Thursday, September 18, 2008

Laramie, Wyoming and the LGBT community a decade after Matthew Shepard's death

October 12, 2008, will be the ten-year anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard, the University of Wyoming college student who was beaten by two men who met him in a Laramie bar and left him to die, tied to a fence outside town. The New York Times' Patrick Healy writes here of how Laramie has changed -- or not -- in the ensuing decade. The story draws heavily on the Laramie Project, the "widely praised and frequently staged play bout how this small city grappled with the notorious murder." With a population of about 27,000 in a county of about 80,000, Laramie is nonmetropolitan.

Here is an excerpt from Healy's story that focuses on what it is like to be a member of the LGBT community in Laramie.

If Laramie has struggled with this onus, young gay men here have also reckoned with the fact that Mr. Shepard’s death did not change much for them. Nor, they say, did the success of the 2005 movie “Brokeback Mountain,” about two gay ranch hands in Wyoming.

“If you walk around campus holding hands with another guy, you have to know that people are going to holler and yell at you,” Iain-Peter Duggan, a junior at the University of Wyoming, and who is gay, said in an interview. “You just have to be smart.”

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