The Laramie Project

FAQ’s About Matthew

What was Matthew really like?

Everyone wants to know what Matthew was "really" like...and of course they should because Matt was amazing. To pick one or two favorite traits would be difficult. He was one of the most kind and loving people I have ever met. He smiled all the time and said hello to everyone. He smoked cigarettes like they were going out of style and laughed often. He had a dark side that matched his light. He suffered from a serious depression problem. When he was down, it was like nothing you can imagine. He knew himself well and always took pride in his life and his accomplishments. Matt had the most wonderful smile in the world. Matt was one of the most interesting friends I have ever had. Not because he never worn jeans or tennis shoes, or because he only watched news programing on his tv but because of the way he made me prepare his coffee. I would make his skim latte which he would “sip” on until it was cold. At which point he asked me to reheat it but I had to use the steam wand because it made it taste better! He had some funny traits that one! Matt loved art, and he had prints of many famous paintings on the walls of his apartment. But think one of the coolest things about Matt was that he collected these little colored glass bottles...he was obsessed with them. He had one in every shade, size and shape. They were all over the place, and picking them out made him so happy. Damn he was cute at times :) He got a great deal of joy out of the simple things in life.

How did you meet Matthew?

I met Matt while attending school in Casper, Wy. I got a call from one of the instructors at the college that said she knew of a young man that was looking to meet other gay college aged kids. I just happened to be the leader of a pretty fun gay pack! Matt called me a few days later and I intorduced him to my groups of friends. He quickly became one of the liveliest in the group!
At the end of the semester I moved to Denver, CO and Matthew did the same. We lived just a few blocks away for the next year. Matt left Denver to go back to school in Laramie.

What are Matthew’s parents like?

Judy and Dennis are two of the most wonderful people in the world. I never thought they would stand up for Matt the way they have. Judy is rather shy even though she goes everywhere speaking and Dennis is just down right charming! Judy resides in Casper, WY where she is the executive director of The Matthew Shepard Foundation. Dennis is still in Saudi Arabia working as an oil rig inspector. Judy continues to do such valuable work and attempts to further education day after day. I sometimes wonder how she does it, but secretly I know. Matthew has one brother, but not many people know that..he is younger...and the family kept him out of the media to protect him. Judy and Dennis are a shining example to many parents out there that have a gay child. If you ever get a chance to see Judy speak make sure you can attend. She is amazing!

Where were you when you heard about Matthew’s attack?

I was working and living in Denver, CO. I learned of Matthew’s attack from one of my regular customers at the coffee shop where I worked. I went home and called my sister in Laramie that filled me in on the details of the attack. Then with the rest of the nation I watched the story on the 10 o’clock news.

What kind of music did Matthew like?

Matt liked all music. He was a fan of folk music in particular. He was a wierd one when it came to music. He liked people like John Denver, and shit like that...I think he was like a 70 year old man trapped in a 22 year old body. I loved watching him attempt to dance to “It’s Raining Men”. Matt couldn’t dance to save his soul! But the song that sticks out most in my mind is Merideth Brooks song “Bitch”. We had our own lyrics for the song:
I’m a bitch, I’m a whore
I’m a goddess on the floor!

Q: I was recently in a production of The Laramie Project in Guelph, Ontario (Jon Peacock and Andy Paris). One of the things that I wondered about in the play was Matt's HIV status. Reggie Fluty talked about being treated to avoid infection as she had cuts on her hands and crappy rubber gloves. Was Matt really HIV positive or was that an over-reaction based on assumptions that all gay men have AIDS?

A: Matthew was in fact infected with the HIV virus. It was first reported in a Vanity Fair article. Matthew's family and most of his friends were unaware of his HIV status, and only became aware of it after his attack. When he contracted HIV is unknown but I assume during his time in Denver, as doctors have told us that the infection was a rather recent one.

Q: I'm also curious about the Homecoming parade, it was painted in such a wonderful light in the play, but I thought there was also some inappropriate stuff that happened on the part of some guys from a frat.

A: These are two different homecoming parades that you are asking about. The first in Laramie (University of Wyoming) is the one talked about in the play and was in fact every bit as moving as the play describes. The second homecoming parade was held in Ft. Collins for Colorado State University. It was during this parade that a frat displayed a scarecrow on their float with the word gay written across the face. All of the students involved were punished accordingly.

How has your life changed?

How has my life changed...the better question is how has my life not changed. I went from being the most normal 21 year old kid to being thrust into a world I wasn't even sure I understood. My life was turned upside down, sideways, and round about, but in the end I think things have come out pretty damn wonderful. I have had opportunities to educate, enlighten and learn from so many people. The greatest gift I have ever received was the gift of Matthew's friendship. My life would be so very different if I had never met him.

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