Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pop History Moment: The Death of Matthew Shepard

On October 7th, 1998, student Matthew Shepard met Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney at the Fireside Lounge on the campus of the University of Wyoming in Laramie...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketWhat happened next will never be fully known; Henderson and McKinney have since given contradictory testimony (as have their 'girlfriends'), and Matthew is dead. What we do know is that his attackers savagely beat him and left him for dead on a fence in a remote area, where he wasn't found for 18 hours...

Matthew died on this day in 1998.

Clearly a somewhat effete man - 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighing 105 pounds - was a major threat to his two larger and stronger attackers; they later claimed that he propositioned them sexually, and in court invoked the uber-weaselly gay panic defense in support of this claim.

Personally, I believe the only gay panic involved in this instance belongs to these monsters who were so insecure in their sexuality that they killed Matthew, rather than just - oh, I don't know - saying no. Hopefully their years in jail have sorted out Henderson and McKinney's ambivalence towards man-on-man action.

Matthew Shepard's murder had an immediate impact upon me that the years have done little to assuage. Of course, I have always lived with the idea - as do all gay men - that at any minute I could be murdered by closet cases like Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney. The reluctance I have always had in dealing with straight men became full-on paranoia that fateful day, and resonates still, twelve long years later...

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