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Revisiting Laramie.

When Moises Kaufman went to Wyoming to interview subjects for his play The Laramie Project, he peered into lives dramatically altered by Matthew Shepard's death. Many are now working for the changes they say Shepard would have made, and some have become remarkably different people. The Advocate caught up with Kaufman and a few of his real-life subjects as well as other individuals whose connection to Shepard was equally significant.

Moises Kaufman, 39

Then and now: Head of the Tectonic Theater Project in New York City and creator of The Laramie Project

For the past five years I've been lecturing at a lot of colleges. I've been very involved in having conversations about what happened in Laramie. I have been able to travel the country to the places where The Laramie Project has been performed, and I have been able to hear a lot of feedback from people. I thought that Matthew's murder was going to be a watershed moment in our culture, and that has proved true. His murder has become a historic marker. We're in a moment in our history where great change is happening. But we have to brace ourselves for the backlash that these very. small victories are going to entail. We have to be vigilant. Matthew did make a difference, but at the same time the forces against us are more fired tip than ever.

Dave O'Malley, 51

Then: Commander for the Laramie police department

Now: Chief of the Laramie police department

Since Matthew's death, there have been a series of changes in my life. My wife and I have become really good friends with members of the LGBT community. Prior to that I had no knowledge about gay America. I was a prick. I had preconceived notions and attitudes about what being gay was. I spent most of my life making jokes and pointing fingers. It bothers me even today.

But I've spent the last four years getting educated. I had the opportunity to meet a lot of Matt's friends. The biggest honor I received in my career was when the Human Rights Campaign gave me their Equality Award at a dinner in Denver two years ago. Dave Smith [of HRC] out in Washington is like my brother. He has been so committed. I have been involved with the Human Rights Campaign in trying to do some lobbying efforts on hate-crimes legislation. I have had the opportunity to make about five trips to Washington to meet with congress-people. I am committed to ensuring that hate-crimes legislation becomes law at some point.

Christopher Maluck, 35

Then: Auto dealer customer-service representative

Now: Director of development for the Matthew Shepard Foundation

When I first moved to Denver in 1998, Matt and I had a lot of common friends, but we never actually connected. I was working at a local auto dealership when Matt was attacked. It jolted me into a different reality. Through the grieving process I thought, There's got to be a way to get involved. Romaine Patterson asked to be a part of her peaceful protest with the angel costumes. It was a defining moment in my life when I realized I could really make a difference. I started helping Judy and Dennis [Shepard] get the foundation going. I quit my job and lived off credit cards for the next year. I found my niche. I found something that I was passionate about. I used to fix people's cars; now I go to schools and talk to students about diversity issues. It has been a wonderful and fulfilling experience, mid I see passion developing in other people. As the foundation grew and Judy and Dennis made the decision to continue it as an educational entity, they came to me and asked me to develop it. I came on board full-time.

Jason Marsden, 31

Then: Reporter for the Casper Star-Tribune

Now: Director of Wyoming Conservation Voters

Matt and I were close friends. After he was killed I felt like leaving Laramie. My whole life I had always been interested in politics. That was something Matt and I always talked about. I worked for the Casper Star-Tribune, and they had a Washington, D.C., bureau, so I went to the capital and covered politics. After a while I got homesick. I came back and started working with Wyoming Conservation Voters, a pro-conservationist political group. It has been wonderful being back. One of the things that's great about Laramie, and one of the reasons Matt came back here, is if you're here and you're talented you can do amazing things. Matt's death was ready a transforming experience for me. It's strange to reflect on what changed as a result of him dying. I wrote a column on coming out, and it went all over the place. I spoke at events all across the country. It was really healing in a lot of ways to see how people in my profession were using Matt's death as a way to learn things. It changed everything for me. I never intended to come out in the newspaper. I had a moment's worth of opportunity to tell a lot of people, and l learned so much. But I'd give it all away to have Matt back. It's cruel and wrong what happened to him, and I still feel it.

