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15 years ago today.

7 Oct

 

On October 7, 1998, Aaron Kreifels was riding his bike through a field in Wyoming. He wasn’t expecting that day to be different from any other beautiful sunny afternoon in the vast plains surrounding Laramie, but that day would change many lives.

Aaron spotted what he initially thought was a scarecrow next to a fence. Then he noticed a glisten of blood. The sun sparkled on what he barely recognized as a face. What Aaron had discovered was the 22 year-old Matthew Shepard, clinging to life.

Most of you know what happened next. Matthew held on for five more days and as his parents held his hand and prayed, Matthew slipped away quietly on October 12th, leaving in his wake a new movement for equality.

The outcries for justice and for greater protections were immediate and resonating.

Since then, Matthew’s mother Judy has made it her personal mission to protect all young LGBT people from Matthew’s horrific fate. In founding the Matthew Shepard Foundation, she has created safe spaces in and outside of schools for kids, and worked with parents to ensure their children learn to erase hate from their lives.

But overwhelmingly what you saw in 1998 was a community ready to act, ready to change something. And Matthew’s story was the catalyst for that. Many of you have seen or read the Moises Kaufman play, The Laramie Project – Matthew’s story as told through interviews of those who were living in Laramie at the time – some of his friends and some who just happened to be riding a bike through the plains of Wyoming that day. If you think of nothing else today, please consider the importance of telling your story – how your story can change the world around you.

This young boy, unbeknownst to him, has changed the world with his.

Now, on the 15th anniversary of his murder, author Stephen Jiminez has released a book denying the hate crime that took place here. Based entirely on innuendo, Jiminez is doing his best to attack the memory of a boy who gave me the strength to tell the world who I am. Please join me in asking bookstores to cancel his appearances by signing this petition. Using the 15th anniversary of this horrific event to sell books is beyond the pale.

shepard-matthew

Author Unveils Anti-Gay Matthew Shepard Truther Book on 15th Anniversary of His Murder

3 Oct

shepard-matthew15 years ago, I was walking through the student union of my college when I saw a TV with a news story about a young man in Laramie Wyoming who’d been found badly beaten – and left for dead.

That young man was Matthew Shepard. His grisly murder not only acted as a lightning rod for our community, but it also caused many, including myself, to come out and be counted.

Over the years, the media has tried digging deeper on this story only to be debunked at every conspiracy theory they could unearth. One of the first conspiracy theories around Matthew’s murder came from author Stephen Jiminez. In 2000, just 2 years after Matthew’s murder, Jiminez came across an anonymous letter claiming that Matthew was essentially in a sexual relationship with his murderer, Aaron McKinney. Despite McKinney’s denial of this, despite none of Matthew’s friends or family ever having seen McKinney in their lives prior to the murder and despite not even knowing who wrote this letter, Jiminez thought it necessary to craft a fiction about Matthew Shepard.

The brilliant Media Matters thoroughly debunks “The Book of Matt,” including Jiminez’ own background with the story, every one of his sources (many of whom are “anonymous,”), and his dismissal that Matt’s murder had anything to do with his sexuality despite taped confessions from the killer repeatedly referring to Matt as “the fag” and “the queer.”

Dozens of reputable bookstores around the country are not only stocking this innuendo-filled book, but they’ve invited Jiminez to speak and sell his book to more people.

Last week, I spoke with Bradley Graham at DC’s Politics & Prose – one of the few decent independent booksellers in the city. While grateful that I brought this to their attention, they refused to cancel the event. In a follow-up email to me, Brad dismissed my concerns that the book was full of lies by stating:

“As an independent bookstore, P&P has long played a role as more than just a retail outlet; it’s also an established forum for community discussion on a broad range of topics. In a democracy like ours, such forums are essential. Citizens must have opportunities to hear diverse and sometimes divergent views and to engage in respectful debate about them, even if those views are controversial. As long as this dialogue remains civil and considerate, we will stay committed to holding events featuring a wide universe of books and reflecting many different perspectives.”

