The death of Matthew Shepard was truly despicable and one that will live with us for a very long time. Matthew’s death hit me very hard. Over the weekend of October 11, 1998 I had written a card to Matthew sharing with him that my thoughts and prayers were with him. I also told him that what happened to him had only served to renew my energies to fighting for human rights for all of us. I stood in front of my television in shock on Monday morning while CNN announced that Matthew had died.
It is very ironic that this all took place on the weekend of October 11. Many of you may not know that this weekend was the celebration of the 10th anniversary of “National Coming Out Day” and that it was observed on this weekend.
I live my life openly. Most people who know me know that I am gay. It’s not something I “advertise” but you cannot know me fully without knowing that fact. My “coming out” process was a very long and painful process. However, I have learned being honest with people is the best policy. When you’re honest, you have nothing to fear. So, in honor of Matthew Shepard and National Coming Out Day, I have written this short essay.
Some people I have known have found it difficult to accept my sexuality. I try telling them I am no different than before I shared the fact with them. Hate crimes such as this must come to an end. I pray you will be touched enough by what happened to Matthew Shepard to take some type of action. There are millions of us-your friends, your children, your parents, and others to whom this could have happened. Instead of hatred, we must plant understanding. As the body of Christ we are called to action.
We must not let the death of Matthew scare us into inaction. The church at Corinth was told: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” How fitting those words are to us, today. Let us vow this, “That Matthew Shepard’s death will not be in vain and we will work to sow unity in the world around us.”
Prayer: Holy Comforter, you hold our lives in the palm of your hand, comfort us in our sorrow and soothe our spirit. Help us to look to you in this time and help us reach out and share the message of hope so freely granted to us. Amen.