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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Do you remember Matthew Shepard?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (25608 points ) October 12th, 2011

Thirteen years ago today (October 12, 2011), Matthew Shepard died. He was savagely beaten and left for dead on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming. The reason for the assault was none other than his sexual orientation.

The international outcry from his senseless murder was tremendous and led to hate-crime laws in many countries being passed. One such law was finally passed in the US in 2009.

The murder had a direct impact on my life. Two months later, I finally came out of the closet.

Do you remember Matthew Shepard?

Has any notorious crime had a direct impact on your life?

This is in the general section. Please, keep the discussion based on the OP.

Topics: Matthew Shepard, hate, crime, life, individual

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33 Answers

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Yes, I do. I remember Matthew Shepard every year on this day. I was profoundly touched by his story when it happened, I can’t imagine ever forgetting an event that hit me so hard on a personal and psychological level. I think that may have been the first time in my life that I had an actual concept of what real hate is. Sobering.
Also, I did light a candle for Matthew Shepard today, as was suggested in remembrance.

Blackberry's avatar

I didn’t find out about it until years after it happened, because I was a teen and didn’t pay attention.

I do remember thinking it was sad that people still did stuff like that. When I was younger, I was under the impression people didn’t comit hate crimes anymore because of the Bill of Rights and it was the “present”, where everyone is smarter than that. What a naive little guy I was!

SuperMouse's avatar

I do remember Matthew Shepard. I remember being devastated and disgusted when I heard the story. I was in my early 30’s and pregnant with my first child. My heart ached, and still does for his family.I hope Matthew’s family is comforted by all of the good he has done in death. Thankfully, I cannot think of a notorious crime that has had an impact on my own life.

@Hawaii Jake, belated congratulations on coming out!

DominicX's avatar

I was too young to know about it when it happened, but I remember hearing about it when I was in middle school or so and it was one of the first times I ever really heard about hate crimes or violent homophobia (the only homophobia I knew up until that point was people saying “you’re gay” as an insult at school). So, it did change things for me. I remember not understanding how people could kill because of sexual orientation. And this was all around the time I was figuring out my sexuality…

Kayak8's avatar

I vividly remember the death of Matthew Shepherd, in part, due to my surprise that such hate crimes were still happening in the modern age. I came out in the 1970’s and had a great cousin who came out in the 1930s-40s. and heard her tales of absolute horror at the things perpetrated against gay folk. Sometimes I am reminded of how far we have come when events like the death of Matthew Shepherd have the ability to shock me.

tinyfaery's avatar

Yes. Whenever I think about him I feel sad and dismayed, and ashamed of being a human being.

tranquilsea's avatar

I remember him. It sends chills down my spine to think of what that poor kid went through.

Geoff Baker (a folk-like singer) wrote and sang a song about him that makes me cry every time I listen to it.

rpm_pseud0name's avatar

I do remember. For today, the death of Matthew Shepard & (UK) National Coming Out Day, it is also my birthday. I was only 13 at the time. It would be a few more years until I learned about his death.

Having such a tragic death tied to this day & for that death to be directly related to sexual orientation has had a profound impact on my life. At times it empowers me to want to come out to my parents & other times it scares the hell out of me. I try not to think about it too much. Only so much the heart can bear. But every year, on the 12th of October. I blow out the birthday candles wishing Matthew Shepard was still around.

One (of the many) songs written in honor of Matthew Shepard. Be warned, it is absolutely heartbreaking.

Elton John – American Triangle

marinelife's avatar

Yes, with great sadness. Also, anger that what happened to him is not classified as a hate crime still today.

tranquilsea's avatar

@marinelife really? It is in Canada.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@marinelife : The Matthew Shepard Act was passed in 2009 to identify such events as hate crimes in the US. I’m not quite sure I understand your second sentence.

Jeruba's avatar

> Has any notorious crime had a direct impact on your life?

Yes. Two crimes that have affected all of us in the U.S., probably much more extensively on a daily basis than what most politicians and many businesspeople do, are these:

The Tylenol murders (1982) – resulting in a massive change to product security, including tamper-proof seals, multilayered packaging, excessive labeling, different handling of certain foodstuffs, and so on. Every time I struggle to open certain medication containers, I think of the way those crimes in Chicago changed our everyday lives.

The acts of the Unabomber (1978 to 1995) – causing drastic changes in travel safety regulations. Long before 9/11 and Homeland Security, we had heightened airport scans, long checkin lines, random luggage searches, loss of access to waiting areas for nonpassengers, and much, much more impinging on our comfort and convenience as travelers, thanks to one guy who spawned an industry with his terrorist threats. Once they scaled it all up, we knew they’d never scale it down.

