Beaupedia

Man Under Construction

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Still Matthew

After all of these years I just found out that Matthew Shepard was a tiny 5’2″ in height. A bit in the news from Orlando’s Pulse massacre got me reading about him again and it broke my heart anew.

I remember being absolutely devastated by his story as a scared 15 year old with no hope of being able to tell anyone in my life who I really was or what I was dealing with. Matthew was me and I there wasn’t much hope.

Home was certainly unwelcoming for who I really was, I would find no solace there, and with Matthew’s murder it seemed the world was also against me. There were so many times I saw no possible positive future for myself.

I genuinely believed I was the only gay person in my town of 32,000 people. I thought there were maybe 7 or 8 gay people in my entire state of 4 and a half million. I was very, very alone.

I persevered because regardless of my own inevitable unhappiness, I wanted to be able to make a difference in other people’s lives. I bounced around a bit on what I wanted to be: a high school counselor, a teacher, a youth pastor, and ultimately a social worker, but it was always my hope to be able to help adolescents. That remains something I still hope for today, and have been able to put into action in many ways, though not yet as a career.

I have vivid memories from a couple years after Matthew’s murder of sneaking off to my parent’s bedroom when MTV aired their “Anatomy of a Hate Crime” movie about his murder. I pretended to be watching the news when my mom checked in to see what I was doing, making fast use of the “last” button on the remote control to cover myself. I sat on the edge of my parents’ bed trying to keep my tears to a minimum in case one of them walked in.

I felt like my chest was imploding from grief while feeling as though the rest of me were going to explode from the effort it took to prevent all out sobs. I wept for Matthew, but I also cried because there was a community at home and around the world that loved him and accepted him and didn’t think he deserved death as my church and my family had taught me he and all gays did. It was a glimmer of hope that I desperately needed. I wish I could beam a message back to that kid and tell him how much better things would get. To let him know that the community that loves him unconditionally is so much larger and stronger and warmer than he could possibly imagine, and to just hang on.

I read a series of tweets from an older lesbian earlier who was distraught over the Pulse massacre and recounted Stonewall and how the different generations after her have had their own symbols, including Matthew Shepard. Someone in the comments indicated they were in their early 20s and remarked that they had to look up who Matthew Shepard was because they had never heard of him. I guess it never occurred to me that there are young adults alive now who have never heard Matthew’s name. I don’t know why, but that hit me as incredibly tragic. It’s important to remember the names, the faces, the stories – they are all a part of our DNA as a community and a society and a reminder to work toward the kind of world we want for our children.

And though I never knew him, I will always mourn Matthew. I imagine the man he’d be today, that tiny, fragile frame having filled out some with age as he approached his 40th birthday this year. I wouldn’t know him, and that would be just fine because he’d be out there in the world happy and fulfilled living an ordinary life, not fated to being anyone’s tragic symbol.

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Throwing Shade Coming To TV!

I’ve been listening to the Throwing Shade podcast with Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi for a few years now after falling in love with Bryan’s “That’s Gay” segments on the show infoMania on the former Current TV. The show summarizes itself as “taking a weekly look at all the issues important to ladies and gays… and treating them with much less respect than they deserve.” It’s hilarious while also focusing attention on important issues in our culture.

The great news is now they’re branching out into late-night TV! The show will be on TV Land, but unfortunately we’ll have to wait until early 2017 to see it. I’m greatly looking forward to it, and I really hope they keep the same incredibly inappropriate edge they have in the podcast.

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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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Gay & Seeking Asylum

I just happened upon this video and it’s very fitting when considering my previous post.  We must work harder to create safe havens for LGBT individuals around the world, until that day when all people are loved, accepted, and safe in their home.

 

I’ve been haunted lately by the images of teenagers Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni as they wept and waited for their execution, pleading for their lives.  There are questions about their case, and whether or not they were executed for their consensual homosexual acts or not, but regardless, hundreds of people are executed in Iran and other places for simply being who they are.

There are people and organizations working to make change around the world.  Please consider joining up with Amnesty International and making a recurring donation.  When atrocities like these and in many other categories appear around the globe Amnesty is always there fighting for justice, peace, and human rights.  I have the utmost respect and gratitude for Amnesty International, and if I’m lucky maybe someday I will work for them.