Contemporary gay martyr and hate-crime victim


Matthew Shepard brought international focus to anti-gay hate crimes when he died on Oct. 12, 1998. He was a 21-year-old gay student at the University of Wyoming at the time.

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Matthew Shepard: Contemporary gay martyr and hate-crime victim

Shepard (1976-1998) was brutally attacked close to Laramie, Wyoming, on Oct. six-7, 1998 by two guys who later claimed that they had been driven temporarily insane by “gay panic” due to Shepard’s alleged sexual advances. Shepard was beaten and left to die.

Now the Matthew Shepard Foundation seeks to replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance. U.S. President Obama signed “The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act” into law on Oct. 28, 2009. It broadens the federal hate-crimes law to cover violence primarily based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Shepard has develop into a cultural icon, inspiring dozens and dozens of paintings, films, plays, songs and other artistic performs — with additional nevertheless getting made each year. Amongst the new pictures is a sweet portrait of him with a rainbow halo by Tobias Haller, an iconographer, author, composer, and vicar of Saint James Episcopal Church in the Bronx. He is the author of “Reasonable and Holy: Engaging Very same-Sexuality.” Haller enjoys expanding the diversity of icons out there by developing icons of LGBTQ individuals and other progressive holy figures as effectively as classic saints. He and his spouse had been united in a church wedding additional than 30 years ago and a civil ceremony immediately after very same-sex marriage became legal in New York.

Shepard’s martyrdom offers him the aura of a Christ figure. His torturous death evokes the Fantastic Shepherd who was crucified. The officer who discovered Shepard mentioned that he was covered with blood — except for the white streaks left by his tears. Primarily based on this report, Father William Hart McNichols made the striking icon at the best of this post. McNichols devoted his icon The Passion of Matthew Shepard to the 1,470 gay and lesbian youth of commit suicide in the U.S. every single year, and to the numerous other individuals who are injured or murdered.

McNichols is a New Mexico artist and Catholic priest who has been rebuked by church leaders for producing icons of saints not authorized by the church, which includes 1 of Matthew Shepard. McNichols’ personal moving spiritual journey and two of his icons are incorporated in the book Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Lady Christ, and Much more by Kittredge Cherry. His Matthew Shepard icon seems in his book “Christ All Merciful,” which he co-authored with Megan McKenna.

An additional new project inspired by Shepard is “Matthew Shepard Meets Coyote,” a play that blends Christianity, queer expertise and Native American folklore. In the final moments of Shepard’s life he encounters Coyote, the trickster god of the American West, who urges him to move beyond the cruel tricks that life has played on him. It was written by Harry Cronin, a priest of Holy Cross and professor in residence at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. In 2014 it was performed at the San Francisco Fringe Festival and at Bay Location churches as a way to spark dialogue. Cronin presently writes plays about redemption in alcoholic and queer experiences.

Many performs had been released in 2013 for the 15th anniversary of Shepard’s death.  They include things like the musical tribute “Beyond the Fence,” the film “Matt Shepard was a Buddy of Mine” and the book “The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard.”

“Matthew Shepard: Beyond the Fence,” a musical tribute celebrating a life that helped transform the planet, premiered in October 2013 in a production by the South Coast Singers, a LGBTQ efficiency troupe in Extended Beach, California. Written by SCC inventive director Steve Davison, it incorporates current music by gay composers Levi Kreis, Ryan Amador and Randi Driscoll.

The documentary film “Matt Shepard was a Buddy of Mine” is directed by Michele Josue, who certainly was a close pal of Shepard. She requires a individual strategy, exploring his life and loss by going to areas that had been significant to him and interviewing his pals and family members. View the trailer beneath or at this hyperlink.

Matt Shepard is a Buddy of Mine: Teaser #two from Matt Shepard is a Buddy of Mine on Vimeo.

Award-winning gay Journalist Stephen Jimenez does comprehensive study into the situations of the crime in “The Book of Matt.” He finds that Shepard was not killed for getting gay, but for factors far additional difficult.

Other books about Shepard include things like “The Which means of Matthew: My Son’s Murder in Laramie” and “A Globe Transformed” by his mother (Judy Shepard) and “October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard” by Lesléa Newman, a novel in verse about the murder.