Please read the above article from Media Matters on just how hurtful this book is to the LGBT community. Then check the list of readings here and see if one of your local bookstores is hosting a reading. Drop them a line and let them know that they are giving a platform to someone who is spreading lies, rumor and conjecture which are aimed at spitting on the grave of Matthew Shepard.

I’ve done the work of finding phone numbers for all scheduled book events for Mr. Jiminez. Please make the calls and let the stores know what’s going on. Most probably have no idea.

10/8/13 

Harvard Coop
1400 Massachussetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02238

1-800-368-1882

10/9/13

Politics & Prose Bookstore
5015 Connecticut Ave. N.W.
Washington, DC 20008

(202) 364-1919

10/10/13

CARMICHAELS BOOKSTORE
2720 FRANKFORT AVE
LOUISVILLE-JEFFERSON COUN, KY 40206-2769

(502) 896-6950

10/12/13

Iowa City Book Festival
Iowa City, IA 52240

http://www.iowacitybookfestival.org/contact/

10/14/13

Sarasota1Bookstore
1359 Main Street
Sarasota, FL 34236

941-365-7900

10/15/13

Books and Books
265 Aragon Ave
Coral Gables, FL 33134

305.442.4408

10/16/13

Inkwood Books
216 S. Armenia
Tampa, FL 33609

(813) 253-2638

10/19/13

MADISON PUBLIC LIBRARY – MARY VAUGHN/ORDER DEPT
126 S. HAMILTON STREET
MADISON, WI 53703-3210

608-266-6300

10/21/13

Auntie’s Bookstore
402 W Main
Spokane, WA 99201

(509) 838-0206

10/22/13

University Book Store
4326 University Way, N.E.
Seattle, WA 98105

(206) 634-3400

10/23/13

Third Place Books
17171 Bothell Way NE
Lake Forest Park, WA 98155

(206) 366-3333

10/24/13

Powell’s Books
1005 W. Burnside St.
Portland, OR 97210

503-228-4651

10/29/13

Copperfield Books
138 N. Main Street
Sebastopol, CA 95472

(707) 823-2618

10/30/13

Book Soup
8818 Sunset Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069

310-659-3110

11/1/13

The King’s English Bookshop
1511 South 1500 East
Salt Lake City, UT 84105

(801) 484-9100

11/3/13

BOULDER BOOKSTORE
1107 PEARL ST
BOULDER, CO 80302-5103

(303) 447-2074

11/4/13

Tattered Cover
2526 E Colfax Ave
Denver, CO 80206

303-322-7727

11/5/13

Old Firehouse Books
232 Walnut St
Fort Collins, CO 80524

(970) 484-7898

11/6/13

Bookworks
4022 Rio Grande Blvd NW
Albuquerque, NM 87107

(505) 344-8139

11/7/13

COLLECTED WORKS BOOKSTORE
202 GALISTEO ST
SANTA FE AIRPORT, NM 87501-2101

(505) 988-4226

11/12/13

BookPeople
603 North Lamar
Austin, TX 78703

(512) 472-5050

11/13/13

The Twig Book Shop
306 Pearl Parkway, Ste 106
San Antonio, TX 78215

210-826-6411

11/14/13

BRAZOS BOOKSTORE INC.
2421 BISSONNET ST
HOUSTON, TX 77005-1451

(713) 523-0701

11/18/13

SUBTEXT A BOOKSTORE
165 WESTERN AVE N STE 14
SAINT PAUL, MN 55102-4613

(651) 493-3871

11/19/13

UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA BKSTR COFFMAN MEMORIAL UNION
300 WASHINGTON AVE SE
MINNEAPOLIS, MN 55455-0371

(612) 625-6000

11/20/13

BOSWELL BOOK COMPANY LLC DANIEL GOLDIN
2559 N DOWNER AVE
MILWAUKEE, WI 53211-4242

(414) 332-1181

11/22/13

BOOK CELLAR
4736 N LINCOLN AVE # 38
CHICAGO, IL 60625-2089

(773) 293-2665

Did he see the stars over Laramie?

7 Oct

Every year, I re-post the same story about Matthew Shepard. It’s a brief reminder so that the people I know and love don’t forget who he is and the incredible moves forward we’ve made in memory of him.

