Funny enough, I was talking with a few of my colleagues about Matthew Shepard today - we brought up the conversation because I was watching Obama's address to the Gay Rights Group at the Human Rights Campaign dinner. I shed a tear as I hear Obama delivered his speech, admitting that the progress has been slow and encouraging the Gay Rights Group to continue to campaign to pressure the government, and to remind him of his work for the LGBT community.
His speech can be summed up in a sentence, "None of us want to be defined by just one part of what makes us whole" - Barack Obama.
That's Part 1 of 3 of Obama's promise to the American's LGBT Community. If you cannot be bothered watching, the transcript is available here but if you get the time, the video is worth watching. He also mentioned the Stonewall Protest and Matthew Shepard.
Those who don't know Matthew Shepard, he was a young boy who died of inhumane torture. He was lured by two guys to trusting them, and later they tied him to a pole and repeatedly bashed him and left him to die. I don't know where to begin, to imagine Matthew being tied on the fence, counting his way to death.
"My son Matthew did not look like a winner. After all, he was small for his age-weighing, at the most, 110 pounds, and standing only 5'2" tall. He was rather uncoordinated and wore braces from the age of 13 until the day he died. However, in his all too brief life, he proved that he was a winner. My son-a gentle, caring soul-proved that he was as tough as, if not tougher than, anyone I have ever heard of or known." - Dennis Shepard, Matthew's Father
I decided to write about Matthew today, because to me, he's very much alive, in me, in you and many people who have come to know him whether directly or indirectly. I watched Prayers for Bobby and Milk, and in both movie, I cried my heart and lungs out - I literally poured. And through the wonders of Wikipedia, I learned more about these two American icons. No, these two international, world icons - not just to the lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgenders and intersexuals, but every human being who walk the surface of this earth. Through their stories, I found out about Matthew Shepard, but don't remember his name until a conversation with David a while ago.
I hurt so bad I cried while I read more and more about Matthew Shepard. I look at his photos and nothing tells me that he deserves any of those pain. Yet, he died. He was tied on his hands, helpless, hopeless and beaten to death. Beaten to death.
His death has got to do with you and me, because his death is an indirect causation of our ignorance, lack of compassion and understanding. The murderers who killed Matthew are everywhere - they are your brother, your sister, your parents and your closest friends. They are these people who scream insult and mumble threats at those different to them.
Matthew Shepard is not alone either, there are many more Matthew Shepard out there who cry themselves to sleep, who lives in fear of who they are, who constantly think about taking their own lives. And there are the murderers who dream of getting rid of the homos, who insult and beat the crap out of these otherwise innocent people trying to live their life. And these murderers could be one of our closest relative and friends. Their lack of understanding and their ignorance has got to do with us, because we can change that!
The stigma and stereotype related to lesbian, gay, intersex, transgender and bisexual are not going to go away until people start taking action - people spread the message. Nothing will change unless we change the status quo - that is life. If you're going to sit alone in your bedroom and whine about how much your life sucks, guess what, your life will continue to suck! Bad!
The beauty is, you have that choice to change. There are hundreds of different countries, billions of people in this world and you have a thousand, if not million choice you could make to change the 'ordinary'. Understanding, tolerance and compassion starts with you.
Yes, Matthew Shepard should not die - fuck, he should not even have to go through any shit in the first place for who he is, but he's dead. He is as dead as he can be. As much hurt and tears we shed for him, nothing is going to change.
"It's hard to put into words how much Matt meant to family and friends and how much they meant to him. Everyone wanted him to succeed because he tried so hard. The spark that he provided to people had to be experienced. He simply made everyone feel better about themselves. Family and friends were his focus. He knew that he always had their support for anything that he wanted to try." - Dennis Shepard.
Photo credit: occam
A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to sit down with a well-respected movie maker who have earlier emailed me asking for help. She wanted me to travel down south to help a group of kids to mourn and nothing breaks my heart more than hearing that kids need to learn to mourn and to grieve. What happened was, a few months back, a harmless 15 year old boy was beaten up because of a stupid table, and the entire community was shaken by his death. His friends, classmates and schoolmates were all left scarred for life. I held back my tears with all my might with failure, listening to their stories. Breaking my heart over and over again, I listen to these kids recount their stories.
A kid said, "Jai's dead and nothing is going to change that. And we need these whole media bullshit to end. We want people to stop shoving microphone in our face and keep talking about his death. We want to know that there is hope - we want to move on. We want to learn to move on!"
Move on. Hope.
How true is that? I sat there and that's when it came to me.
Matthew is dead, that's true but he continues to live in each and everyone of us who knew his story and share his pain. We share his feelings, his thoughts, his motivations, his love and most of all, we share a common side of him - he's gay.
It's a shame Matthew died, and it hurts me everytime I read his news again, but it hurts me even more to imagine the amount of Matthews out there who live in fear, who continue to get the mocking. I am challenging you, my friend, to feel Matthew's pain in the last few hours of his death. Remember those pain, because using those pain, I challenge you to think what you could do with limits to your circumstances. How can you create understanding, tolerance and compassion amongst your loved ones?
