One Equal World

December Reminds Us of a Life Lost to Violence

Posted on: December 12, 2013

For many, this time of year is often filled with holiday-induced anxiety, end-of-year deadlines, and being surrounded by loved ones. For the most part, it’s a positive time, save for one glaring exception. The month of December marks an annual reminder of one life cut too short because of a disgraceful act of hate: December 1st would have been Matthew Shepard’s 37th birthday, but instead, this day serves as a memorial of a kind, loved young man, who was brutally killed because of homophobia.

Matthew Shepard memorial bench Laramie

A memorial bench in Laramie dedicated to Matthew Shepard.
Image: Flickr CC/ Wyoming_Jackrabbit

Those who love him describe Matthew Shepard as a compassionate, engaging person who was passionate about equality during his life. In October 1998, Shepard was brutally beaten, tortured and left for dead by two men in Laramie, Wyoming. His subsequent death proved to be a loss that forever changed the way the world considers hate crimes and homophobia. According to the Matthew Shepard Foundation, “The horrific events that took place would become one of the most notorious anti-gay hate crimes in American history,” of the way that hate and bigotry took the life of a young man.

Although those close to Shepard were devastated by the tragedy, much good has come from his untimely death. The Matthew Shepard Foundation explains that the hate crime “spawned an activist movement that, more than a decade later, would result in passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a federal law against bias crimes directed at lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered people.” The tragic event also sparked global equal rights activism, which shed a positive light on the loss the LGBT community endured. “The life and death of Matthew Shepard changed the way we talk about and deal with, hate in America,” the Foundation says. Shepard’s legacy has inspired countless individuals to work toward eradicating hate, violence, and injustice in all of its forms.

This December, consider the magnitude of Matthew Shepard’s life and death in 2013. Have we progressed? Has the LGBT community flourished amid hateful obstacles?

For more information about Matthew Shepard, and the good that has emerged from his tragic death, visit www.matthewshepard.org.

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