Beaupedia

Man Under Construction

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Judy and the Legacy of Matthew Shepard

This past Monday I had the good fortune to hear Judy Shepard speak on Auraria Campus as a part of her work with The Matthew Shepard Foundation.  11 years after Matthew’s terrible murder she is still traveling around the nation passionately educating on equality.  Through her incredible perseverance and strength she has served as an inspiration to me from the time I was a terrified, closeted teen.

I remember hearing the news at a time when I was still very closeted, wanting to believe that what I was experiencing was a phase.  The people in my life, family, church, etc. all viewed Matthew’s murder with no hint of sympathy.  He was a “faggot” and got what was coming to him, was the general belief.  It’s hard to even type those words, but we all know those mindsets exist, and if you don’t you should get with reality.

I outwardly followed along with their detestable views, but inside I was heartbroken.  I remember when MTV produced a film about Matthew, I couldn’t very well watch it in the living room, so I went into my parents’ bedroom to watch it.  When my mom would come by to see what I was watching, I’d quickly flip to, of all places, Fox News.  I sat in that bedroom in front of the TV, fighting tears and listening closely for approaching footsteps.

As I began typing this I realized that I’ve lived to be 5 years older than Matthew was when he died.  It feels extremely unfair.

The world is a very different place than it was when Matthew was murdered.  Since then Judy has marched, and rallied and spoken hundreds of times.  She has lobbied on Capitol Hill and stood by as very important pieces of legislation have been signed.

I was lucky enough to march with her as we stood outside of the Focus on the Family campus.  I listened as she told them to stop attacking our families, to stop causing so much hurt, to stop encouraging hatred.  I watched as she approached representatives from Focus on the Family and presented them with an album filled with photos of LGBT families, families that Focus on the Family dismisses as illegitimate.

In her speech this past Monday Judy answered a question I have had for 11 years.  Did she support Matthew before he died?  The answer is unequivocally yes.  When Matthew came out to her, she had already known, just her mother’s intuition she guesses.  There was also the fact that as a child he dressed as Dolly Parton several Halloweens in a row, she told us all with a laugh.

She spoke about her entire family and their support of him.  Matthew’s father accepted and supported him as well.  It’s funny how over the years, I’ve wondered about this more than anything.  Did Matthew die knowing that his family loved him unconditionally and that they accepted him for who he was.  I’m relieved and happy to know that the answer is a very strong “YES”.

Judy, thank you.  Thank you for Matthew, thank you for letting us all get to know him, thank you for keeping his memory alive.  Thank you for fighting prejudice and hatred.  Thank you for saying “we” when you speak about the LGBT community.  Thank you for taking your grief and turning it into something so powerful.

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Jennifer Knapp & Derek Webb In Concert

So tonight I went and saw Jennifer Knapp and Derek Webb in concert at the Bluebird Theater here in Denver.  I had been planning to go to this show anyway, having spent my late teens and early twenties listening to Jennifer Knapp’s music as well as Derek Webb’s when he was in the band Caedmon’s Call.  Jennifer Knapp disappeared from the music scene back in 2003 at the height of her popularity with pretty much no explanation for her fans.  She went silent for the most part and people were left to come up with their own guesses as to why.

Pretty much from the start it was rumored that Jennifer Knapp was a lesbian, people claiming inside knowledge from her tours, etc.  I never doubted this, and as time went on I started to become more and more sure it was likely the truth.  Then, a few months ago Jennifer Knapp popped back up.  She became active on Twitter, her web site was once again active, and she announced a new record and a tour.

Then the big news, 3 days ago she announced to The Advocate, Christianity Today, and Reuters that she has been in a same-sex relationship for 8 years.  She did further qualify that this was not the reason she left music, but that her recording/touring schedule had become too draining.  After hearing this news and knowing how violently hateful and disturbingly cruel the Christian community can be to one of it’s own coming out as gay, I knew more than ever that going to her show was more important than ever.  I imagine there were quite a few ticket returns after the news broke.

The show itself was fantastic.  The opening act, Amy Courts, hinted at the what had been going on this week and expressed her sincere support of Jennifer.  The big question for me was if Derek Webb was also supportive; I went through High School listening to his Contemporary Christian music and just wasn’t sure how this was being handled within the tour.

He came through in a big way.  Here are some of the lyrics from songs on his latest album Stockholm Syndrome:

You say always treat people like you’d like to be
I guess you love being hated for your sexuality
You love when people put words in your mouth
About what you believe
Make you sound like a freak….

….If I can see what’s in your heart
By what comes out of your mouth
Then it sure looks to me like being straight
Is all it’s about
It looks like being hated
For all the wrong things
Like chasing the wind

While the pendulum swings

– What Matters More

Not surprisingly Derek’s record label felt that song would be a little too much for his Christian audience to handle and excluded it from all retail releases of the album.  It is available for free on his Web site.

Early on in his set he began to talk about his disgust and very strong negative feelings toward Fred Phelps (you know, the God Hates Fags guy that pickets pretty much everything) and played a song he wrote about Fred Phelps:

(Chorus)
Freddie, please
How could you do this to me
How could you tell me you love me when you hate me
Freddie, please

You know I love you honey
But I’ll bleed you dry with money
I’ll talk where I know you can hear
‘Cause freddie can’t you see
Brother, you’re the one who’s queer

(Chorus)

The stone’s been rolled away
And you’re picketing my grave for loving the things you hate
But why do you seek the living among the dead

(Chorus)
Freddie, please
How could you do this to me
How could you tell them you love me when you hate me
Freddie, please

So, I don’t know exactly where Derek Webb falls theologically (nor does it change my life), but I was thrilled that Jennifer Knapp was surrounded by such great people.