It’s my belief that the extent of the effects is not due to public fear or even the safety concerns of the affected businesses. My surmise is that it’s the legal departments, working overtime on risk management and hedge against lawsuit—which ultimately comes down to money—that have saddled us with the weight of all these hefty precautions that we got along just fine without, not so very long ago.

The fact that both of these aroused the public’s fears of unknown threats and occurred during the same time period seems significant to me.

To say “We have to make sure something like this can never happen again” is one thing (as if one could ever really make sure); to then try to prevent every sort of bad thing by ever more narrowly circumscribing people’s behavior with rules ultimately meant to prevent lawsuits is quite another.

janbb's avatar

Oh yes – I remember him and Brandon Teena and many who were tortured and killed for being themselves.

marinelife's avatar

@All Sorry, my error.

JLeslie's avatar

Yes, I remember. It was more proof to me how much people can hate. Things like this just reinforce to me that at any moment people can want to kill you just because you exist. Holocaust, Matthew Sheppard, 911, it all is similar to me. How can people be filled with so much violence, fear and hate? That poor boy. Really incredibly sad.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Yes as well as many others.

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

Without looking it up on Google or anywhere else, I think he was the young guy who got brutally murdered because he was gay, right? I remember reading about his story in Time Magazine many years ago and thinking “Why would ANYONE do that to an innocent person? Just because he was gay?? Geezus @#$%!!” I remember feeling very angry and sad about it. Matthew seemed like a very nice young man. What a waste of a wonderful human being. Although I’m totally straight, stories like this make me ever more fervent in my support for gay rights.

Sunny2's avatar

He was a martyr to the cause of equality and justice for all. I see hope among the younger people he represented. We stodgy, judgmental, old folks won’t last forever. Hold to your values and don’t be swayed by prejudice towards anyone!

Brian1946's avatar

I certainly do remember Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., whose murders led to the passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in the US.

I remember Larry King, who was also murdered because of his sexual orientation. I’d sure like to know how in hell they decided that Larry’s murder wasn’t a hate crime.

augustlan's avatar

I remember. The story broke my heart and I cried. A lot. It’s probably a big part of the reason I’m vocally supportive of gay rights. I mean, I was always supportive, but I pretty much kept it to myself unless it directly came up. It was his death that made me realize that just wasn’t enough.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I remember Mathew Sheppard, however, I remember Emit Till more; he never got any justice. I also remember Teena Renae Brandon (who the film Boys Don’t Cry was made).

The McMartin preschool debacle, because of the pedophobia running wild in the US, that was one of the biggest waste of money while ruining several people’s lives. If there were ever an example where you can’t believe an inmate while giving testimony because he/she is promised a sweetheart deal to lie for the prosecution this is text book.

Buttonstc's avatar

Yes, I remember it vividly and as soon as I heard of it remembered the face of every gay kid who passed through my classes over the years and I wondered how they had fared later on in their dealings with the homophobia and hate they encountered through their lives once they left the shelter of my classroom.

But I also remember later on what happened at his funeral and what a wonderful group of his college friends did.

They knew that the Westboro thugs with their hateful signs would be coming to protest his funeral.

They organized and constructed a phalanx of 7 foot high angel wings worn by them to block the signs from view.

They formed a protective angel guard all around. The wings frameworks were made of lightweight PVC pipe over which they hung opaque white cloth. It’s a little difficult to adequately describe how effective and beautiful was this silent protest of theirs. It thoroughly countered those hateful signs and kept them from view.

I cry with joy everytime I see those pics. They were also portrayed in the movie made about Matt and his life and brutal death.

If you want to see some inspiring pics of these, just go to Google and input “angel wings protest Westboro”

In subsequent years a few other groups have organized similar efforts when they know those Phelps jerks are coming to their town.

Matthews death was heartbreaking but the effort of his GLBT friends was a lasting inspiration.

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MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

@Hypocrisy_Central Yes, I remember Emit Till too. That was terrible.

Nullo's avatar

A terrible thing that we haven’t really reacted all that well to. Beating people to death is, AFAIK, already illegal in the 50 states.

Jeruba's avatar

Emmett Till

“Pedophobia’ means fear of children.

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dk6hgsds9axe3's avatar

I remember Matthew Sheppard. Tragic how the fear of ‘otherness’ can motivate some people to terrible deeds

gearedtolaugh's avatar

I remember the first time I saw The Matthew Shepard Story, I had some tears in my eyes, people say that you chose to be gay, well it is something that is genetic and will never have an answer to as to what causes some one to become a homosexual.

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