“Saint Sebastian and Matt Shepard Juxtaposed” by JR Leveroni

“Saint Sebastian and Matt Shepard Juxtaposed” by JR Leveroni is a painting that tends to make an significant connection amongst a gay Christian martyr from history and the gay victims of hate crimes currently. Leveroni is an emerging visual artist living in South Florida. Painting in a Cubist style, he matches Shepard’s death with the killing of an additional gay martyr, Saint Sebastian. The suffering is expressed in a subdued style with barely a trace of blood. A range of male nudes and religious paintings can be noticed on his web site (warning: male nudity).
The grim scene of Matthew’s death is vividly portrayed in “The Murder of Matthew Shepard,” above, by gay artist-philosopher Matthew Wettlaufer. He lived in El Salvador and South Africa ahead of returning to California. For an interview with Wettlaufer and additional of his art, see my earlier post “New paintings honor gay martyrs.”Above is a lyrical painting devoted to Matthew Shepard: “The Final of Laramie” by gay artist Stephen Mead.of New York. It seems in his book “Our Book of Prevalent Faith.” For additional about Mead and his art, see my earlier post “Gay Artist Hyperlinks Physique and Spirit.”

“The Candlelight Vigil for Matthew Shepard (NYC Oct. 19, 1998)” by Sandow Birk

California artist Sandow Birk painted a candlelight vigil for Shepard. With a drummer and a rainbow flag, it appears to echo “The Spirit of 76,” a renowned patriotic painting of Revolutionary War figures by Archibald MacNeal Willard. But it is primarily based on the 1889 painting (“The Conscripts” by Pascal Adolphe Jean Dagnan-Bouveret, a operate that requires a challenging appear at the toll of war, specifically the conscription of young individuals into the military in the course of the Franco-Prussian War.

For additional about Sandow Birk’s art, see my earlier post Stonewall’s LGBT history painted: Interview with Sandow Birk.

The play “The Laramie Project” by Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project has been performed all more than the planet due to the fact it premiered in 1998. Numerous American performances had been picketed by Westboro Baptist Church members, who seem in the play picketing Shepard’s funeral as they did in actual life. “The Laramie Project” draws on hundreds of interviews with residents of Laramie carried out by the theater business. A film version of The Laramie Project was released in 2002.

Matthew’s story has also been dramatized in biopic films such as “The Matthew Shepard Story” with Sam Waterson and Stockard Channing as the grieving parents.

Much more than a 30 songs inspired by Matthew Shepard are listed in “Cultural Depictions of Matthew Shepard” at Wikipedia. They come from a range of singers, which includes Melissa Etheridge, Janis Ian, and Elton John.

The Altar Cross of LGBTQ Martyrs from Metropolitan Neighborhood Church of San Francisco characteristics pictures of Matthew Shepard, Harvey Milk, Gwen Araujo and other individuals. In the center of the cross is the fence exactly where Shepard was tortured and murdered in Laramie, Wyoming.

The tendency to acclaim Shepard as a martyr is analyzed in a scholarly paper that won the 2014-15 LGBT Religious History Award from the LGBT Religious Archives Network. “The Martyrdom of Matthew Shepard” was written by Brett Krutzsch, religion professor at the College of Wooster in Ohio. It is an excerpt from his Ph.D dissertation, “Martyrdom and American Gay History: Secular Advocacy, Christian Tips, and Gay Assimilation,” which examines how religious rhetoric and gay martyr discourses facilitated American gay assimilation from the 1970s via 2014. He finds that secular gay advocates invoked Shepard as a gay martyr, utilizing Christian suggestions to present gay Americans as related to the dominant culture. He inquiries the politics of martyrdom and analyzes why the deaths of a couple of white, middle-class, gay guys have been mourned as national tragedies.

The award announcement explains: “The paper argues that Shepard’s appeal was connected to constructions of him as Christ-like and as an upstanding young, Christian man. His posthumous notoriety reveals a historical moment when Christian suggestions drastically shaped arguments for American gay social integration. In turn, Matthew Shepard became an icon of the apparently best late twentieth-century gay citizen: a white, nonsexual, practicing Protestant.”

Associated hyperlinks:
Cultural Depictions of Matthew Shepard (Wikipedia)

Major image credit: “The Passion of Matthew Shepard” by William Hart McNichols

This post is portion of the LGBTQ Saints series by Kittredge Cherry. Regular and option saints, individuals in the Bible, LGBTQ martyrs, authors, theologians, religious leaders, artists, deities and other figures of specific interest to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and queer (LGBTQ) individuals and our allies are covered.

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