The official media narrative about the martyrdom – er, wait, that should be murder – of Matthew Shepard has become part of the nation’s media folklore:
On the night of October 6, Shepard met “two strangers” in the Fireside Lounge in Laramie. The two men offered Shepard a ride home but instead drove him to a remote area, robbed him, beat him with pistols, and left him splayed on a fence.
Cops found the bloody gun along with Shepard’s shoes and wallet in the truck of the two men — Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson.
McKinney and Henderson claimed the “gay panic” defense, that they freaked out when Shepard came onto them sexually and killed him in a rage. They made other claims, too, but were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Almost immediately Shepard became a secular saint, and his killing became a kind of gay Passion Play where he suffered and died for the cause of homosexuality against the growing homophobia and hatred of gay America.
Indeed, a Mathew Shepard industry grew rapidly with plays and foundations along with state and even national hate crimes legislation named for him. Rock stars wrote songs about him, including Elton John and Melissa Etheridge. Lady Gaga performed John Lennon’s “Imagine” and changed the lyrics to include Shepard.
But like many narratives, there’s more there than meets the eye:
But what really happened to Matthew Shepard?
He was beaten, tortured, and killed by one or both of the men now serving life sentences. But it turns out, according to Jiminez, that Shepard was a meth dealer himself and he was friends and sex partners with the man who led in his killing. Indeed, his killer may have killed him because Shepard allegedly came into possession of a large amount of methamphetamine and refused to give it up.
The book also shows that Shepard’s killer was on a five-day meth binge at the time of the killing.
Murder is bad, whether it’s a hate crime, a crime of passion, or just business.
And that should be the point; to a big chunk of our society, Shepard’s murder is worth less – his value as a human is less – if his demise can’t be chalked up to hate.
His worth as a human – to some people – is worth less than his weight as a cudgel