As the 15th anniversary of the passing of Matthew Shepard draws near, its hard to believe only a few short months ago I didn't really know anything about him or his life and the events of his tragic death.
I first learned about Matthew when I checked out a book from the local library in town entitled The Meaning of Matthew. It was written by Matthew's mother Judy. When I read the chapter about Matt's childhood and early adulthood, I came to love him. The young man trying to come to terms with his homosexuality and trying to find his place in this world was something I certainly could identify with because I know what he went though.
When I read the chapter where Mrs. Shepard recounts her son's muder, I wept. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. On October 7, 1998 shortly after midnight, Matthew met two men at a local bar. Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. He chatted with the two men for a while and then the bartender testified he left with the two men and got into their truck with Henderson behind the wheel and McKinney seated next to Matt. Later in his statement to the police, McKinney told them the reason he beat Matthew was because he made a pass at McKinney. Weather this is true or not, no one will ever know. Matt probably believed they were going to the apartment of one of the men to hang out. Matt was a very sociable, warm hearted young man who liked being around people.
Instead of going to their apartment, Henderson pulled into the parkinglot outside a local Wal-Mart where McKinney demanded Matt give him his wallet. When he saw how little Matt had in it (15$ I believe) McKinney flew into a rage and began beating Matt on the head and face with the butt of a rifle. Henderson drove out of town until they came to a split rail fence. McKinney dragged Matt out of the truck and continued beating him despite Matt's pleas for him to stop. They dragged him over to the fence, tied his hands behind him, removed his shoes and then drove away leaving Matt there in the frigid October weather to die.
After almost 18 hours being in the freezing Wyoming wilderness, a young man riding home from school stumbled upon Matt's unconscious body. He ran to the nearest house and called for help. When the responding officer Reggie Fluty arrived on the scene, she thought someone had played an early Halloween prank. It looked like someone had tied a scarecrow to the fence. As she moved closer she realized it wasn't a scarecrow but was in fact the lifeless body of a young man. Matthew. He was unconscious but still breathing and there was a pool of blood underneath his head. He was cut down from the fence and taken to a local hospital where despite the doctors best efforts to save his life, he passed away quietly on October 12,1998 five days after he had been attacked. He passed with alot more dignity than his attackers gave him.
After the autopsy, the coroner reported that Matthew died as the result of a fractured skull, internal bleeding and severe hypothermia. One of the rumors that was floating around the net was that Matthew was wake and conscious when his attackers tied him to the fence and left him there to die. Was this actually true? God I hope not!! I cannot bare the thought of Matt watching as the red tailights of the truck dissapeared into the dark night.
After reading the account of Matts murder in Mrs Shepards book, I was stunned. Stunned, appauled, angry and sad. I don't know if others felt like this after reading the book but I felt like I had lost a dear friend. I felt an emotional connection with Matt. I felt grief like I had lost a member of my own family. I began asking myself questions. How could someone, two someones actually be so evil and cruel? and why was I feeling so much for someone I had never even met? I realized it was because as a gay man Matthew's story hits close to home.
I have been fortunate in that I haven't personally experienced alot of hatred and negativity because of who I choose to love or the way I live my life. I guard my being a gay man very closely and only tell those I trust implicitly. I don't know if my parents know about my being gay or not but frankly I feel it's none of their buisness. I have known other GLBTQ men, women and teens who have suffered because of hatred and voilence against them. I believe the people who premote fear and violence against our community do so because thay are acting out of fear and ignorance. They assume every GLBTQ man, woman or teen they meet natually is going to hit on them.
So how has Matthew's story effected me personally? After reading Mrs. Shepards moving book, I went on the website for the Matthew Shepard Foundation which was started by his parents and brother in an effort to premote understanding and tolerance. I wrote to the foundation requesting one of the purple wrist bands which they graciously sent me. I wear it with pride. Whenever I can I try to premote the foundation and Matthews story by encouraging my other gay friends and other GLBTQ men and women I meet to visit the site and learn more about Matt. I am not affiliated with the organization but I hope in my own humble way I am helping.
Along with being a gay man, I am also a Buddhist. The main practice in Buddhism is to premote peace and love and to despell hatred and violence through the practice of compassion, loving kindness and understanding which I firmly believe the Matthew Shepard Foundation is all about. as their slogan states "ERASE HATE!!" Nothing could be more simple or effective. On the shrine in my room I have a beautiful statue of The Buddha with pictures of the three men I admire greatly. His Holiness The Dalai Lama, Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh and a beautiful black and white pictue of Matthew I found on the net.
I was 16 years old in 1998 when Matthew was killed and although I didn't know him and had never met him, through Mrs. Shepards book and the foundation, I feel like I do. Matt not only ment a great deal to those who knew him and loved him but he also means a great deal to the other GLBTQ men, women and teens like me. I will never forget Matthew. I think of him every day and pray for him. I encourage everyone around the world to visit the website of the Matthew Shepard Foundation which is MatthewShepard.org and on October 12 which is the anniversary of his passing and on December 1 which is his birthday to take a moment out of our busy, hectic lives to remember Matt and say a prayer for him.
In closing, I'd like to share a moving quote I read written by Matthew's father Dennis at the trial of McKinney and Henderson:
"When Matthew was left out there in the cold to die, he wasn't alone. There were his lifelong friends he'd grown up with. You're probably wondering who these friends were. First, he had the beautiful night sky with the same stars and moon we used to look at through our telescope. Then he had the daylight and the sun to shine on him one last time one more cool, Autumn day in Wyoming. His last day alive in the state he always proudly called home and through it all, he was breathing in for the last time the smell of Wyoming sagebrush and the scent of the pine trees from the snowy range. He heard the wind, the ever present Wyoming wind for the last time"
(December 1,1976-October 12,1998)
I know most guys on GayDemon.Com come here to read hot, erotic stories but I feel Matthews story needs to be shared. Not just sexual stories. I hope you like it and I hope it inspires you to get involved.