Most Americans remember Matthew Shepard.
As in “Oh, no. Wasn’t he that poor kid who was killed by homophobes out west somewhere? He was in a bar or something? Didn’t they grab him and put him on a fence, leave him for dead?”
Yes, that’s the one. A seventeen-year-old kid who was murdered horribly . And he was indeed a homosexual. In the interim between 1998 and now, Matthew Shepard’s horrific death has morphed into a very special narrative about the dangers of being a young homosexual man at the mercy of H8. What is H8? It’s what homophobes do to homosexuals.
Here’s the foundation bearing his name. You can find the gauzy details of his life captured there in loving detail. T.h.e. N.a.r.r.a.t.i.v.e., sub specie aeternitatis:
The life and death of Matthew Shepard changed the way we talk about, and deal with, hate in America. Since his death, Matt’s legacy has challenged and inspired millions of individuals to erase hate in all its forms. Although Matt’s life was short, his story continues to have a great impact on young and old alike. His legacy lives on in thousands of people who actively fight to replace hate with understanding, compassion, and acceptance.
But guess what? Another ‘icon’ bites the dust, because the real story of Matthew Shepard is far more complicated than the received hagiography. It usually is. And there are usually iconoclasts waiting with their hammers. But this one is going to smash a lot of people for whom the codified version gives their lives meaning – his family for one, and those who made money trafficking in his image for another.
Not everything is a lie.
To begin with, that fellow serving life for Matthew’s murder is indeed his stone killer and deserves to be where he is. But that boy we’ve come to think of as Saint Matthew had some mighty big clay feet.
Matthew Shepard was the winsome young homosexual in Laramie, Wyoming who in October 1998 was tortured, killed, and left hanging grotesquely from a fence. He was discovered almost a day later and later died in the hospital from his horrific wounds.
Gruesome and true. Partial truths. The received wisdom all these years is that an innocent young man was at a bar in Laramie and two evil strangers offered him a ride home. Only he never made it home. Instead he was left battered and broken, barefoot and spread out on a fence like some re-enactment of The Crucifixion, western-style. Later, his personal belongings would be found in the truck of the two men.
As Austin Ruse — the aptly named Breitbart writer — tells the story, these two attempted to use a defense I’ve never heard of: they were true-blue heterosexual good ol’ boys and when he came on to them, they panicked, just like we know heterosexual men always do. This is called “the gay panic defense”.
Mr. Ruse says:
Almost immediately Shepard became a secular saint, and his killing became a kind of gay Passion Play where he suffered and died for the cause of homosexuality against the growing homophobia and hatred of gay America.
Indeed, a Mathew Shepard industry grew rapidly with plays and foundations along with state and even national hate crimes legislation named for him. Rock stars wrote songs about him, including Elton John and Melissa Etheridge. Lady Gaga performed John Lennon’s “Imagine” and changed the lyrics to include Shepard.
Never miss a chance to cash in on someone else’s pain, eh? The soppy sentimentality of these folks looks even more grotesque as the truth comes out:
Mr. Ruse again:
Thanks to a new book by an award winning gay journalist we now know that much of this narrative turns out to be false, little more than gay hagiography.
And Dymphna asks, “why do we need to know the author of the book is gay? Is it not sufficient that he is “an award-winning-journalist”?
As gay journalist Aaron Hicklin [oops, another double-credential here with this second gay journalist – D], writing in The Advocate asks “… how does it color our understanding of such a crime if the perpetrator and victim not only knew each other but also had sex together, bought drugs from one another, and partied together?”
And Dymphna asks, “why do we need to know Mr. Hicklin’s sexual orientation. Oh… right, The Advocate is a gay magazine. Of course. And so why does he bandy about the world “color” here? That’s a b-u-o word: “black-use-only”. But perhaps Mr. Hicklin is black. In which case, he can talk about our understanding being any color he wants. Black privilege and all that.
But let’s look at Mr. Hicklin’s question using race-neutral terms: how does it affect our understanding of such a crime if the perpetrator and victim not only knew each other but also had sex together, bought drugs from one another, and partied together?
Since the Baron has let our subscription to The Advocate lapse, let me offer my own opinion: it matters crucially. The fact that Saint Matthew Shepard was a meth head and was at the moment of his captivity keeping a large batch of the stuff from someone he must have known was on a long binge of the stuff? The best one can say is that he was probably strung out himself and showed all the judgment of a meth head.
And how about his ‘friends’ at the time? They knew his drug habits.
How about the doctors who treated him before he died? Did they not run drug assays to establish whether or not his blood levels would have indicated this? Have you ever seen pictures of meth users? The before and after images are sobering. Did the doctors tell the family and they decided to hide that inconvenient fact on their way to their son’s/brother’s canonization?
Well maybe the answers are all in the book.
The author interviewed over a hundred people for this story, which really ought to have been titled “The New Book of Matt”. Whatev. It will be released in a week or so but you can pre-order at Amazon
Mr. Ruse says:
As to be expected, Matthew Shepard Inc. is rallying to denounce the new narrative that his homosexuality had little or nothing to do with his murder…[…]
Sadly, his sexual orientation wasn’t central to his death at all. Being a meth-head who refused to share with his lover was what got him killed.
Of course his family will denounce “the new narrative”. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Mr. Ruse, couldn’t you at least have been less po-mo here? Why not just call it “the Truth”. New narrative, my foot!
The dead teenager’s kith and kin have expended their lives burnishing Saint Matthew’s halo. Now some investigative journalist wants to foreclose on the very meaning they created to sustain themselves beyond his death.
The truth may make you free, but at first it can make you unutterably miserable for a very long time.
The story at Breitbart now has well over three thousand comments. Whether they are any more enlightening to this truth is your call. Our commenters are definitely a cut above the ordinary so it will be far more interesting to see what you have to say.