Right now I’m reading Spencer West’s autobiography, Standing Tall. When I finish reading his book I’m going to write a post about it. But Spencer talked about one person in a part of the book who I wanted to learn more about. His name is Matthew Shepard. Matthew’s story affected Spencer because Matthew was murdered because he was gay – because he was different. It happened very close to where he was living. Spencer was different too.
Matthew was 21 years old and in university. He got a ride from 2 boys from his university and they robbed him. They drove him to a place where no-one would see or hear them. They beat Matthew so badly. They tied him up to a fence and left him there where he couldn’t fight back and he couldn’t run away. The next morning someone found him still tied up to the fence. Four days later he died in the hospital. He was surrounded by his family.
Matthew’s friends and family said that he wanted to make a difference in the world – like me. They said that Matthew was such a caring person. I think that Matthew Shepard deserved a lot more respect. Why should people hurt or bully people who are different for any reason? What does it matter to people about their religion, their size, the colour of their skin or shape of their body? We are all the same, just people, no matter what we look like. I think that people who bully people for any reason are silly. Matthew didn’t get to change the world he wanted to, but now the world knows his story.
My mom and I watched a video about Matthew Shepard and someone said this: real stories about real people can make change. Terry Fox was a real person. People believed in him because they saw him running and some people even ran with him. Today we learn about him and what he did and it inspires us to remember him and continue to fight cancer. Another example of this is the story of the young boy from Pakistan, Iqbal, who was killed for speaking out against child labour. Craig Kielburger was 12 years old, just like Iqbal, when he read about him in the newspaper from his home in Richmond Hill. The next day, Craig shared Iqbal’s story with his class and that’s how Free The Children started. Real stories about real people make change.
My mom and I watched an Ellen Degeneres show interviewing Judy Shepard (Matthew’s mom), she wrote a book called the Meaning Of Matthew. Judy hopes that in telling Matthew’s story “maybe we could change hearts and minds”. She’s a spokesperson for the Matthew’s cause and she travels all over the world. Matthew’s foundaition has Erase Hate bracelets and they have sold more than 100,000. They want to remind people that we can each make the conscious decision to Erase Hate and the world would be a much better place if we could all do that.
The world would be better if it was cool to different because in the end, we’re all the same. We all want the same things – love, respect, family, friends and community.
Our friend and musician Peter Katz wrote this song, The Fence, about Matthew Shepard. Peter says that he sings this song for hope.