by Judy Shepard, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation
It¹s hard to believe that it has been 10 years since Matthew¹s death. So much has changed yet so much remains the same. I want to thank all of the individuals and organizations that have given us the Foundation and our family their unwavering support. Our work is far from over. I don¹t mean the work of the Foundation only, I mean the work we all need to do at a personal level. We need to continue talking to our friends, families and co-workers. Unless we are honest about who we are and are able to share with those who love us what our lives are like, they will not know how to help us. We need those allies in this struggle to achieve equality across the board to realize all of our civil rights.
Great advances have been made in changing people’s attitudes and eliminating ignorance about the gay community even in my wonderful state of Wyoming. At least I thought so, until I read the readers’ comments following an article about the 10-year observance of Matt’s death in the Cheyenne, WY, newspaper.
I understand that the readers who take the time to write in are doing so because they absolutely disagree with the article and those who do agree won¹t bother to write comments. However, it brought home to me how much work is left to do to make the world an accepting place. The level of ignorance is astounding. The continuing belief that what happened to Matt was not a hate crime and the notion that “special people shouldn¹t have special rights,” is beyond my comprehension. The level of hate is frightening.
Our family and the Foundation staff are committed to doing all they can to ensure the message -“erase hate” – is one that is known to the community and its allies as well as those who are trying learn more about the
Foundation and the LGBT community at large. It is ignorance that ultimately results in hate and that may escalate into physical violence. The only way to combat that ignorance is to educate and tell our stories.
We are all aware of how important this election cycle is to all of us. Please take the time to know the issues and what is at stake for the LGBT community. Share your stories with those who care about you. It is the only
way they will know how to vote to support you.
The privilege of having the right to vote is also a responsibility. We must remember that we are not voting only for a new president but also for representatives at the local, county, state and national level. Please vote
and encourage everyone you know to vote. Apathy is unacceptable. We are at a crossroad in the movement and we need to show our support for those who support the LGBT community. We are all hoping the next 10 years will be our time.