19 Years After Matthew
"Matt's gift was people. He loved being with people, helping people, and making others feel good. The hope of a better world free of harassment and discrimination because a person was different kept him motivated."
On October 12, 1998, surrounded by family and friends, Matthew Shepard died. He slipped into the middle of the night as quietly as his tiny frame would suggest but with the boldness his spirit demanded.
Since his death, Wyoming has grappled with the subsequent blame, often being painted by the crime and the media as a state of bigotry, backwardness, and violent hatred. For Matthew's parents and for Matthew himself, Wyoming was, and is, anything but this portrayal.
Wyoming still struggles to honor him and other LGBTQ Wyomingites. Currently, Wyoming as a state has 0 LGBTQ non-discrimination laws for employment or housing. There are 0 anti-bullying policies covering LGBTQ students, causing many of those students to see decreased GPAs and decreased success in the classroom and community. Only Laramie has laws on the books protecting its residents from workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. That means only 6% of Wyoming's LGBTQ population is protected.
Yet, the state has also seen a great deal of progress since the late '90s. Wyoming Equality and Out in Wyoming provide community events, programs, and resources, with many major collaborative and individual projects on the horizon. More and more Wyomingites are attending booming PFLAG organizations across the state and, accordingly, are becoming more supportive parents and community members for youth who are coming out.
As Matthew's father expressed so many years ago, Matthew did not die out in the fields of Laramie alone. He had the stars to guide his light home and a horizon he surely dreamed of, which still beckons us today. 19 years ago, our nation and the people of Wyoming wept for a courageous, tiny David slain by a seemingly insurmountable Goliath that hovered in our churches, in our schools, in our workplaces, and even in our minds. David may have fallen that night, wrapped in the shroud of a tender Wyoming countryside, but he rises in each of us. He rises when we speak up, he rises when we assemble and petition for rights, he rises when we stand up and refuse to be ignored. It's time to see Matthew's hope for a better world become reality.
If you'd like to take action, volunteer with us or consider donating to one of our campaigns. Every ounce of support goes a long way, so please consider giving in any way you can. Together, we can show each other and the rest of the world a more inclusive and loving Wyoming.