Tonight, I ran across someone who re-blogged the story and they attached a video from YouTube. It’s a brief interview with Matthew which I’ve never seen. Actually, despite having worked with Matthew’s mom, Judy on several events I produced for their foundation, I’ve actually never seen video footage of Matt.

As brief as the footage is, it hit me hard. I’ve never seen Matt speaking, never heard his voice.

When the tragedy happened, I was starting my sophomore year in college. I wasn’t out to anyone. I remember watching the stories on a TV in my college campus center and so desperately wanting to tell someone how upset, how scared I was.

Let’s be honest, I was doing musicals and I’d never really dated any girls, so it was no surprise when I finally did come out but for me, I was still terrified someone might find out – especially after what happened to Matt. I know I wasn’t alone in that and that this is the reason for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. When something like this happens, it terrorizes more than just the victim of the crime.

Tonight, 14 years ago, Matt was laying in a field, tied to a fence, beaten and bloodied, staring at the stars over the Wyoming sky as he lost consciousness. I like to think that there was a moment before he closed his eyes, that the pain went away and he was able see the stars and know he was loved.

14 years ago today

6 Oct

On October 7, 1998, Aaron Kreifels was riding his bike through a field in Wyoming. He wasn’t expecting that day to be different from any other beautiful sunny afternoon in the vast plains surrounding Laramie, but that day would change many lives.

Aaron spotted what he initially thought was a scarecrow next to a fence. Then he noticed a glisten of blood. The sun sparkled on what he barely recognized as a face. What Aaron had discovered was the 22 year-old Matthew Shepard, clinging to life.

Most of you know what happened next. Matthew held on for five more days and as his parents held his hand and prayed, Matthew slipped away quietly on October 12th, leaving in his wake a new movement for equality.

The outcries for justice and for greater protections were immediate and resonating.

Since then, Matthew’s mother Judy has made it her personal mission to protect all young LGBT people from Matthew’s horrific fate. In founding the Matthew Shepard Foundation, she has created safe spaces in and outside of schools for kids, and worked with parents to ensure their children learn to erase hate from their lives.

But overwhelmingly what you saw in 1998 was a community ready to act, ready to change something. And Matthew’s story was the catalyst for that. Many of you have seen or read the Moises Kaufman play, The Laramie Project – Matthew’s story as told through interviews of those who were living in Laramie at the time – some of his friends and some who just happened to be riding a bike through the plains of Wyoming that day. If you think of nothing else today, please consider the importance of telling your story – how your story can change the world around you.

This young boy, unbeknownst to him, has changed the world with his.

Gay Dads, 4 Kids Terrorized by Neighbors – You Can Help!

13 Jul

Roy, Felix and their four children

You may recall last week when we told you about the Arizona family that has been threatened, had their property set on fire and their children chased down the street by men with guns while police did nothing.

While local authorities are  still being pressured by the media and people around the country to investigate this and prosecute accordingly, not much has changed for the two dads and their four adopted children.

While we can’t go wave a magic wand and make Arizona police and elected officials comprehend the idea that all families should be treated equally, we can show them they’re not alone.

The Family Equality Council and their new media manager, Sean Carlson (my fiancé) are attempting to do just that. Last August, I took part in a life-changing week in Provincetown, MA. Family Equality Council’s Family Week is a place for families of all different combinations. Two Dads, Two Moms, Two Grandpas, Two Grandmas – no matter what – everyone is welcome.

For the first time in many of their lives, children of LGBT parents are shown they are not the only family like theirs. In fact, not only are they introduced to a world with hundreds of families like their own, they are even celebrated in a parade down the main street of town.

With your help, the Family Equality Council is going to be bringing this family to Provincetown for Family Week this year.

From their fundraising page:

“It started with grafitti, then escalated to setting their bushes on fire and banging on the windows at night. Then the unthinkable happened: someone broke into their home and vandalized the children’s furniture.

The past few months have been a nightmare for the Bermeas – the harassment, the late night calls to the police, the aftermath, and the increased media attention have all made this time a less-than-ideal summer vacation.

