By Jeff Walsh
It is hard to minimize the impact that the brutal death of Matthew Shepard had on the gay community in 1998. Even this site was flooded with a constant stream of poetry and other submissions in the days after his death, totally unsolicited, so much that we had to add a separate page to that month’s website as a special tribute to Matthew.
A few months later, I interviewed Alex Trout, one of Matthew’s best friends in Laramie, and that following June, got to hang out with Alex for a night of drinking and cruising in the Castro, as he and Matthew’s other friend, Walt Boulden, were honored as grand marshals in the San Francisco gay pride parade.
I’d really never given any further thought to Matthew Shepard since then, except for when his name came up in 2009 when federal hate crimes statute finally added LGBT protections with the Matthew Shepard Act. The most common touch point I’ve had to this 15-year-old case is that I often see my friend Garrin Benfield perform live in NYC, and his sets often include “What You're Hiding,” which has a chorus that ends, “Matthew, you lived your final hours, with the butt of a gun smashing in your brain.”
The case seemed simple and the justice swift. Matthew was the frail, baby-faced guy out in cowboy country of Laramie, Wyoming, who made a sexual advance on two guys, and they killed him for it. The lack of complexity was what made the case so perfect, and how everyone could easily put themselves in Matthew’s shoes, and imagine that simple gesture turning tragic.
In The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard, journalist Stephen Jimenez reveals how little of the narrative we’ve all come to know is accurate, as he spent more than a decade slowly peeling away protected layers until the real picture emerged.
I have started a petition to garner support for a protest at Westboro Babtist Church. I have started organizing the protest for April 2008. They are the ones who hold up signs saying "God Hates Fages". I would appreciate it if you could pass this info on to your group members. Thanks So Much!