Monday, July 08, 2002

So You Think Things Are Getting Better Do You? - Part One Of Many

At first, the cyclist thought it was a scarecrow. Bound to a fence post in the middle of the Wyoming nowhere, what else was it going to be? Only when he got closer, he realised it wasn't a scarecrow at all. It was a person. A man. Well, a boy really. A 21-year-old of around 5'2" and eight stone. He was unconcious, broken. He had no shoes on. There was a deep gash in his head. The boy's face was covered in blood save only for those tracks cleared by his own tears.

Matthew Shepard had been tied to the post at the end of a dirt track, he hands fastened behind his back. He had been beaten with fists and pistol whipped. The boys who tortured him- Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson- stole his credit card and his shoes and left him for dead in the cold dead of an October night.

But he was alive. He lived for 5 days, his parents by his side. On October 12th 1998 he died, the first day of America's National Gay Awareness Week.

Shepard had been to his local unis LGBT meeting and after failing to persuade any one there to go the rowdy Fireside Bar and Lounge he was given a lift home. No one knows what porsessed him to then leave his house and go to the Bar on his own.

McKinney later told his girlfriend "a guy had walked up to him and said he was gay and wanted to get with Aaron and Russell. I got aggravated with him and didn;'t want anythoing to do with him." Later the two bigots decided to pretend to be gay and lure the naive and emotionally scarred Shepard with promises of sex and then rob him. They took him out into the wilds, stole his card, took his shoes to slow him if he escaped, and battered him to unconsciousness because..... they could.

They were on their way to rob his house when they got in another fight they got life sentences and the girlfriends were charged with accessory to murder. Shepard, a HIV+ boy who once on a school trip to Morocco had been gang raped by six men on his way to his hotel, never came back to conciousness.

At his funeral, while his parents were present, Baptists protested with signs such as "Fags Die. God laughs" and "Matt Burns In Hell".

And some gay men have the audacity to say things like "I am gay but that isn't important" or "I am no flag waver". (Will Young and Scott Mills I am looking at you). Shepards mum says of Matthew: "He wasn't a saint. He was just a young man in search of himself. He was special because he was gay. Because he has always been different, that difference made him more thoughtful and empathetic."

In his search Matt was like many other gay men, who are happy living their lives, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

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