Friday, March 19, 2010

Grief for a Boy I Never Knew...for the Boy I Always Knew

Wyoming is just one big small town.

While the land mass is ranked 10th in the U.S. the population is the smallest at just over half a million the entire state.

Growing up in Wyoming as part of an old Wyoming family, there is no such thing as 6 degrees of separation. At most, I'd guess 3 degrees. More often 2. In some parts of the state, I'm related to pretty much anyone within a stone's throw.

So, it was really no surprise that while I did not know Matthew Shepard personally, there was only 1 degree of separation between us. More than the time of his death, my mother was involved intimately with his uncle1.

An event that shocked and horrified a nation, devastated many of us who call Wyoming home. Even now, 12 years later, I'm still moved to tears of deeply felt grief over the fate of a boy I never knew.

Maybe it's because I did know him...or, at least, boys like him. I loved a boy very much like him - a boy who went to school in Laramie, a boy who, but for the grace, would have gone to the same fate.

Maybe it's because I know that while Wyoming has a lack of cultural diversity and more than its fair share of conservatives2 and rednecks, there are still many, many loving, open-minded, compassionate people who live/have lived there who know the appalling nature of Matthew's death is not an accurate reflection of our community...our home and our hearts.

And maybe, just maybe, because of that, not only am I filled with grief but I'm filled with shame. Shame for a part of my community who bred that kind of hatred.

And maybe, just maybe, I'm also filled with pride at the unification of a community and the outpouring of support of that same community who rallied around his family and the GLBT community in Wyoming.

And maybe, just maybe, George W. Bush's promise to veto hate crime legislation named after Matthew Shepard was just the very last straw for me to hate him with everything in my being.

And maybe, just maybe, no matter what Obama does or does not do in office, he did manage to get the Matthew Shepard Act passed within his first 12 months as president and for that I will love him...not just because of what it means legally but what it means to his mother.

Such a senseless crime and death.

I just needed to remember...have been remembering since the Constance McMillen story came to my attention.

I needed to talk about it.

I needed to cry about it...again.

1: I think that's true. Mom, correct me if I'm wrong there but I think that was within the same time period, yes?

2: I feel it is my obligation to apologize to the American people for Dick Cheney. I'm sorry, y'all.

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