Jennifer didn’t directly address her coming out, but it was eluded to in passing and the situation is felt very heavily in the songs of her new album.  Her album comes out on May 11, and I strongly encourage anyone and everyone to check it out.  While you’re waiting, visit her website and listen to the previews.  She’s a very talented artist and more than deserving of our support.

I realize this post may not mean anything to the majority of you that read my blog, but to those of you who know my background, you know what this situation means to me.  Jennifer Knapp was one of a few reassuring voices during some terribly frightening times in my life; her music comforted me and gave me strength.  It is my hope that her recent courage and show of strength serve to reassure all of the terrified, confused GLBT youth in Christian homes who are out there wondering what is wrong with them.  Nothing is wrong, absolutely nothing.

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Again and again

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Well I really don’t want to turn this into the “excessive force by police officers” blog, but this one is a national headline as I believe it should be.

Who are we really being terrorized by?  I’m starting to question.  What the hell is going on?

Is this kid going to be looking over his shoulder every time he walks down the street?  Will he ever trust police officers?  I’m just sickened by it.

Read the full storry at The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/24/jordan-miles-teen-violini_n_434772.html

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AFA Fail, GAP Win

The crazies over at the American Family Association regularly send me their hysterically funny newsletters, always full of money-begging and fear-mongering.  More often than not the back page will be an ad for some family value voters summit, plastered with photos of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, etc.  I sometimes forget this is coming from a religious organization and not the RNC.

Last year AFA wanted me to boycott McDonald’s because the company refused to end it’s association with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.  They sent me a cute little prewritten sticky note that I was to take to my local McDonald’s and stick on the money used to pay for my last McDonald’s meal.  The note would inform the Manager that until McDonald’s stopped siding with moral corruption and became neutral in the “culture war” I simply could not in good conscience spend my hard-earned Christian dollars at the restaurant.  Hilarious, right?  Hilarious, odd, and scary, all swirled into one nightmarish little Neapolitan mix.

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Needless to say, I never dropped off the note at McDonald’s.  And the boycott was a total and complete bust, as McDonald’s stock went up nearly every single day that the boycott was active.  Lots of gays drinking lots of iced coffees, yes, yes we did.

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Jump to my latest mailing from AFA.  GAP INC. IS EVIL!  THEY WON’T SAY “CHRISTMAS” EXCLUSIVELY!  Basically, I’m supposed to boycott all Gap Inc. stores (Banana Republic, Old Navy, Gap, etc.) until after Christmas the Holidays because they’re supposedly censoring “Christmas”.  Unfortunately for the nonexistent credibility of the American Family Association, Gap actually has an ad out now that very obviously says “Christmas” loud and clear:

 

If you think I’m kidding, just click on the video and let it take you to the YouTube page and take a look at the comments.  Here are a few of the crazies:

“More secular paganism to sell more cheap Chinese crap. The boycott will expand to any company who denies Christ.”

“This is supposed to appease those of us who are boycotting Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic. Just more moral and cultural relativism. Boycott not over.”

“Merry Christmas Gap, may you have no better sales than any other time of year…let’s go to Macy’s who has respect for tradition and values. Throw it all to the wind right? Why believe anything when its all "relative" to what "feels right" to whomever no matter what drugs they are on? ur ok im ok!”

“This is stupid. Do whatever feels right they say. I will not shop there. That feels right. First they refuse to use Christmas in their advertising now they throw it in with Solstice. Disrespectful! I will spend my Christmas dollars elsewhere. Merry Christmas!”

Those few comments are just from the selection made in the last hour, truly terrifying.

Now for the GAP win aspect of this post.  It was just announced today that the profits of Gap Inc. were up 25% in the last quarter.  The timing of AFA’s silly boycott could not have been better.

Now my fair-minded, non-crazy friends, I encourage you to pick up a few extra GAP gift cards this year for your friends and family.  I know these AFA folk probably don’t normally shop at GAP anyway, but I think that regardless it couldn’t hurt for us to support GAP’s spirit of inclusiveness.

Family, friends…yes, you’re getting GAP gift cards.  HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act

Finally!  11 years after Matthew Shepard’s death, the legislation bearing his name has finally made it through Congress and on to the President’s desk.  The Republicans, of course, fought it all along the way but despite their best efforts America has arrived in the 21st century.  It saddens me that Senator Kennedy isn’t here to see this come to fruition, after all of his years fighting for it.

I do wish that the bill could have been sent through Congress on its own accord, but attaching it to a defense bill was the safest bet for getting it through and the Democrats did the right thing in doing so.

 

 

 

Matthew’s parents Judy and Dennis have worked tirelessly to see this happen and I have enormous respect for both of them.  I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Judy at a Soulforce event protesting Focus on the Family and their hurtful, dangerous rhetoric.  She was incredibly sweet and genuine and my heart broke all over again for this women who was thrust into a role that no parent would ever wish for.  Hate took her son from her she chose to go on and fight that hate,  She is my personal hero because of it.

 

 

 

Today as I watched the above videos I stumbled upon this great video which contains the statement that Dennis Shepard gave during the trial of one of Matthew’s murderers.  The audio is from the movie “The Laramie Project”.  It is incredibly moving.