Matthew Shepard's Legacy Shines On Through Me

Matthew Shepard's Legacy Shines On Through Me

National Coming Out Day, Matthew Shephard's death, and me.


I first saw "The Laramie Project," directed by Moises Kaufman, a few years after its 2002 release date. In high school, Matthew Shephard was the first person I knew of who was killed because he was gay.

The particulars of his death were not made available — though there was extensive coverage of the case. To look into it more deeply would bring too much negative attention to one's self. All we were supposed to know was that if you were gay and out, there was a good chance you'd be killed for it.

What touched me so much about the film was the courage everyone displayed. It took courage to want to tell the story. It took courage to want to be part of telling the story. It took courage to do the interviews that the movie comprised of. It took courage to put this play on despite the hatred and prejudices the LGBTPQA+ community still suffers from after Matthew's death.

Next to the discovery of Matthew's body, the most moving part of the film was the speech that Dennis Shephard, Matthew's father, gave to Aaron McKinney, one of the two convicted of Matthew's murder. To drive home the importance, the significance, and the finality of what he and Russell Henderson did to Matthew. He could have chosen to allow the court to put the boys to death. Instead, he chose to create a teachable moment out of tragedy.

Matthew Shephard died October 12th, the day after National Coming Out Day. Matthew's personal Coming Out Story turned out to have a happy ending. His parents and brother accepted him immediately, and they advocate for him to this day. My personal coming out story didn't end with abandonment, blatant rejection, or violence. But others' stories are heartbreaking.

There is still so much more work to be done to prevent other hate crimes. Writing to councilmen, councilwomen, and state representatives asking them to create or pass bills that guarantee tougher sentencing on those who commit hate crimes in order to make people think twice about wanting to murder another human being. Joining or starting a social services agency that brings awareness of the plights of LGBTPQA+ individuals in order to hopefully appeal to would be perpetrators' humane sides. Putting faces and stories in people's hearts to prevent further bloodshed.

I wish I had personally known Matthew Shephard. We could've sat and talked about the state of gay affairs for hours while admiring the scenery of Laramie, Wyoming. We could've put on hilarious theatricals for the rest of our friends, and prepared a kick ass table for Pride.

I wish that Matthew had lived. That he finished college, met a great guy, and got into human rights. He'd have put up a great fight for “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” marriage equality, and focus on getting basic human rights for the LGBTPQA+ community. And I'd have been right there with him every step of the way.

Now 20 years after his death, we have a complete repeal of “Don't Ask, Don't Tell,” federally recognized marriage equality, hate crime legislations galore, and we're working hard to get basic human rights everywhere. I'm sure Matthew is smiling down on us.

May he continue to rest in peace.

Popular Right Now

To The Girls I Wasn't Good Enough For Because I'm Transgender

A thank you to those I wasn't enough for, because I'm transgender.


I didn't realize it at the time, but I was breaking my back for women and for relationships that were nothing but toxic.

I tried so hard to prove I was enough; man enough, worthy enough, and deserving of your love. To the girls who made me feel as if I wasn't enough because I'm a transman, thank you. No, this is not me being sarcastic or trying to "throw shade." I'm not "spilling any tea."

Maybe I've been listening to too much Ariana Grande, but this is a sincere thank you.

In the beginning, it wasn't always as clear as you blatantly saying "no one will love you for what you are" like you did at the end, you had your own special ways of making me feel little and inadequate. You kept me a secret because you didn't want to be called a "lesbian" or have people question your sexuality.

Your image was more important than me and my feelings.

You took a backseat and jokingly agreed whenever anyone would tell you to "get a real man." Your slick comments about being artificial and lacking a certain appendage cut much deeper than you could have ever imagined. Intimate contact from you was forced and I could see the slightly disgusted look on your face whenever it happened.

Your constant comparing me to your ex-lovers and even men you might take a future interest in because they "didn't require surgery or hormones to be men" broke me down lower than the dirt beneath your shoe. You knew it, and I believe you enjoyed it. I was never a priority and I was never your first choice, hell, I wasn't even your third or fourth choice.

You just liked knowing you had your power over me.

You did whatever it took to keep me wrapped around your finger, feeding me just enough to keep me coming back just to rip the rug from under me.

I took such pride in being transgender before you came along and ripped that right apart. I spent too much of my time questioning myself. Why wasn't I good enough? What could I do to become good enough? How could I change myself to be better for you?

Would you love me if I wasn't Trans? Would I be good enough then?

I was beginning to hate myself again and question the choices I made to become my authentic self. I would look upon myself and my body with shame. What a sick and twisted way of thinking. These thoughts ate away at me for the entirety of my relationships.

That's not love. That's toxicity.

It is because of you and your manipulation that I hit an all-time low, my absolute rock bottom, but there's only one way to go from such a low, and that is up.

It is because of you and our failed relationships that I am a better person than I was when I knew you. Our relationships weren't always bad, I'll give you that, but they certainly got there in time. I shared a few very special and incredible moments with some of my exes that I'll carry with me for life. I'm not being cocky when I say they weren't the best for me, but I believe I was the best for them.

Out of everyone, I had the most to offer. I did the most for them, I put them before me.

I loved them (or thought I did) despite destroying me with every cruel and degrading word that left their mouths. They took for granted and lost someone who would've moved mountains for a simple smile.

Regardless of how our stories ended, I will always want the best for them, silently cheering them on from the sidelines.

