And I’m thinking, Lady, you’re just missing the point. You know, all you got to do is turn around, see the mountains, smell the air, listen to the birds, just take in what’s around you. And they were just—nothing but the story. I didn’t feel judged, I felt that they were stupid. They’re, they’re missing the point—they’re just missing the whole point.
Now, after Matthew, I would say that Laramie is a town defined by an accident, a crime. We’ve become Waco, we’ve become Jasper. We’re a noun, a definition, a sign. We may be able to get rid of that…but it will sure take awhile.
As far as the gay issue, I don’t give a damn one way or the other as long as they don’t bother me. And even if they did, I’d just say no thank you. And that’s the attitude of most of the Laramie population. They might poke one, if they were in a bar situation you know, they had been drinking, they might actually smack one in the mouth, but then they’d just walk away…Laramie is live and let live.
You know, it’s so unreal to me that, yeah, that a group from New York would be writing a play about Laramie. And then I was picturing like you’re gonna be in a play about my town. You’re gonna be onstage in New York and you’re gonna be acting like you’re us. That’s so weird.
They were both my patients and they were two kids. I took care of both of them…of both their bodies. And… for a brief moment I wondered if this is how God feels when he looks down at us. How we are all his kids…Our bodies…Our souls…And I felt a great deal of compassion…for both of them…
Some people are saying he made a pass at them. You don’t pick up regular people. I’m not excusing their actions, but it made me feel better because it was partially Matthew Shepard’s fault and partially the guys who did it… you know maybe it’s fifty-fifty.
And it’s even in some of the Western literature, you know, live and let live. That is such crap. I tell my friends that—even my gay friends bring it up sometimes. I’m like, “That is crap, you know?” I mean basically what it boils down to: If I don’t tell you I’m a fag, you won’t beat the crap out of me. I mean, what’s so great about that?
And for us to be more or less maligned…That we’re not a good community and we are—the majority of people here are good people.
Look, I do think that, um, the media actually made people accountable. Because they made people think. Because people were sitting in their homes, like watching TV and listening to CNN and watching Dan Rather and going, “Jesus Christ, well that’s not how it is here.” Well how is it here?
And quite frankly I wanted to lash out at somebody. Not at Matthew, please understand that, not one of us was mad at Matthew. But we maybe wanted to squeeze McKinney’s head off. And I think about Henderson. And, you know, two absolutely human beings cause so much grief for so many people.
You and the straight people of Laramie and Wyoming are guilty of the beating of Matthew Shepard just as the Germans who looked the other way are guilty of the deaths of the Jews, the Gypsies, and the homosexuals. You have taught your straight children to hate their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters—unless and until you acknowledge that Matt Shepard’s beating is not just a random occurrence, not just the work of a couple of random crazies, you have Matthew’s blood on your hands.
And someone got up there and said… c’mon guys, let’s show the world that Laramie is not this kind of a town, why did this happen here?... That’s a lie. Because it happened here. So how could it not be a town where this kind of thing happens?...And we have to mourn this and we have to be sad that we live in a town, a state, a country where shit like this happens. I mean, these are people trying to distance themselves from this crime. And we need to own this crime…We are like this.
“You guys both went to Laramie High?”
“Yeah. Can’t you tell? We’re a product of our society.”
I thought, “You know, should we…call the bishop and ask him permission to do the vigil?” And I was like, “Hell, no, I’m not going to do that.” His permission doesn’t make it correct, you realize that? And I’m not knocking bishops, but what is correct is correct.
You think violence is what they did to Matthew—they did do violence to Matthew—but, you know, every time that you are called a fag, or you are called a…dyke…Do you realize that is violence? That is the seed of violence. And I would resent it immensely if you use anything I said…to somehow cultivate that kind of violence…Just deal with what is true. You know what is true. You need to do your best to say it correct.
Now, those two people, the accused… I think they deserve the death penalty…Now as for the victim, I know that that lifestyle is legal, but I will tell you one thing. I hope that Matthew Shepard as he was tied to that fence that he had time to reflect on a moment when someone had spoken the word of the Lord to him—and that before he slipped into a coma he had a chance to reflect on his lifestyle.
And as I told you before, homosexuality is not a lifestyle with which I agree. Um, but having been thrown into this…I guess I didn’t understand the magnitude with which some people hate.
I decided that someone needed to stand toe to toe with this guy and show the differences. And I think at time like this when we’re talking about hatred as much as the nation is right now, that someone needs to show, that there is a better way of dealing with that kind of hatred. So our idea is to dress up like angels.
Well, once we started working into the case, and actually speaking to the people that were gay and finding out what their underlying fears were, well, then it sort of hit home. This is America. You don’t have the right to feel that fear. And we’re still going to have people who hold with the old ideals…I’m not gonna put up with it, and I’m not going to listen to it…I already lost a couple of buddies. I don’t care. I feel more comfortable and I can sleep at night.
I think right now our most important teachers must be Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney. They have to be our teachers. How did you learn? What did we as a society do to teach you that? See, I don’t know if many people will let them be their teacher. I think it would be wonderful if the judge said, “In addition to your sentence, you must tell your story.”
I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney. However this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. Mr. McKinney, I am going to grant you life, as hard as it is for me to do so, because of Matthew… 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.
It just hit me today, the minute that I got out of the courthouse. That the reason that God wanted me to find him is, for he didn’t have to die out there alone, you know. And if I wouldn’t’ve came along, they wouldn’t’ve found him for a couple of weeks at least. So it makes me feel really good that he didn’t have to die out there alone.
Change is not an easy thing, and I don’t think people were up to it here… it’s been a year since Matthew Shepard died, and they haven’t passed shit in Wyoming…at a state level, any town, nobody anywhere, has passed any kind of laws, anti-discrimination laws or hate crime legislation… What’s come out of it…that’s concrete or lasting?
And I remembered to myself the night he and I drove around together, he said to me, “Laramie sparkles, doesn’t it?” And where he was up there, if you sit exactly where he was, up there, Laramie sparkles from there…Matt was right there in that spot, and I can just picture in his eyes, I can just picture what he was seeing. The last thing he saw on this earth was the sparkling lights.
To show it’s not the hellhole of the earth would be nice, but that is up to how you portray us. And that in turn is up to how Laramie behaves.