Matthew Shepard Memoriam

20 years ago today and 6 days prior, a deplorable act was committed. An act of hatred, of bigotry, and of ignorance. Matthew Shepard was beaten, tortured, gun-whipped, robbed, and left for dead. He was tied to a fence in a desolate field near freezing temperatures. His skull was fractured and face was covered in blood except from where his tears washed that blood away. 18 hours after the attack (I can’t think of harsher words), Matt fell into a coma. He wasn’t discovered until 6 days later on October 12th, 1998. Even then it was by chance that he was found by a cyclist who initially thought that Matt was a scarecrow. Luckily, when police found him, he was still alive.
“Shepard was transported first to Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie before being moved to the more advanced trauma ward at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado. He had suffered fractures to the back of his head and in front of his right ear. He experienced severe brainstem damage, which affected his body’s ability to regulate his heart rate, body temperature, and other vital functions. There were also about a dozen small lacerations around his head, face, and neck. His injuries were deemed too severe for doctors to operate. Shepard never regained consciousness and remained on full life support. While he lay in intensive care and in the days following the attack, candlelight vigils were held around the world.” (Wikipedia)
In October of 1998, I was a Junior in High school. I remember this very acutely. I was crying as I heard them talk about it on the radio. As a gay man, I can easily see myself in the same place as Matt. I was already afraid to be openly myself, not just because I’m gay, for other minority reasons. This event struck me. My fears were now acute and more absolute. From this deep fear came resentment, loathing, anger, and fury. All I wanted to do was to hurt anyone who felt the same way as Matt’s torturers. Unfortunately I became so afraid that I started to fear all heterosexual men. It’s only been in the past decade or so that I was ok being around all men, in general. Having your relationship partially acknowledged helps. But it will never be better until we recognize and stop heterocentrism.