We can do something about this – raise enough money to send the entire family to Family Week in Provincetown, MA.

Please help show this family they’re not alone! Contribute Now!

Why do Arizona cops let people chase kids with guns?

3 Jul

For four months now, Felix Bermia, his husband Roy and their four young children have been terrorized in their own home.

Violent rapping on their doors and windows when the kids are home alone,  hateful slurs keyed into their vehicles, fires lit on their lawn and around their property and even a break-in with more vandalism and slurs on the walls. Then just last week, two men stepped out of an SUV and pulled a gun on the two young boys and chased them home.

Since the first incident, Felix has called the police 14 times. The story received some national attention in the past few weeks and added pressure for the local authorities to take some action, but they’ve come up empty-handed. There’s a young girl who is now afraid to sleep in her own room after vandals wrote anti-gay profanity on her pastel walls, with her stuffed animals lying all around.

Despite this marathon session of this constant harassment, vandalism and terror inflicted on the family, the police magically have yet to be able to find a single person who knows anything about the crimes.

The local authorities have issued a statement claiming they’ve been on top of these incidents, despite no action seemingly being taken until after 12 phone calls reporting the crimes.

Lou Colagiovanni at the Examiner outlines the history of events and points out that there will be a rally on July 14th to bring further attention to the police department’s apparent lack of attention to the matter.

PHOTOS: DC Vigil for Teen Lesbians Shot in Texas

29 Jun

Kristene Chapa and Mollie Olgin

Last Friday night as many Americans prepared for a weekend of Pride celebrations, 19 year old Mollie Olgin was taking her girlfriend of 5 months, 18 year old Krissy Chapa to a movie. They had some extra time on their hands, so they stopped by a local park.

What happened between then and roughly 9am on Saturday is still being pieced together by Police.

Authorities were called to the scene after a couple came upon them in the morning. Mollie had died due to a gunshot wound to her neck and Kristene remains in intensive care with a gunshot wound to her head.

The investigation continues and as of 7pm last night, no motives or suspects have been discovered. A witness has come forward and described the shooter as a white male in his 20s, 5 foot 8 inches tall, 140 pounds with dark hair. As of this time, it is unknown whether the girls’ relationship was a motive for the crime. The police also indicated that the women did not know their assailant.

As of right now, there are more than 25 vigils planned across the country for the girls.

We hear from Kristene’s brother that she’s making progress and can now move the right side of her body. In trying to get her to communicate, she’s only been able to write – most of what she’s writing is Mollie’s name. Her family has refrained from telling her Mollie is gone for fear it will impact her recovery. Friends and family had been very supportive of their relationship.

Tonight, we were proud to help organize a twilight vigil in Mollie and Kristene’s honor in Washington D.C.. More than 100 people braved the 104 degree weather and contributed over $300 to help with Kristene’s medical care (as she is uninsured).

Speakers included Maya Rupert , Federal Policy Director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights will be Chad Griffin, new Executive Director for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Executive Director of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL), Andrew Barnett and Chair of Gays & Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV), A.J. Singletary.

Thank you to those who joined us. Please feel free to make a contribution here to help out Kristene’s family.

If a bullet should enter my brain…

27 Nov

By now, most of us have seen the Academy Award-wining film, Milk. While Milk presented a much-untold history, the true impact of this film is now being measured by the vast numbers of young people who found the courage to come out after seeing it, and in conversations about historic LGBT contributions around the globe.

It was on this day, 33 years ago, former Republican San Francisco City Supervisor Dan White took a gun to City Hall. He climbed through a lower-level window to avoid metal detectors and proceeded to Mayor George Moscone’s office. White had resigned his office and went into Moscone’s office hoping to be re-appointed to the seat he’d resigned from. When Moscone refused, White shot and killed him. With extra ammunition, he proceeded to the office of Harvey Milk, the first openly-gay man to be elected to a major city office. White proceeded to shoot Milk 5 times – the final two shots had White pressing his gun directly at Milk’s skull according to the medical examiner.

