Matthew Shepard was murdered 20 years ago today. He was beaten, tortured, and left to die on a fence in Wyoming because he was gay. .
I was in college and will never forget this news circulating around the few out queer kids on campus (of which I was not one, yet, but they were my friends). An LGBTQ student group hung up jeans and a flannel shirt on a fence and covered them in fake blood to make a statement. Critics (straight people) thought this was in poor taste. I was the editor of the campus newspaper and wrote a piece in support of the action. You SHOULD be upset and shocked by it, I wrote. You SHOULD be forced to witness it. I still feel this way. .
Shepard’s death ignited a conversation about hate crimes in this country, but so did the death of #JamesByrd , Jr- a black man murdered by white supremacists in Texas earlier the same year. His death was brutal and horrifying- they chained and dragged him behind a truck for 3 miles on an asphalt road. The legislation that eventually passed is called the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Byrd’s death is almost always erased when people reference this legislation. (Don’t do this). .
20 years later, the group most likely to be subjected to hate crimes is #TransWomen of color- they have likely always faced the most violence and least conversation about it. While it can happen to any of us, most #LGBTQ folks who experience violence are LGBTQ folks of color.
On the 20th anniversary of Shepard and Byrd’s deaths, I want us to honor them by remembering this. .