In Memory of Matthew Shepard

(Photo Credit: matthewisafriendofmine.com)

(Photo Credit: matthewisafriendofmine.com)

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On Oct. 11, 1998 – 15 years ago, Matthew Shepard, a gay man from Laramie, Wyoming, was murdered because of his sexual orientation. Two men kidnapped him, beat him within inches of his life with the butt of a pistol, and left him to die in the wilderness on the outskirts of town. The event sent shockwaves across the nation, as it was an act of violence driven by hate and intolerance.

 

To commemorate the 15 year anniversary, filmmaker Michele Josue directed a documentary about the life of someone whose tragic death has been turned into something positive. Josue born and raised in suburban Maryland and was very close with Shepard and his family. The film premiered on the East Coast Oct. 4 at a special screening at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Josue was in attendance as well as Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mother.

 

(Photo Credit: matthewisafriendofmine.com)

(Photo Credit: matthewisafriendofmine.com)

The film was an intimate look into Shepard’s life, showing a side of him that wasn’t seen in the flurry of media reports immediately following his murder. In an opening statement, Josue took the stage and said “this was a labor of love, it’s serendipitous that [Matthew Shepard is a Friend of Mine] is being released 15 years after Matt’s murder – it took this long to finally be ready to touch the project.”

 

The Mass hall in the National Cathedral was filled with men and women, gay and straight who wanted to acknowledge this important anniversary in the LGBT community. The film was deeply moving, especially interviews with Judy Shepard, talking about the anger and sadness she experienced after losing her son. After the film ended it was difficult to find a face that was not tear-stained. The take-away from the film is not a message about marriage equality – it is a message of love. Regardless of where one stands on those issues, the documentary is a somber reminder that human life is precious and can be taken away in the blink of an eye just because of blind hatred.