This is a column I wrote for the newspaper at Arkansas State. As I wrote it, I faced the problem of going off on the people responsible, because if I'd truly put what I was feeling about the people who did this to Matthew Shepard, I'd run the risk of following in his footsteps. While I do not proclaim to be a prophet or spokesperson for the gay community, I would like to encourage those who come across this column as a positive tool, so that this tragedy will never happen again.
Last week in Laramie, WY, University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was, according to an Associated Press report, "beaten, burned and tied to a wooden ranch fence like a scarecrow until a passerby found him a half-day later, near death." The reason was because Shepard is gay.
This story is sad not only because it happened, but because, in all honesty, that could have happened anywhere, including ASU. Without getting into the religious/ethical debate on homosexuality, it's safe to say two things: 1) people who are openly gay are real live human beings, and deserve to be treated as such, and 2) being different (whether it's an ethnic or religious or lifestyle difference) is not carte blanche to commit an act of violence of because of that difference.
The harsh reality is that there are people out there who don't play by those rules. Opinions on the "gay issue" are as diverse as the colors in a bag of M & Ms. However, there's no excuse for anyone to treat someone else in an abusive or disrespectful manner because of something as insignificant as their sexuality. You may not agree with with someone's sexual orientation, but there's so much more to a person than just that. Gay people don't bite, don't carry rabies, and won't force you to listen to Barbra Streisand CDs. In other words: homosexuals are normal everyday people and deserve to be treated in that way.
If that's not convincing enough, think of it this way: how would you feel if you were beaten, burned, and tied to a wooden ranch fence because of your hair color, or your eye color, or the shoes you were wearing, or for any other reason? Needless to say, nobody would wish that upon anyone else, let alone themselves. Therefore, it follows that this kind of behavior should not be tolerated and should be severely punished. Using homosexuality as an excuse to attack someone else, physically or verbally, is a grievous mistake. Unfortunately, it seems that it might take the death of a student just like you and me to realize that.