A Martyr Is a Terrible Thing to Waste
Sometimes groups need to be careful about who they make into heroes.
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It is impossible to overestimate the importance of Matthew Shepard’s murder to the modern gay movement. From the first reports of his brutal attack down to the present day, Shepard’s death stands as the hagiographic moment.
The day of his death is remembered each year as a kind of feast day, similar to the days celebrated by Catholics for their great saints. His name is intoned in story and song.
This hagiography began even before he was dead, even as he lay in a coma for five days after Aaron McKinney jammed a gun butt so deep into his skull that his brainstem was exposed.
But a new book out by award winning gay journalist Stephen Jiminez tells a markedly different story than the hagiography. After several years and one hundred interviews, Jiminez tells a story that should have been plain to even the most biased eyes; Shepard knew his killers, did drugs and sold drugs with them, and was killed over a drug dispute. What is new in the book is that he also had sex with them. This, of course, would contradict the notion that he died for his homosexuality.