My sister shared a video on Facebook earlier this morning that addressed the murder of Matthew Shephard in 1988. Being unfamiliar with this particular incident, I decided to do some extended research on the murder to unveil the details of the crime. What I discovered was deeply alarming and furthermore shocking, considering I had never heard of this horrific scenario.
Matthew Shephard was murdered at a mere twenty-one years of age in Caper, Wyoming. He was severely beaten, tied to a fence in freezing temperatures and burned alive by two men named Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson.He died six days later in a hospital in Colorado.
The reasoning for his murder? He was gay.
McKinney and Henderson were charged and convicted with first-degree murder and given two life sentences. In 2015, it was proposed that Shephard’s murder was a result of crystal meth because the drug was circulating the area at the time of his death, however this particular proposition has created significant uproar because it suggests the murder was not, in fact, a hate crime.
Why would there be an attempt to isolate Shephard’s murder, and to deem his death of a result of illegal drugs as opposed as a hate crime towards the LGBTQ community? I possess no definitive answer to this question, however I would argue that an alternate explanation of his murder was proposed in order to refrain from drawing attention to the harassment that individuals of the LGBTQ community endure. LGBTQ hate crimes are often overlooked, and violence in this particular community is often dismissed because individuals fail to consider gay discrimination as a worthy cause to discuss.
What bother me most significantly is the fact that I had never heard of Matthew Shephard’s case prior to this morning. Perhaps this could be considered as my own fault, however I think it is more likely to assume that LGBTQ hate crimes simply fail to receive a lot of acknowledgement. LGBTQ people are just that – they are people, and they are humans beings worthy of discussion and recognition when tragedy wreaks havoc within their community.