Harvey Milk had pre-recorded a message after receiving several anti-gay death threats during his political career. The message said “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet shatter every closet door.” Dan White went on to be found guilty of voluntary manslaughter rather than first-degree murder. Despite White’s later statements that he was “on a mission” and  “wanted to kill four of them,” he was not found guilty of pre-meditating anything due to his poor diet.

White’s lawyers claimed that while usually a healthy man, White had been consuming many sugary foods, which led to his mental state. This became known as the “Twinkie Defense.” White went on to serve just 5 years of the very lenient 7 year sentence. 2 years later, White committed suicide by running a garden hose from the exhaust pipe to inside his car.

Following the guilty verdict, men and women rioted outside San Francisco City Hall. Hours after the riots had ended, Police made a retaliatory raid on the streets of the Castro District and the Elephant Walk Bar (now renamed ‘Harvey’s”). Two dozen arrests were made during that raid and the riots, and in the following weeks, after being called upon to apologize, gay leaders refused. The political leverage gained from these events led to the election of Mayor Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein then appointed a pro-gay chief of police who actively recruited gays into the city’s police force.

Dianne Feinstein, who is now a U.S. Senator, is leading the way for LGBT equality by sponsoring the “Respect for Marriage Act,” which would repeal the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

TN Pastor Who Ordered Assault on Gay Son, Now Facing Theft Charges

7 Oct

Remember that Tennessee pastor we told you about earlier this week? The one who ordered his deacons to assault his own gay son when he and his partner tried to come to church?

Seems like he’s in the news again. According to local ABC affiliate, WBBJ:

According to Trenton police, they recently arrested Pastor Jerry Pittman, of Fruitland’s Grace Fellowship Church, on charges of stealing from a local business.

“It’s hard enough nowadays to trust people and I just can’t believe that a pastor would even steal anything,” said Trenton resident Hayley Gordon.

Police arrested the 52-year-old on September 21, after his estranged wife told them she had heard from co-workers that he had been stealing from her business.

“Our investigation into the incident that was reported showed that he and another gentleman did scrap copper at a scrap yard here in Trenton,” Lt. James Wilson said.

Investigators said he scrapped the copper at least three different times since August. It was hundreds of pounds, and worth more than $1,000.

“It was quite a bit that they scrapped,” Wilson said.

And, shockingly enough, this “Christian” man has been in trouble with the law before:

This actually is not the first time Pittman has been arrested. Police said he was arrested back in 2006 for a simple assault charge.

“It was over an incident where the daughter and the boyfriend had a joint child,” Wilson said. “There were some accusations involving the father of the child, which was the boyfriend, and he confronted the father of his grandchild at a local grocery store.”

One would think that parishioners would prefer a non-criminal to be leading their church.

Matthew Shepard: 13 years ago today

6 Oct

On October 7, 1998, Aaron Kreifels was riding his bike through a field in Wyoming. He wasn’t expecting that day to be different from any other beautiful sunny afternoon in the vast plains surrounding Laramie, but that day would change many lives.

Aaron spotted what he initially thought was a scarecrow next to a fence. Then he noticed a glisten of blood. The sun sparkled on what he barely recognized as a face. What Aaron had discovered was the 22 year-old Matthew Shepard, clinging to life.

Most of you know what happened next. Matthew held on for five more days and as his parents held his hand and prayed, Matthew slipped away quietly on October 12th, leaving in his wake a new movement for equality.

The outcries for justice and for greater protections were immediate and resonating.

Since then, Matthew’s mother Judy has made it her personal mission to protect all young LGBT people from Matthew’s horrific fate. In founding the Matthew Shepard Foundation, she has created safe spaces in and outside of schools for kids, and worked with parents to ensure their children learn to erase hate from their lives.

But overwhelmingly what you saw in 1998 was a community ready to act, ready to change something. And Matthew’s story was the catalyst for that. Many of you have seen or read the Moises Kaufman play, The Laramie Project – Matthew’s story as told through interviews of those who were living in Laramie at the time – some of his friends and some who just happened to be riding a bike through the plains of Wyoming that day. If you think of nothing else today, please consider the importance of telling your story – how your story can change the world around you.

This young boy, unbeknownst to him, has changed the world with his.

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