Thursday, November 11, 1999

Letter to Dennis Shepard

Mr. Dennis Shepard
c/o Prosecuting Attorney Rerucha
Albany County Courthouse
Laramie, WY, USA
November 11, 1999

Dear Mr. Shepard:

I have just had the pleasure of reading your statement to the court a week ago today, on November 4, following the trial of the murderers of your son, Matthew. I am grateful to you for making this available for the world to read.

I did not follow the trial and I am now reflecting on my responses to the event, which captured so much attention. I knew only that a gay man had been murdered for being gay, that it happened in Wyoming, and that the trial was going on. In a world full of sad news, this was only one more depressing event, one more news story to avoid. Your statement, now circulating on the internet, gave me a reason to stop and pay attention. Your son deserves that, and you have done him great service.

You also do Wyoming proud, by revealing to those too quick to associate it with the likes of the savage killers of your son that it is also home to loving people who appreciate its charms and are perhaps even to be envied for their good life.

Your story of the growth of a loving family who came to embrace not a gay son, but a lovable son who happened to be gay, is a good story. I hope it will reach folk who still have trouble understanding that a notion of human sexuality based on fear of difference can do great harm to loving people. And help them understand that gay men and women can grow up healthy, and live in, love and be loved by good families, if only their families are wise enough to see that they are still fully human, despite their non-standard sexual natures.

I still mourn the loss of a close friend to homophobia, and like most gay men and women who grew up in America, I know that American homophobia exists in a particularly virulent form. I know, too, that much of the pain and suffering comes not only from those with black hearts, but from well-intentioned folk working in the mistaken belief they are doing God’s work, as well. The best possible response to that sad fact is your response.

Thank you for bringing your story to light. It is very much worth the telling.

In sympathy, and appreciation,

Yours truly,

Alan J. McCornick

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