It was almost four years ago that I met two men who forever changed my life.
The first is someone I have come to know intimately. We have laughed together, cried together and grown together. I have come to terms with his differences. I have come to accept the fact that he is gay. I have learned that love has no limits or boundaries. It takes whatever form it takes. And that is OK.
I am that man.
Four years ago, I came out of the closet. In that one moment, I opened a door that was closed for 18 years. My world emerged from an eternal winter. It blossomed with hope, happiness and opportunity. I could finally be the person I knew I was ever since I was 7 years old.
Happiness has its price.
Four years ago, I met another man. Though I was never able to shake his hand, he is someone I have grown to know through those who knew him. I have heard the words of his mother. I have shaken hands with his best friend. I have hugged the woman who cut him down from the fence where he spent the last conscious moments of his life.
That man is Matt Shepard.
He didn’t like to be called Matthew, he preferred Matt. His favorite color was blue. He always had a smile on his face. He loved the theater and was involved in politics. He was close to his family. He was an only child. He was much like every person in Wyoming, Colorado and every state in the Union. The only difference is, he was gay.
The church that held his funeral was over-filled with mourners. They had to open another church down the street to handle the crowds that gathered. Among those at his funeral was a minister from Topeka, Kansas.
He and his followers, amidst the snow and cold, held up wind-whipped signs reading “Fag Matt in Hell” and “Fags Die God Laughs” among others. This man, in what he calls his “love crusades.” Has set out to stop the “militant sodomite agenda” that he feels now permeates this country.
His hatred doesn’t stop at homosexuals. He has spread hateful messages about African-Americans, Jewish people and Christians among others. Now he is bringing his message, for the second time, to Fort Collins.
On Saturday, Oct. 12, our CSU Rams face the Cowboys from Wyoming in the greatest homecoming match-up since I started school here four years ago. This man and his picketing ministry will bring their hate-filled message to that game.
A group of students here on campus have organized a peaceful positive presence the day of the game. This silent stand against hate is our attempt to let the picketers and the community know that this kind of hate is not welcome here.
I would encourage any and all students to join our presence on Oct. 12. Help show that we are UNITED against this kind of hate. Visit the GLBT Student Services Web site at www.colostate.edu/depts/glbtss or call 491-4342 to find out what you can do to help.
It has now been four years since Matt left this world and four years since I truly entered it. While there have been advances in the GLBT rights movement, blatant displays of homophobia are still widely practiced and accepted. Despite how one may feel about GLBT rights, I think we can all agree that hate in any form does not belong on our campus and in our community.
Help send the message that we are not a hateful community but a community united in respect, dignity and love.