There are some people who become totemic. Their name and/or image are indelibly associated with something to the point that the person behind it often gets hidden or ignored. That’s certainly true of Matthew Shepard, who in October 1998 at 21-years-old was savagely beaten, tied to a fence and left for dead. By the time he passed away six days later he had become international news, with people around the world shocked at what was a truly cruel and barbaric crime motivated by homophobia.
No anti-gay crime before or since has had the kind of international impact Shepard’s death did, helping to give people a rallying point to demand change and to say that LGBT people would no longer put up with the kind of bigotry and potential violence from the homophobic society that surrounded them – especially as there were comparatively few legal protections afforded gay people. [Read more…]