post in the prairie wind. They admitted to beating him and leaving him for dead because he was gay. They admitted that the beating began because they thought he was flirting with them. They admitted to murdering him for being queer. They entered a plea of guilty.

Neither of those men has even shown a sign of remorse for the murder in public.

10 years later places like California, Arizona, Kansas, and others are fighting battles about gay marriage rights with conservative groups making the same unfounded and fear inducing remarks that these two men mad about homosexuality. Worse, the hatred that they are fostering in the name of a God, through the institution of Churches, Synagogues, and even 2 Universities, is spreading the same hatred that allowed Matthew to be targeted and killed.

10 years have past since Matthew’s tears washed the blood from his cheeks as he waited alone in the dark and the cold. 10 years and the map of hatred in this nation seems so very much the same. Queer bashings are the third most prevalent hate crime in the United States according to the HRC.

Had he lived, Matthew would have been 32 years old.


3 thoughts on “Matthew Shepard

  1. I’m sad to see that a Mormon grad of Univ of Wyoming originally linked to this post then changed to someone who has not critiqued prop 8 or otherwise addressed queer issues. Perhaps it is the sentence in his own post where he speaks about "tolerance" and "repugnant" at the same time that changed his mind . . . I don’t know. But I had been looking forward to seeing him here as a reader for an engaged alternative perspective on this issue and perhaps others. This is why I don’t like "tolerance" because as I’ve said before you tolerate things you cannot stand, like extreme weather, bugs, extreme smells, or extreme personalities. One needs only listen to the tone in which Palin bandied about that word at the last debate to see why being "tolerated" is one step above being kicked in the gut. The difference between "tolerance" and respect is the willingness to engage another person as human and equal regardless of their beliefs or lifestyle. I was looking forward to willingly engaging Brad and glad he stopped by. Oh well.

  2. Prof BW-What I say on my blog does not entirely communicate what I personally hold true. In the post, I was trying to reflect on my experience with Matthew Shepard. I had never met him personally, but he impacted my life. I worried about the line using the word "repugnant." In that case, I was generalizing to any value set that I find uncomfortable or wrong. I was not, nor do I, implying that I find any specific set of people repugnant. I was trying to express to my audience the need to take a minute to try to understand others, to get past initial disagreements, based on preconcieved notions. In fact, in a later posting to another private list, I made the decision to remove that line.As you note, I don’t deal with queer issues on my blog. That’s not the point of my blog. It’s not something that would resonate with the audience of my blog. (Mostly, I talk about food. 😉 ) I take your point regarding the difference between respect and tolerance. Thank you for your input. I will try to integrate that into my way of thinking.I posted my link to your blog as it was one of the few that I found on Twitter thinking about the same things that I was thinking about yesterday. Thank you for sharing the moment with me.

  3. Brady – welcome to the blog. I am just glad to hear that you are still here and participating. Every perspective (w/in obvious reason) is welcome here. I’m glad to have read your piece (except the objection I noted) and hope you will comment again in the future.Matthew’s death was painful for many and I’m glad that you wrote a piece about the positive that came from it since there is so little hope floating around right now.

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