THE SAVAGE beating and subsequent death of Matthew Shepard on 12 October 1998 has led to a deep and permanent change in my psyche. It is odd that the death of a young man on the entrance to his adult life should affect me so much, but then again, not really. As a gay Jewish man I potentially risk my life in this country everyday simply for being who I am, and I have a family history that has included numerous hideous deaths at the hands of the Nazis during the Holocaust. In Drobnin, Poland, all but one of my grandfather's cousins of survived Auschwitz, and only because he was forced to burn the bodies in the Sonderkommando. In another town, everyone in the shtetl was locked into a barn and burned alive.
Reading the news of Matthew Shepard's cruelly wrought final conscious moments on this Earth reminded me of my own naivete when I was his age. I was also reminded of the fear and hopes I had during that youthful time, when the future did not have the dint of certainty and unrelievedly grim quality it had started to take on for me. Until that day...
After a lackluster National Coming Out Day, I had lunch with a friend on Monday who told me of Matthew's death. I had not heard the news at all. Later, I read about it. Later still I read article after article, but seeing the same facts repeatedly did not diminish the sourness that took over my stomach and the melancholia that descended on my spirit. This led to a lot of activity on my part, most of it in writing. I wrote to cousins and friends, and I also wrote to newspapers. The first four days were very difficult. But, life does go on, and the need to remember what's good in this world is key. And so I did. I went out, I saw friends, I ventured forth. The need to be with others outweighed the desire to mourn, rail, and be outraged.
So, web reader, click here to go to the diaries.
Click here to go to my Matthew Shepard Memorial Page.