Romaine Patterson, 25

Then: Waitress at a Denver coffee shop

Now: Producer and cohost of the Derek and Romaine Show on Sirius Radio's OutQ

Since Matt's death, I've gone from the average girl in Wyoming to a media activist. At one point I was the center of the media storm, and now I'm working as a member of the media. Matthew and I were really good friends. When he died I stepped up to the plate and did a lot of interviews and became a community representative. One of the key things I learned is that when you're talking to the media you really have the ability to sway public opinion. I got to know Cathy Renna at the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. We were working hand in hand, and I grew a really strong desire to be an activist. That's when I decided to go work for GLAAD in Washington, D.C., as a regional media manager. Now I work at Sirius Radio. I speak to a very broad audience about what issues are important to me. I talk about gay issues and gay and lesbian people. I'm also still very involved with personal activism. 1 speak at schools, and I still work with the Matthew Shepard Foundation. And now that I'm on the radio, there s not a day that goes y that I don't talk about Matthew Shepard.

Jim Osborn, 28

Then: College student and president of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Association (now known as Spectrum)

Now: Adviser to Spectrum and full-time employee of the University's computer services department

I met Matt on campus through a friend. One of the things that frustrates me most is that I didn't get to know him better. He struck me as someone who was very compassionate. Just seeing him and talking to him brightened my day. When Matt was killed, all of sudden I ended up being the spokesperson for the Campus gay and lesbian student group, and I very quickly became a spokesperson for the gay community in Laramie--whether I liked it or not. That carried on to today. Matt was headed on to great things in his life. He was going to make the world a better place. After his death it became apparent that other people were going to have to pick up that work. Something that Romaine [Patterson] and I have talked about is that Matt's voice was silenced, and we both have felt a duty to speak because he cannot. That's what I do here. We now have the Rainbow Resource Center on campus. I also have become one of' the cochairs of the Safe-Zone Committee, which does workshops on LGBT issues in Laramie. I've talked to a lot of people around the country about The Laramie Project. I've also spoken at a lot of schools about my personal response to what happened.

Reggie Fluty, 42

Then and now: Sheriff's deputy

I'm still working at the sheriffs office and still loving my job. There was room for advancement, but I didn't want that. I like being with people, I am always trying to he a better person. It's just kind of as basic as that. I was a ways very spiritual before Matt's death, and I have grown 10 times in my walk with God since. I realized we really are supposed to be nice to each other. I always knew that, but it made me really accept that even though somebody else is hateful you have to accept that. Hate isn't going to overwhelm hate. You have to accept people for who they are and what they do. The incident with Matt, that's what hate looks like to me. I thought, I don't ever want to look like that.

Father Roger Schmidt

Then: Priest at St. Paul's Newman Center in Laramie

Now: On sabbatical at the Church of St. Patrick in Kansas City, Kan.

The whole experience with the tragedy of Matthew Shepard's murder touched me very deeply. It was a life-changing event. After that I did a lot to get people to break down prejudices and to emphasize inclusiveness. Every year we had a seminar [at St. Paul's], talking about sexual identity. We had people come in and talk about what it's like to be gay. I think there are a lot of homophobic attitudes that are still out there. After I left the Newman Center I had a sabbatical and went to the Vatican II Institute at St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park, Calif. When I was there I talked about it a lot, and I had chance to see The Laramie Project at a local high school. It was a marvelous experience. I came to Kansas City to finish up the sabbatical, and I have had the opportunity to break down a lot of prejudices. The whole thing has made me more aware of biases. People verbalize the fact. that they don't have biases, but in some instances they're really lying because they do.
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Article Details
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Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Sep 30, 2003
Words:1723
Previous Article:Pain and prominence: Judy Shepard became a gay activist because of her son. But in the process she has become very much her own woman.
Next Article:Where we stand.


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