By: Cassandra Baggaley
Back before Facebook was our connection to the world, back when the internet was dial up and had wires, and before prop 8 was really a battle, was the year 1998. There were gays, but these gays were ignored. They did not have any “special rights”. In that same year, a boy named Matthew Shepard died. His death and the play written about it (“The Laramie Project) were instrumental for changing the way America viewed the gay community.
America had gays in 1998, and long before 1998. They were there, but they simply were not talked about. People were not as public about it as they are now. We didn’t find out famous actors or writers were gay until after their death. In ”The Laramie Project”, we find that Matthew didn’t go around telling people he was gay. He didn’t hit on random guys like his accused attackers claimed. Things changed in the year 1998 though. After Matthew’s attack, people started noticing this community that was in fact all around them. The few homosexual clubs on college campuses exploded in number as a lot of people started “coming out”. As people started supporting the cause. 1998 was an important year, as gays were finally seen, as they started fighting for rights.
What started the explosion for gay rights? What helped gay people gain public support? October 8th, 1998, Matthew Shepard was at a bar alone having a few drinks. He left with a couple of men, and was found tied to a fence on the outskirts of Wyoming, robbed, pistol whipped, and dehydrated. Five days later, he died (Brooke 1). Not too long
after that, a team of writers came and interviewed the town. The play they published, entitled “The Laramie Project,” is a compilation of interviews that create an accurate, multi-sided picture of what happened that night.
The reaction this play got was, not surprisingly, mixed. What shocked people was how intensely Henderson and Mckinney hated gays, and how intolerant society was of the idea of gay rights. People either started reevaluating their own lives and tolerances, or clinging to their religious beliefs. “The Laramie Project got the ball rolling.”
“The Laramie Project” was instrumental in starting the struggle for gay rights. That struggle has led to many states allowing gay marriage. Everyone knows someone who is homosexual. It’s not an awful thing that “good society” ignores nowadays. Almost every college campus (except the religious-run ones) has some type of gay club now. Many famous people have announced that they are gay. Because of “The Laramie Project”, and what happened to Matthew Shepard, “it’s okay to be gay”.
- Brooke, James. “Gay Man Dies From Attack, Fanning Outrage and Debate.” The
New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Oct. 1998. Web. 25 Oct. 2013.
- Kaufman, Moisés. The Laramie Project. New York: Vintage, 2001. Print.
- “ZeitGAYst.” ‘ZeitGAYst’ N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2013.