One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings. ~Franklin Thomas
Tomorrow marks the thirteenth anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard. You know his face—the beautiful face, the gentle smile, the angel’s eyes—which has become a universal icon for the fight against hatred and prejudice.
I can rarely look at Matthew’s photo without something ripping in my gut, something so painful that renders me sad, confused, helpless, angry, crazy angry and…terrified. No matter how hard I try, I can’t shake the inner fright—imagining his lonely, horrific terror when he realized what was going to happen to him. When, trapped by two bullies—no, two monsters—in the middle of nowhere with no escape. The imagery is too vivid, the helplessness as strong in my belly as though it was me.
I recently met a wonderful man on Facebook. His name is David Scrivens, and he is gay. I adore David, love chatting with him; but I noticed whenever he mentioned Matthew Shepard, it was always with such love, yet tinged with great heartache, so very, very personal. The more he talked about that pain, the more I began to see the impact of that end result of bigotry—of hatred—through a gay man’s eyes.
And I invited David to host my blog tonight, to share his heart on this anniversary. Not only did I want to find a way to address the event myself, but I wanted to give David a chance to do so as well, to offer him my humble platform to express his feelings.
And he honored me by accepting my invitation.
So please welcome my friend, David Scrivens as he takes the floor...
Until the morning of October 7, 1998 I had never heard of Mathew Wayne Shepard but signing on my computer that morning changed that and changed how I would look at things from that day on.
I noticed a story on my AOL opening page about a Laramie Wyoming college student being found on a fence out on the prairie and he had been beaten and they didn’t think he would survive. That story caught my attention and I clicked to read more. The story told about a guy on his bike finding this young man tied to a fence and he had been beaten severely and was barely breathing from the beating and being left there all night in the cold. At that point I had no idea of what happened or why but was glued to the story for days and finally the story came out. Seems like Matt was at a bar that night when two boys approached him to offer him a ride home. Matt being a trusting young man took them up on the offer and got in the truck for his ride back to his dorm. What Matt didn’t know is these two boys had picked him out as being gay and were going to rob and beat him and leave him on the prairie. They got Matt out of the truck, tied him with his own shoe laces and beat him so bad they split his skull from front to back and beat his face so bad most people wouldn’t have recognize him. After they were done they left him there to face the cold night. A biker coming through in the morning thought at first it was a scare crow on the fence but once he noticed blood he went to look and then called for help. Matt’s face was covered with blood and dirt except for two tracks down his cheeks where the tears had washed the blood and dirt off.
Matt was put on life support and died 5 days later on October 12, 1998 and Matt was killed for no other reason then he was gay. These two boys killed him because they thought that gay boys did not deserve to live. They killed Matt because of their bigotry and hatred toward someone that wasn’t like them.
When I read that Matt had died I cried for days and every time I went to a page set up for Matt where you could light a candle and we could write our thoughts about what had happened I cried even more. I think this finally brought home to me that what happened to Matt was actually an attack on all gay men and women out there and for me being a gay man it hit me in the gut that this could have easily been me or anyone else but it happened to be Matt that took the beating and death for all of us and I cried.
It was right after that in October that Matt died and a little of me died with him as I can not and never will understand why being gay got you killed. I never hurt anyone in my life and was always there for people but because I was gay I was hated. Why, would someone tell me and Matt and the others like us why we deserve to die for who we are? I am always being told that being gay is a choice we make and that more then anything anyone could say to me pisses me off to no end. I don’t ever remember sitting down and saying, gee I think I want to like boys instead of girls. No I never made a choice to be gay and I would bet that no other gay person made that choice no more then we had a choice of hair color, eye color, skin color, being born rich or in poverty or anything else about our birth, it just is. Then we have to hear the going to hell thing for loving someone. The God I know would never create me as I am and then condemn me to hell. The God I know loves me for who he made me and knowing that as surely as I breathe the same air as the rest of you makes me a proud gay American.
I hid in that so called closet all my life up to the point that Matt was killed. I decided that I in some way was responsible for Matt’s death as I and my generation didn’t do anything to get out there and try to make a difference in how the world looked at us so that was about to end. I got involved in some of the human rights groups including HRC and supported any group that was working for equality. I came out to my parents and my brother but found out that except for my father who didn’t have a problem with it, my brother and even my mother always used it against me when they would get upset with something and then had it thrown in my face. I have dealt with that over the years but figured it was their problem and not mine so moved on with who I am. I think the hardest time was coming out to my best friend who I was in the military with and who was like a brother to me. I called him and told him I had something to tell him and hoped it didn’t cost me his friendship and he said yea, you’re gay so what. I was speechless for a minute but I think in the end it brought us even closer. I then came out to a few more friends that also didn’t care and in fact wanted to fix me up. So I found that for the most part people judge you for how you relate to them and not who you sleep with. The bigots will always be with us but we shouldn’t let their hate dictate how we live our life.
So we come upon the 13th anniversary of Matt’s brutal death. Matt always told his parents he wanted to make a difference in this world. Matt didn’t see that happen in life but surely made a great difference in death. I like to believe we have a loving God and I know that Matt is with Him in Heaven and hopefully Matt is watching over all of us and seeing all the good things that has come out of his brutal death that seemed to wake people up to realize that gay people don’t deserve this kind of treatment and it is getting better.
A personal note to Matt: You’re my hero dude, your part of who I am now, you’re my soul brother and Matt, even though we have never met, you took a brutal beaten for all of us as gay brothers and sisters and that beating brought it to the front to be addressed and yes, things are better because of you man and Matt, I still cry for you and bro, I love you more then words can express. Rest in peace brother until one day, God willing. I can give you a hug and say I am sorry for what they did to you.
Good-night, sweet prince; And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest. ----Hamlet, Act V