I wonder if I would find Laramie, Wyoming such a chilling place if I didn't know about Matthew Shepard.
--if I hadn't been a college student myself almost 9 years ago, when the rallies began around what had happened to him. I tied that green and yellow ribbon to my purple backpack, and it stayed there long after I had left college.
When Matthew Shepard died, I thought everything was going to change. I wasn't even really out to myself then, but I cared a lot about queer rights. I remember marching through downtown Chicago, listening to the names of all the LGBT people who had been murdered that year in Chicago alone. I thought, "This is it. This is what will bring enough attention to these horrible acts to end them. Things are going to be different. No one else will die because of who they love, or because of how they understand gender and sexuality."
But last night, creeping out of the camper in the dead of the night to go to the bathroom, I was scared. I felt a chill in this place deeper than the cold air. The moon was high and almost full and I wondered how Matthew felt that night tied to the fence as the life drained out of him. I wondered what he thought of as he saw the sunrise over the fields.
They passed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Act, I'm told. I also hear that President Bush will veto it. No special treatment for queer folk. If someone wants to kill them just because of who they are, that's no different than it would be if they killed them for their wallet.
I wonder if Matthew Shepard's parents would agree. I wonder if the people of Laramie would agree. I'm sure there are queer folk here and homophobic folk and every kind of person in between, but I doubt most of them would beat a man to death for supposedly hitting on them.
Yet still, almost nine years later, its a cold place.