Monday, October 8, 2012

Rest in Peace, Matthew Shepherd. May Your Sacrifice Not Be In Vain.

Fourteen years ago today, Matthew Shepherd was found barely alive, strung up on a fence left for dead. All because he was different.

Queers of all stripes face discrimination, bullying, and worse. Still to this day. The fight is far from over, what with religious zealots stating that bigotry is protected by religious freedoms and politicians actively trying to take back what little equal rights have been won.

The bigotry is obvious when it is straight-on-gay, white-on-person-of-color, or against the differently-abled. But what is less obvious are the ways that people within their own communities tear one another down and rip community apart with petty differences and the kind of bullying that happens on a junior high schoolyard.

The other day my partner (Rowan's father) went to a party. Some of you may not know that my partner and I both identify as "queer"- my partner is primarily what most would call "gay" and I am primarily what most would call "bisexual". Well, he really desires to be in community in our new city of Columbus with other "gay men", and this party had many of them, so off he went (I stayed home to watch Rowan, even though I was invited as well).

When he got there, he found himself at the mercy of well-established cliques based on looks and societal desirability. One particularly cruel person joked that because he lived with a woman and had a child with her that he was an "unsuccessful homosexual". My partner is an introvert. He is new to this community. So he left early, sad. Had I been there, that bitchy queen would have gotten an earful:
"Excuse me, is this junior high? Because I hear a schoolyard bully. No one gave you permission to police the borders of identity, sir. And if (my partner) is "unsuccessful" by your standards, then he must be an amazing person. Because your standards dictate that you must ostracize good, loving people from your midst. That must mean that you and your friends here are cruel, small hearted, small minded, jerks. You, sir, are petty and mean. You are a small person who makes himself unworthy of my partner's love and care through his own words and deeds. While you seek to name others as undesireable, YOU are the one who is really ugly here."
I have a long history of fighting bullies, starting as a small child. The fact that I have had to fight them my whole life makes me weary. I simply cannot stand cruelty and must act. I defended helpless animals in my neighborhood from traps in gardens and from neighborhood boys. I was once caught pummeling a neighbor boy for smearing a lightning bug on his pants to make them glow. I kicked the crap out of people stomping on ants or pulling legs off of daddy-long-legs (spiders). When I got older, I got a bully to stop picking on some kids on the playground and people started paying me a nickel a day to protect them.

I have never been able to watch movies where people are deliberately cruel to one another- it makes me sick to my stomach. I started a queer anti-hate crim patrol in Boston and led the one in San Francisco. I have disarmed bullies with knives and guns who wanted to harm people for being different.

It sickens me that this kind of bullying happens in communities of which I am a part. It happens at church, it happens amongst queers, and it happens on my son's playground. But when I bear witness, it ends with me.

I will foster empathy in my son. I will call adults out on boorish behavior and talk gently to children who bully. I will think before I speak when I have judgments in my head. It ends with me.


  1. As the mantra goes, Jai Mata Di, Victory to the Mother!.

    I have never understood the psychology of tearing others down to build someone else up. ::hugs:: and good vibes to you and your partner.

  2. Hi there! I just wanted to let you know that I read this and thought it was beautiful.


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