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We'll live our lives,
we'll take the punches every day.
We'll live our lives,
I know we're gonna find our way.
Yeah, I believe in you
even if no one understands.
I believe in you,
and I don't really give a damn
if we're stigmatized. - The Calling, "Stigmatized"

Understandably there's a lot of hurt lately over Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church over picketing the funerals of soldiers. This church has never really been a church and it's mainly a vehicle for this guy and his family to win court battles and money.

Most recently the court has even told a father of a dead soldier that he has to pay Phelps' court costs. These people have been doing this for decades, so it's sort of odd to see this sudden outrage. My cynical side wonders if there was no outrage over the past twelve years or so because until recently it was only the families of dead gay kids they were harassing. Now it's "real American" soldiers.

This place came into existence in order to harass the families of dead gay kids and hurt gay kids. They originally viewed the call for hate crimes bills after Matthew Shepard's murder one of the most evil things that could have happened. Back then they were such a new group that people took them a little more seriously. CNN did stories about their protests harassing Matthew Shepard's friends and family and articles were written from the perspective that "some people oppose gays" and these views, outside of left-wingers, were taken horrifyingly seriously.

Here's an example of how the murder of a gay person was treated in 1998 by Americans:

His murder has brought out enough sneers, jokes, caricatures and graffiti on college campuses across the land to make it clear that bias against homosexuals is not just an attitude among young toughs like the two high school dropouts who have been charged with the killing. In a society in which fundamentalist religious leaders and prominent Republican politicians insist on castigating homosexuals as a threat, that bias is everywhere.

His family stood there and watched these people waving their "God Hates Fags" and "AIDS is God's Cure for Fags" signs around and spewing their hate, and then made a statement.

We can take inspiration from the example of Judy and Dennis Shepard. On the day they were to bury their murdered son, they stood in the rain outside the City Hall in Casper to thank the American people for messages of sympathy and support. ''We are honored and touched beyond measure,'' Mr. Shepard said, as his wife wept. Then, protected from radical fundamentalist protesters by a police barricade, they buried Matthew Shepard from the church in which he had been an acolyte.

We are told as gay people that we're not good enough. We're disgusting and wrong and need to be hidden. People like this group have been making alarming headway marginalizing us for decades. The people who say God hates Fags have succeeded in making people believe that. Now, of course there's not just this church specifically. There are others. And there is the mainstream Republican Party.

Then there's the problem of soft bigotry. If you're not doing anything to help us when we're being bombarded with these things, if you think it's the wrong time, if you don't want to be seen with us you are a bigot. You're hurting people.

These people really want us dead or disappeared. Matthew Shepard was beaten to death and tied to a fence. An article mentioned that some see it as the imagery of a "coyote" shot and "nailed to a fence" to warn others to keep out. To go away. You don't belong here.

It's mystifying that they succeeded for so long in denying us hate crimes protection. Everyone wonders why gay people are happy about hate crimes protections passing now - but not that thrilled and grateful. This is fucking why we're not. President Clinton practically begged for hate crimes legislation from the second Matthew Shepard was killed. He faced enormous opposition from right wingers and churches like this who called it an "assault on religious freedom" and other things. As if religious freedom includes beating someone to death and leaving them tied to a fence.

Hate crimes protection is a much-needed step and it's a good thing, but real gay kids are really killed all the time and this law has been needed for so long that some of us aren't that joyful.

From a piece called The Hate Epidemic, again in 1998:

''Shoot a gay or two,'' a piece of graffito in Laramie announced several years ago. I have seen -- and become inured to -- a blunter epithet, one that is found too often on bathroom walls and in university libraries: ''Faggots die.''

Die: That's really what it's all about, if for no other reason than that it is only when faggots die that their systematic persecution ever gets any attention.

When I was Matthew Shepard's age, my greatest fear was AIDS, because I had no idea then how the virus was spread. Now, 16 years later, there is still no cure for AIDS, but there is prevention: we can instruct a Matthew Shepard in how to protect himself against infection by H.I.V. But could we instruct him in how to protect himself against hatred?

Make no mistake: we've been alone in this. A few well-written articles does not make strong support for our issues. Even as recently as 2003, dissenters in Lawrence v. Texas at the Supreme Court were railing against the "homosexual agenda" and calling us erroneously a "politically powerful minority." We weren't in 1998 nor 2003. We're not now. Having a few elected gay officials doesn't make us politically powerful nor immune to hatred and attacks. It's frankly like saying racism no longer exists because Barack Obama is President.

Realistically, if anything, these advancements make the hate louder. People who don't want these things to happen see that they are happening more frequently. There's nothing they can do to stop it. So they scream louder. They fight back. It's not that racism, for example, suddenly exists in a higher capacity now that we're seeing blatant displays of it. It's the same racism, it just goes to eleven.

Lest you think that this is just some protests and that's all, the torment goes way beyond that. The Westboro Baptist Church for instance has an entire monument dedicated to Matthew Shepard.

