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Did Society's Violence Against Gays Kill Shepard?
© 2004 by Joe Kort. All rights reserved

My mind is filled with thoughts of the thuggery and terrible murder of Matthew Shepard.

Why did this happen? Was his death sparked by the fascination people have with trying to change and heal a gay or lesbian person? Shy spend energy trying to determine whether one is born or becomes gay?

Why not take time to understand and know us? We are human beings. There is nothing inherently wrong with us. What is wrong is what is done to us.

As a gay man myself, I wonder about why people need to worry about why we need to come out.

How about worrying about what it would be like for a straight person to have to hide the fact that he or she is married, not being able to put a picture of their partner on their desk and lie to co-workers about what they did on the weekend or keep the conversation generic?

Instead of sexualizing us and telling us that we are all promiscuous, how about experiencing us and getting to know our politics and spirituality? How about seeing our family values - as good parents, aunts and uncles - our psychology and the richness of our culture? How about getting to know what lives in our souls?

While growing up, I was continually called a "faggot" in school by classmates and teachers. Abandoned, spit upon and rejected by close friends for identifying myself as or being seen as a gay man was commonplace. Such behavior was acceptable. Nothing was said to stop the violence.

I am horrified to think that people of other minority groups, who have been discriminated against themselves, preach that being gay or lesbian is wrong and something unnatural. Not Natural, a song by Debbie and Angie Winans stating that homosexuality is "not natural," is appalling. "Kike" was included in one of Michael Jackson's songs and Jewish groups' outrage forced him to delete the word. It saddens me that the same did not happen to the Winans, even th9ugh the gay and lesbian community attempted to get them to change the song.

Our experience must count. It is time to appreciate the truth about being gay or lesbian from the voices who live and die with insult, hate and misunderstanding.

Too few laws protect us. We can be ejected from our houses, be fired from our jobs, have our children taken from us and be denied the right to marry. Such atrocities happen because society seems to suggest we are a group to scorn, despise, hate and fear.

Gays and lesbians breathe and bleed like other humans do. We deserve compassion and empathy. The parent, teacher, priest, rabbi, doctor, sister or brother who is gay or lesbian should be experienced, not judged.

Matthew Shepard never stood a chance. The killers of this gentle should had their minds made up about who he was. They believed they had the support to torture and terrify a "queer."

When any man - be it Matthew or one's neighbor has life extinguished, we are all diminished.


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