The evening started out like usual. Kait and Colin played with their toys on the living room floor, my ex sat on the computer playing video games, and I read the paper. I started with the comics, moved on to the Life section, and then mosied on over to the Front section. And that’s where I dissolved into tears. Twenty-one year old Matthew Shepard, a student at the University of Wyoming, accepted a ride home from two men he thought were friends. Instead they drove him to a rural road, tied him to a fence, and beat him nearly to death with their rifles. He died of severe head trauma six days later.
I cried while I read his article. Ugly cried to the point where my ex asked why I continued to read. But I couldn’t stop. At the time I told myself that I was crying for Matthew and for Colin, who was a sweet and gentle one year old at the time. I was also crying for me although I wouldn’t admit it. I clung to the label of “straight” like it was a lifeline although, to be fair, panromantic asexual wasn’t in my vocabulary in 1998. And it hadn’t been that long since I’d been a college student myself.
Now Colin’s 21 years old and part of the LGBTQIA community. He’s in continuing education, getting the education he couldn’t receive in high school, and planning on taking robotics. He’s young and bright with his whole future ahead of him. I worried for him every day when he was Emma and I still worry for him, albeit much less.
Matthew Shepard was also young and bright. A well travelled young man who loved politics and was studying it in university. He’d have been 40 years old now. What would he have accomplished as a gay HIV positive man to help the LGBTQIA community? What would he have fought for? What dreams did he have? What goals? What potential did we, as a society, lose when we lost him?
I still cry. I don’t think there’s a day when I read about him that I won’t.