Photo credit: wolfsoul
I am not asking you to come out, nor am I asking you to start advocating for LGBT although these people gets the most and highest respect from me. I am asking you to change the status quo - when someone make an offensive remarks on LGBT, how can you sneakily neutralise it?
For example, the term 'gay' as derogatory, e.g. "that shirt is so gay!" - and often I would laugh with them and say, "gay is so yesterday, I reckon that shirt is so
Reach out to bloggers, to your friends, your family or even stranger you know who are struggling or feels alone and lonely. Don't sympathise them, empathise them. Don't patronise, show them genuine love and care - get to know them.
And learn how to communicate and listen - refer your friends to websites, helpline or someone you know would be of help to them when they feel crap. If you think someone's in danger of harming someone or themselves, seek help.
"Matt's gift was people. He loved being with people, helping people, and making others feel good. The hope of a better world free of harassment and discrimination because a person was different kept him motivated. All his life he felt the stabs of discrimination. Because of that he was sensitive to other people's feelings. He was naive to the extent that, regardless of the wrongs people did to him, he still had faith that they would change and become "nice." Matt trusted people, perhaps too much" - Dennis Shepard.
Photo credit: nyki_m
I believe that every human are compassionate and kind. It is only if they are threatened, or when they feel vulnerable that they hurt someone else.
As Matthew hung on the fence feeling hopeless and helpless, I am sure there is a small part of him that feels hopeful - that his death will speak aloud to the nation, to the world what ignorance and intolerance could do to a harmless people like you and me, your children, nephews and nieces, your friend and all your loved ones.
I am sure that as he hung on the fence, coping the pain, crying the last drop of tears left in his body, he never thought he was God nor was he more superior than anyone of us. I am sure he did not want us to give thanks to him nor does he want us to grieve for him - I am sure he wanted us to grow in him.
"Matt loved people and he trusted them. He could never understand how one person could hurt another, physically or verbally. They would hurt him, and he would give them another chance. This quality of seeing only good gave him friends around the world. He didn't see size, race, intelligence, sex, religion, or the hundred other things that people use to make choices about people. All he saw was the person. All he wanted was to make another person his friend. All he wanted was to make another person feel good. All he wanted was to be accepted as an equal." - Dennis Shepard.
And if you are one of the Matthew Shepard reading this blog - fearful, scared, alone, lonely and hurting sometimes or all the time - you are not alone.
You are not lonely. Because I am speaking about this and many more others are talking about this. You are loved, because if you open up your heart and put forward your honest feelings, you'll feel the love pouring in. Most of the time we feel lonely because we select who we want to love us; we pick and choose, with hope and expectations we hope certain people will love us back and when they don't, we feel useless and loveless; yet sitting on a chair in his study room, lying on the bed in his bedroom, and blogging from his kitchen table are ordinary citizen of the world, ready to offer you their love and compassion, their time, energy and effort - themselves just to make your day slightly better.
Don't be fearful. It is going to take a long time to change this world, but work is on its way. We are seeing changes already - the Aboriginals, the African-American coped with it for a very, very long time and they fought with tears, sweats and lots of blood, integrity and pride before they arrive at what they have today.
Don't be hurting, reach out and as corny as this sound - at least half the world is listening and waiting for you to reach out to them.
Sometimes its OK to feel vulnerable. Right now, somewhere there is a boy, a girl, a transgender, an intersex, a lesbian, a bisexual and a straight person, feeling just like what you are feeling right now - fearful, scared, lonely and alone.
Love doesn't discriminate whatever they try to convince you and make you believe.
"Every time you celebrate Christmas, a birthday, or the Fourth of July, remember that Matt isn't. Every time that you wake up in that prison cell, remember that you had the opportunity and the ability to stop your actions that night. Every time that you see your cell mate, remember that you had a choice, and now you are living that choice. You robbed me of something very precious, and I will never forgive you for that. Mr. McKinney, I give you life in the memory of one who no longer lives. May you have a long life, and may you thank Matthew every day for it." - Dennis Shepard.
I have lots of love to give and its hard to love all of you without knowing you, but I am posting this because I know someone would be able to connect to it, someone would find this helpful or inspiring, someone would feel slightly less alone and if so, if you are one of them, this is my love to you.
If you are affected by this incident and you find it hard to cope, it is very important for you to speak to someone. Sometimes, having someone to talk to even just for once, can be of tremendous help:
Reach Out - is a web-based youth suicide program that offers resources and support of issues that all young people face.
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 - free and anonymous (the number will not show up on your bill) if you call from a landline or Optus mobile
Lifeline 13 11 14 - Calls to Lifeline are the cost of just a local call, however additional charges may apply for calls from pay phones, mobiles or some home phone plans.
1-866-4-U-TREVOR - Gay and Lesbian Helpline (1-888) 340-4528 - toll free
GLBT National Help Centre
Kids Help Phone, Canada: 1-800-668-6868
C.A.L.M. - being silent isn't strong
These are the few that I know of through my work. There are more if you search, and I'm trained in basic counselling, so if you think you just need to vent or just want some reassurance, then email me - beautifoolchaos (at) gmail.com
Random fact: I live by a simple motto - I say what I mean, and I mean what I say.