In the words of Judy Shepard, "Young people should never be afraid of who they are, to express their true selves." Her son, Matthew, came out as gay to his supportive mother when he was 18 but she and her husband lost their special young man when he was 21 and the victim of a 1998 Wyoming hate crime.
He had been lured from a bar by two young men pretending to be gay, pistol-whipped, tied to a fence in the prairie and left to die in freezing weather. In the words of an Elton John song, "...I've seen a scarecrow wrapped in wire. Left to die on a high ridge fence..." That was Matthew. The men who killed him are serving two life sentences. Speaking to the 500+ community members at the Inside Out Youth Services breakfast on Oct. 3, Judy Shepard said she couldn't fully blame her son's killers 100 percent "because in 1998 society there was hate toward gay people." She said she still has "a lot of questions for those men, but not hate." Neither had asked for forgiveness.
Through the Shepards' Matthew Shepard Foundation they have worked to "replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance." There had been major steps forward, she said, but now, 19 years later, they are doing the same anti-hate work all over again because of today's atmosphere. Interim Inside Out Executive Director Mary Lou Makepeace concurred, saying that in society today "we may have thought we were almost home but have taken steps backward."
Those at the breakfast learned about being allies of LGBT IQ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Interested Questioning) youth and donated $53,000 for Inside Out programs.
Read more about Judy Shepard's presentation: tinyurl.com/yd5wun9v
More photos: gazette.com/life/around-town