There's a picture I won't post accompanied by a dedication:

When Matthew Shepard died on October 12, 1998, every pervert in this country (from Bill Clinton on down) used his death as a soap box to promote so-called "gay rights." The reality is that Matthew Shepard died because he was trolling for strange flesh and meth. See The Big Laramie Project Lie. These same perverts ignored the vicious murder of 13-year-old Jesse Dirkhising by two fags. In religious protest of this, WBC picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard, to inject a little truth and sanity into the irrational orgy of lies consuming this world. And WBC held a memorial service for Jesse Dirkhising at his lonely grave. WBC does not support the murder of Matthew Shepard: "thou shalt not kill." Unless his killers repent, they will receive the same sentence that Matthew Shepard received - eternal fire. However, the truth about Matthew Shepard needs to be known. He lived a Satanic lifestyle. He got himself killed trolling for anonymous homosexual sex in a bar at midnight. Unless he repented in the final hours of his life (not likely since God had given him up! - Romans 1), He is in hell. He will be in hell for all eternity, "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." Mark 9:44. For each day that passes, he has only eternity to look forward to. All the candlelight vigils, all the tributes, all the acts of Congress, all the rulings by the Supreme Court of the United States, will not shorten his sentence by so much as one day. And all the riches of the world will not buy him one drop of water to cool his tongue.

These families have had to suffer through their child's murder and then this relentless campaign to demonize their children. Imagine standing there at your son's funeral watching these people and then hearing about this monument. Then you turn on the tv and everyone is just FASCINATED with anti-homosexuality groups. Your churches and your government and your courts all seek to demonize your dead child's behavior.

Where do you turn? What do you do?

We've been dealing with this for so long by ourselves. It's kind of nice to see others share our outrage at the Phelps crew but it seems a little hollow.

Once the novelty of the website - complete with the "keep the fag away from the child" games to play - died down, they moved on to bigger and better things, like this:

(If img doesn't work see this link. )

The Phelps crew were pushing as late as 2007 to get this monument seen by the public at large:

According to the Casper Star Tribune, he's back pushing for the Matthew Shepard monument again: "Phelps said he would be willing to make his monument resemble the six others and would include a picture of Shepard and the engraving: "MATTHEW SHEPARD, Entered Hell October 12, 1998, at age 21, in Defiance of God's Warning: 'Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.' Leviticus 18:22." Mayor Kate Sarosy said she had not received Phelps' letter Monday evening and said she would speak with the city attorney and the other council members. 'Mr. Phelps' message is full of hate and not in the spirit of the monument plaza,' Sarosy said."

This is something that should have been just as horrific since 1998 as it is now. I'm supportive of these monsters' right to free speech and don't think they should be shut down. I'm just baffled at the lack of outrage over the past twelve or so years when gay families have endured extreme torment. Where was everyone? Where were our allies then? Where were the breathless articles and calls to remove the rights of free speech for the Phelps crew over this long and agonizing period of time?

Having grown up in the south in a religious family, this kind of opinion can do tons of damage - not by itself but with the implicit acceptance of society. An idea itself shouldn't ever be silenced but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be met with opposition and better ideas. The silence from everyone on the demonization of murdered gay kids says so much.

My mom tried to teach me that being gay was horrible, that gays should die. My uncles were worse about it. I heard namecalling from an early age. Death threats toward GLBT people.

When I realized I was gay in that environment it changed me. I used to beg God to make me straight. I would've done anything to be normal.

You don't ever feel like you can tell anyone when society is so overtly fucking horrible about it. Gay people are lucky in that we can hide it - unlike black people or someone else, but hiding it is damaging for the long-term as well. People like me, it's hard for us to gain any confidence. It's hard for us to trust anyone.

I feel alone most of the time. I feel like nobody cares enough about what gay people go through. My issues have to be coupled with something people actually ARE concerned about - health care or protesting soldiers' funerals - or else they don't matter.

There was this Law and Order: SVU episode I watched once. This young black girl disappeared and the media didn't give a shit. Then awhile later a young rich white blonde girl cared and the media was all over it. They went to the first girl's mom's house to interview her and everything because the two cases were connected. The mother basically said "I'll help you because I want this solved, but you fucking suck and could've stopped this guy forever ago if you'd only cared about what happens to black people as well as white ones."

I feel like this is a similar situation. We can only make things better by making things better. Ignoring groups of people we're uncomfortable with leads to the destruction of ALL our people.

It even says so in the freaking Bible, "whatever you do to the least of these you do to me."

We have to look out for everyone because believe me, we're next. You're next.

I can't imagine how the families of Matthew Shepard and of Scotty Weaver, who lived about fifteen minutes away from my apartment, must feel. Among others. Irreparable damage has been caused to our families and nobody was there to say or do anything. There was no real outpouring of support because it was too inconvenient or scary at the time. We had a few gay groups and a few very nice articles in newspapers. Meanwhile everyone focused on "please don't let this turn into a battle over gaining protections for gay people." Where's everyone's reserved natures now?

I'm just wondering.

A little recognition for dealing with these things alone for so long would be nice, just so you know, America.

With smiles like picket fences
you tie us all up and leave us outside.
"That voice is silent now, the boat has sunk..."
We're on our own,
but we're not going to run.
- Thursday, "M. Shepard"

Originally posted to indiemcemopants on Tue Mar 30, 2010 at 09:10 PM PDT.

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