James Osborn is a big man. He stands about 6 feet 3 inches tall and looks as solid as a football player, like an offensive lineman. When he shakes a hand, it is with a rugged, yet friendly firmness he must have learned growing up a rancher’s boy in rural Wright, Wyo., a city of about 1,200 people.
Jim is the advisor for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Association at the University of Wyoming. He started his collegiate odyssey at UW in 1994. In 1998 he was a senior and chair for LGBTA. He became immediate friends with Matt Shepard when Matt joined the UW and LGBTA community in August of that year.
Jim speaks softly in a very warm and welcoming tone. His eyes lit up like light bulbs that could light an entire football stadium when I asked him about his friend Matt and his legacy.
He speaks of Matt like anyone of us would talk about our best friend since elementary school. The only difference is he only spent a little over a month with his friend before he was killed. It strikes me as odd he could become such good friends with Matt so quickly, but when you see the type of person he is and when you hear him describe Matt, you can tell these two individuals are very similar and loving human beings. It, then, makes it obvious why they became such good friends in such a short time.
Plus, I think Jim feels so close to Matt because he has made it his life’s goal to promote and fight for gay rights since Matt was a victim of an unimaginable crime.
This man, to me, embodies what humanity should be about.
Jim has no hate in any inch of his soul. He only wants the best for everyone, regardless of the differences among us.
I can’t think of many people like that. Even people, who I consider to be good people, still hold onto prejudice views and don’t embody the type of person I see in Jim.
I can’t think of why anyone would not love this guy, especially for something like his sexual orientation. He is a good man and community member.
I think we, as a society, should be embarrassed at what we have historically done to LGBT people, and still do to this day.
Why can’t we give them marriage union rights? What is so wrong about them wanting equal rights that we all enjoy in our everyday lives? Why can’t they adopt a child? Why can’t they walk down the street holding the hand of their partner without a hostile reaction from many people?
Jim lived his entire life, prior to college, hiding his sexuality in a closet. I think maybe we should all go into a closet ourselves and reevaluate how we, as a society, treat fellow humans and fellow citizens.
Maybe putting ourselves in a closet will help change our attitudes and how we treat all people in our society. After long evaluation in our closet, we can start discussing among ourselves what we need to do to make all people equal, and not only in legal terms, but how we socially treat people.
I know some of you reading this will think this don’t apply to you. You aren’t a bigot. You don’t judge people based on race or sexual orientation. Well, I understand. Everyone wants to think of themselves as a good human. But part of the problem is our ignorance to our own biases.
Part of Matt’s legacy is that he opened our eyes and made us aware hate is everywhere and can take the life of great people. I think we need to expand that legacy as we approach the fourth anniversary of his murder and Phelps’ visit to Fort Collins. We need to say, “Hey we’re aware, now, let’s confront our own biases, talk about them and work to treat everyone with respect and dignity.”
Don’t believe that coming out of me, a moron know-it-all columnist, then maybe Jim can convince you.
“Because until people begin to discuss it and change their own attitudes,” Osborn said, “policy and legislation aren’t going to change. People need to start realizing gays and lesbians are not pedophiles praying on children and trying to subvert the American family.”