Editorial 5 - Canadian Thanksgiving 2004 - 6 Years After Matthew Shepard Died
Canadian Thanksgiving was this weekend. For Canadians who are interested in gay rights, Thanksgiving weekend is a time of mixed emotions. The Thanksgiving weekend is difficult for me personally, because I work with a couple of human rights related web sites.
Like other Canadians, we go to the homes of loved ones, eat too much turkey and fine food, enjoy the feeling of being full to the brim and good times with family. But under the surface of the Thanksgiving celebrations, there is the feeling of sadness for the gay community and for the families of people who have lost loved ones, because of homophobia. We know that the Shepards will always have an empty plate at Christmas and Thanksgiving. Matthew Shepard is not going to be coming home again. He is not away at college. He is not working too far from home to make it back for Thanksgiving. He is dead. His death was due to the fears and hatred of two young men.
Matthew Shepard's death shows the world how ugly homophobia and hate can be. The gruesome details of his senseless death and his heroic battle clinging to life in the hospital riveted the attention of the world on the needs of an oppressed minority, gay people. Unfortunately, Matthew Shepard was not the only person to be murdered for being gay. Many other gay people have been killed. The names of several other young gay people who were murdered in the United States come to mind in mere seconds.
Somehow, Thanksgiving seems like the right time to remember Matthew Shepard and the many other victims of homophobia and gay bashing. While we remember the injury or loss of so many talented and dear people, we can also look to the progress the gay community has made and be thankful.
A gay Canadian Member of Parliament, Svend Robinson, was sickened by the protests at Matthew Shepard's funeral. He introduced a private member's bill that added gay people to the list of minority groups protected by hate crimes legislation. Private member's bills rarely get passed. His bill was passed. Now it is illegal to promote hatred against gay people in Canada. We owe that to Matthew Shepard's death and to Svend Robinson's hard work.
Many people have been touched by Matthew Shepard's death. Some people have emailed us, or have posted comments in the guest book or the forum stating that Matthew Shepard changed their lives.
Somehow out of a very terrible situation, God is moving to bring some good things. That realization is part of what Thanksgiving is all about. Even within the darkest of times, there is hope. And at Thanksgiving, we express our gratitude for the blessings we have, blessings that give us hope and courage for a better world.
People wanting to make a difference are encouraged to visit the
Stop Hate 2000 web site.