I hope they got what they wanted. I hope they never find themselves in a relationship with someone who treats them as they treated me. I hope no one belittles them, ignores them, or makes them fight so hard for their love or attention. No one in the world deserves to be treated that way.

At this point in my life, I can honestly say I'm more confident and sure of myself than I have ever been.

And it's because of you, thank you.

Thank you for telling me and making me feel like I wasn't enough because now I know it's not that I wasn't enough, maybe I was too much, but you're never too much for someone who can't get enough of you. Thank you for breaking me down because in those days is where I did the most self-reflection. I will never question myself again. I will never apologize or make an excuse for being who I am.

Thank you for leaving me completely alone, because I was able to grow and be stable on my own two feet, without you. I learned to find the positivity again that you stole from me. I learned to love myself again, by myself, making damn sure this time it wouldn't falter again for anyone. I learned I didn't need to beg for another chance from you, but to instead give that chance to myself.

By giving myself that chance I am thriving and living as the happiest I've ever been. Thank you for kicking me down so low, because I've rebuilt myself back better than I ever thought possible.

Thank you for being so bad for me, because I can now appreciate how special my current relationship is. I'm so lucky to have finally found someone who never lets me question or doubt myself for a split second.

I'm with someone who doesn't cringe when she sees my chest scars, someone who wants to learn how to give me my testosterone shot, and who showers me with reassurance every single day. I'm so grateful to have found someone who makes me forget all about being transgender, who wants to learn my body and how to love it alongside with me. What a beautiful turn of events it's been.

I take all that I've learned from you and I've flipped it so that I am able to give my all to someone who finally deserves it.

Thank you.

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

I Am A Pro-LGBTQ+ Christian, And Yes, That's Possible, Here's How

I'm a Christian and I love the LGBTQ+ community and here's why.


I'm a Christian and I don't believe being gay is a sin. And I won't apologize for what I believe. For as long as I can remember, I have been told by nearly every Christian that I have ever met that being gay was a sin.

And gay people, at the least, should be kept at arm's length lest you succumb to "same-sex attraction" like them. And honestly, looking at the culture of where I was raised, it makes sense but that doesn't excuse it.

I grew up in a small, white, conservative farming town in the middle of the Bible belt so to say that I'm an anomaly would be the understatement of the century. But strangely enough, for as long as I can remember, I never really believed that being gay was a sin. I guess in my head, I could never understand how loving someone was wrong.

I vividly remember when Obama legalized gay marriage in all fifty states, a close family member saying "I don't hate gay people but I just don't understand why they need to get married". I remember getting angry because of course gay people want to get married; it's a fundamental right.

This was the very first issue that I ever expressed liberal opinions on and I should've known that it would spiral from there ;) Despite everything I was told, I always rejected the idea that gay people were somehow "wrong" for being attracted to the same sex. I found out as I got older that my opinion, although it came so naturally, was a very unpopular one in my area.

As I dove into Christianity and what it truly meant, I stumbled on so many amazing resources that dive into the excerpts in the Bible that people use to invalidate homosexuality (I will link them all below!).

I watched a Ted Talk about homosexuality and the Bible and I remember being so ridiculously happy that I could now be an open ally to the LGBTQ+ community and have the evidence to back up my opinion. And as I dove deeper into what I believed, I came across all of the horror stories of LGBTQ+ people at the hands of the church.

I won't say I was surprised, because I wasn't, but I was absolutely heartbroken. I have talked to so many of my friends, most of whom are in the LGBTQ+ community, and they have told me that I am the only Christian that they have ever met who not only accepted them for who they are but embraced them.

Y'all that broke my heart... into a million tiny pieces. What are we doing, as a church, if we are continuing to target and ostracize such a large part of our brothers and sisters? How did we get Jesus's message of love and acceptance so horribly wrong? How did we get to a place where we attempt to rationalize blatant acts of hatred because the victims were gay?

How about before we get hung up on the phrasing of verses that were written thousands of years ago and translated through multiple languages we just love people? How can we condone telling people that if they aren't straight they must remain celibate when intimacy was one of the first gifts that God gave mankind?

How hard is it to look to your neighbor and say "I love you" and mean it? How hard is it to tell someone that you see them and that their identity, struggle, and feelings are valid?

I can tell you, because I do it every day, that it is not hard; in fact, it is one of the easiest things that you can do. It's human nature to want to be seen, loved, and told that you are valid in every aspect of your identity.

Jesus's number one commandment was to love the Lord with all of your heart and your neighbor as yourself. And even if you're not a Christian, I think we can agree that love is what will change the world.

My mission in life is to be love to everybody that I meet. And contrary to what so many people believe, it's not just my faith that inspires this. It is my humanity that not only encourages me to love people but demands it.

And on a real level, nearly all of the best people I have ever met are in the queer community and they radiate the love and acceptance of Jesus more than most Christians that I know.

Also if you are in the Springfield area and looking for a loving church that will wholeheartedly embrace and love you, The Venues is where it's at. Send me a DM on Instagram and we can sit together.

Find an affirming church near you:

Here are some resources on the LGBTQ+ community and the church:

What does the Bible say about homosexuality -

Finding Identity: An LGBTQ Pastor's Journey -

Matthew Vines: God and the Gay Christian -

*buy the book here:

Why I chose my LGBTQ daughter over the Evangelical Church -

God is Grey - This is one of my favorite resources for all issues relating to life and faith!

Girl Defined Clap-Back on Gay Christianity -

Paul & Morgan, Gay Christianity -

The Trevor Project -

Related Content

Facebook Comments