On the University of Wyoming campus, a memorial bench honors one individual, Matthew Shepard who was targeted and killed for being gay. On October 6, 1998, two men pretended to take an interest in Matthew. They then kidnapped him and beat him brutally, leaving him tied to a fence post in the freezing cold. Once discovered, he lay in a coma for five days before dying from his injuries. Although defendants attempted to use the homophobic argument of experiencing "panic" caused by Shepard's possible homosexual attraction, the judge and jury rejected this reasoning and convicted both attackers of murder.
The site where Matthew died remains unmarked and some critics argue that the memorial bench should be more explicit about who Matthew Shepard was and why he was killed. To many, the Matthew Shepard Memorial is understated, and because it took ten years to erect, long overdue. This quiet tribute to a single individual connects his story to the landscape, to his community, and to America's queer cultural legacy.
LGBTQ Memorials: Matthew Shepard Memorial, Laramie, WY
Series: Finding Our Place: LGBTQ Heritage in the United States
Last updated: February 20, 2018