I have a small book addiction. I own upwards of 200 books now and despite a growing pile of “New, Must Reads”, I can’t help myself when I go to Half Price Books. So yesterday, I caved and got two new books and two seasons of my favorite show. One book is about surviving in the wild. I like that kid of stuff, being scrappy and crafty on the spot. Especially after watching “Into The Wild”.
But the other book I get was one I knew would break my heart.
It’s called “The Meaning of Matthew: My Son’s Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed” by Judy Shepard. If you didn’t put it together, the book is about Matthew Shepard, the 21-year-old kid in Wyoming who was tortured and murdered in October of 1998 because he was gay. The memoir is written by his mother and it follows through Matthew’s whole life and legacy. I need everyone to read this book.
(Content warning real quick though: the book does go into detail about Matthew’s torture and murder. It also talks about drugs, alcohol, mental illness, and rape so if you’re sensitive to that maybe steer clear.)
I think I learned about Matthew Shepard for the first time when I was about 14. Deep in the closet, on Tumblr, and someone had made a post about LGBT+ people everyone should know. That post didn’t go much into detail but that photo of him, the black one white one of him looking into the camera with the soft sweater, has always stuck with me. Then a few years later, I watched “Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine” on Netflix (HIGHLY recommend) and got a much, much more detailed perspective for what happened.
This book, however, has gone deeper and hit harder than any of the media before. His mother holds nothing back. She tells you who Matt was and what happened that night. She tells you his struggles and his triumphs. I admire how honest she was throughout the whole story. She wants the reader to know her son Matthew for who he was, not for who people wrote him to be in newspapers or editorials. He was a human being with flaws and strengths just like everyone else and Judy Shepard tells you how it is. From the beginning of Matthew’s life, through his attack and death, onto the aftermath of court cases, protests, media pressure, and, most importantly, honoring their son.
If you need a book to read, make it this one. Even if you’re straight, even if all your friends and family are straight (that you know of). This is a story that must be heard.
When I go out, I sometimes get scared to wear any Pride buttons or even wear my hat backwards. I get scared that someone will see the patches on my bag (Bi Pride and Trans Rights Are Human Rights) and they’ll say something or do something. Hell, when I was in that bookstore aisle, looking at the bookshelf labeled “LGBT+ Studies”, the same bookshelf where this book sat before I grabbed it, a man had walked into the end of the aisle and just stood facing me. I have no idea what he was doing but I felt my heckles rise in that moment, afraid he was going to say something about the books I was looking at. It’s happened before, I’ve had people say shit to me and I’d much rather not do it again. This is something that LGBT+ people have to live with everyday and it’s terrifying and exhausting.
That is why Matthew Shepard’s story must be told. To educate people on the importance of equality. Although Matthew isn’t here anymore and I never even met him, his story has still changed my life. Matthew was killed before I was born, about a year and a month before I was born. I do think about him everyday. I think about him, I think about Harvey Milk, I think about Richie Phillips. I think about all the LGBT people whose lives have been shifted, destroyed, and lost due to someone else’s bullshit prejudice.
I tore through this, read it all in one night. I felt like I needed to air some thoughts and share it, I run a blog so what better way to do it then here. You can buy the book from Amazon right here and I highly recommend that you do. You can also learn more about the Matthew Shepard Foundation here. Lastly, in the book, Matthew’s mother talks about how she was so happy that Matthew had called her a few days before his attack and they were able to talk and say I love you. Call you loved ones.
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