Sunday, September 21, 2008

September 29

Journal entry: Greg Pierotti
September 29, 2008

I am so frustrated. I have been hitting a lot of dead ends. The number for Hing has turned out to be wrong, so now I am frantically trying to find another lead for that. Rob Debree was super busy with the law officer's convention in town, and as soon as that was over his mom fell and broke her hip so he has really needed to attend to that situation and we were unable to meet yesterday. I just spoke to him again and he said she is in recovery and seems to be doing OK, but I could tell he was very worried. He asked me to say a prayer for her, and I ask everyone who reads this to do the same. We are going to try to meet tomorrow morning before I leave and if he can't do it, he is going to give me a phone interview.

I have tried a number of times to approach people for "man on the street" interviews. People have all been very nice, happy to chat, but the prevailing view is that it has been forgotten about. No one knows anything. When I wonder if have they heard the latest reversion to the story that it was a drug deal gone bad, people say, "not really," nobody is talking about it at all.

Talking to two guys at a strip mall one says, "I've only been here four months. The only thing I know about it is I remember it from the news when it happened and then he," pointing to his friend, "took me out where it happened. I say, "I thought they took it down." Other guy, "Yeah they did. I just brought him out to the area there, out by Walmart." I ask, "Why did you want to do that?" Other guy, "That's what we're famous for." "But nobody really talks about it?" "No, not really."

At the Barber shop I am told that the latest news is that all three of them were gay. When I probe further into this I am told that Doc O'connor had sex with the killers. It turns out the source of the story is Elizabeth Vargas's disgusting 20/20 special on the killers, where she basically, at least in my view, reports rumors as news. She quotes McKinney (the convicted murderer) on whether it was a hate crime rather than Rob Debree (the chief investigating officer). Among the discredited theories that she drags back out is the old saw that it was only a drug deal gone bad. Again without a word of counter balance from Debree who investigated the crime. But even at the Barber shop, the talk is more about Doc than Matthew. The barber tells me, "to be perfectly honest, people have forgotten it." The guy in the chair says, "actually they're putting up a bench at the University as a memorial." "Where did you hear that?" I ask. "I don't know," he tells me. The Boomerang I think. I just scan the headlines."

Even the young gay student I interviewed last night does not seem particularly interested in Matt himself. "Gay rights is an issue everywhere and we need to do something about it next month (October is gay awareness month on campus). But it should be about Legislation and gay rights, not about Matthew. This kind of thing happens everywhere not just in Laramie." When I point out that it happened here he agrees that I have a point. When I suggest that there is something important about acknowledging Matthew simply because his story seemed to resonate so deeply for so many people around the world, he concedes it's something to consider. But tells me, "still we don't really need a gay martyr." The statement agitates me all night long.

55 comments:

dlm said...

unfortunately...there are many of us that agree with the statement that matt does not need to be a martyr for the gay cuase. The rest of the world wants to diefy someone that himself was just as screwed up as everyone else in the world, they forget that EVERYONE in EVERY state should be fighting for gay rights...not for marriage rights, but for human rights. I think we (gays of Laramie and Wyoming) are thinking, why is the rest of the country holding us up to this high standard when no other states are talking about better HIV care, founding places for young gays to be accepted and to go to be safe, educating the public. People are forgetting Harvey Milk, Rock Hudson, etc...where are the memorials for all of them and why are they forgotton? For the same reasons Matt is, because the world and life moves on. I wish that more people were talking about forgiveness and less about the hate that still persists...hate is an ugly circle...the hate of gays, the hate for the two men that murdered matt, the unwillingness to forgive is just a cycle that no one is willing to break...it is sad!

greg said...

Hi Dim,

Thanks so much for your response. I can certainly understand how frustrating it must be for the queer community in Wyoming to feel that the rest of the country is holding you to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. I apologize if that is what it sounds like I want to do. It certainly wasn't my intention. And I certainly do not feel that communities outside Laramie have done better with the issues.

My confusion is simply about why people in the community feel that acknowledging and keeping alive the memory of a tragedy that happened there is making Matt martyr rather than simply acknowledging and even honoring history. In my view, part of the way communities heal, grow and change is through staying connected to their lineage and history. For better or worse, Matt's murder is a part of Laramie's history. I agree entirely that forgiveness is critical, but I don't think forgiving necessitates forgetting.

I understand that as an outsider to your community I don't have to live with the situation in the same way you do, and that it would be irritating to have self appointed experts raising questions about your community. I don't want to presume any level of expertise here, I fully understand that I am not a member of the community. That is a unique and privileged point of view that I do not pretend to have. I am really trying to ponder my own experience of Laramie and of memory. Getting to know the town of Laramie, and being confronted by Matt's have completely changed my life. So for better or worse I will always have thoughts feelings and opinions about it, as many will around the world.

tristen said...

how can you say that 20/20 was a bad issue? maybe you are running into dead ends because your not looking in the right places. 20/20 did in fact hit some of it on the right issues. Matt was a sweet and a great guy but like everyone not perfect like everyone would like to make him out to be.

dlm said...

I wish that the papers and those who are writing articles would really look. There is in fact a memorial in casper and there is a bench that is going to be dedicated in his honor this weekend here in Laramie. Additionally, the University does honor his memory with events like the Sheppard symposium as well as with the gltb minor program that is now being developed. Matt's mom does even more developing programs around the country where gltb youth can feel accepted and loved and can talk to others like them.

As far as forgetting? You have to remember this is a college town, many of the "kids" you've interviewed were 8, 9, 10? Many of them were not aware and I think their lack of caring just shows how far Laramie has come. If you were getting responses of "fags die" or "gays are going to hell", what would you assume from those comments other than Laramie has not come far, but people are just very laid back and not concerned (straight people), that is what we want as a community. Maybe not acceptance, but tolderance no?

Unfortunately, I think that there are people you interview that say we have a strong gay community here in Laramie. I argue that its one of the worst I've encountered...while I am accepted and loved by my circle and those around me (even as someone living with HIV), the gay community in particular seems to have many divisions and cliques...as with anywhere. Unfortunately, with the varying viewpoints on Matt and his death, I don't ever think there will be a cohesive community here. Just some further thoughts to ponder!

Silas said...

Greetings from Peterborough, NH. Our high school is beginning rehearsals for a production of your play. It's really cool to be able to check your blog. We hope your work goes well.

Sincerely,

The Cast of "Laramie Project"
ConVal High School
Peterborough, NH 03458

pasquale121090 said...

when i read the last thing in your blog, "we dont need a gay martyr", i became very upset. I am currently in the cast of The Laramie Project, at the school you will be visiting in early october, and upon reading the play, i realize that the play is not about matthew or the incident itself, however, more as the reactions of the people in the town that it happened in. yet, while i agree that matt is not so much a martyr, i think he represents a good person, someone i relate to very closely. the play is not symbolizing him as a god but just retelling an incident that happened to an honest man, and i think that is what we must all realize about the play. matt is in all of us and he represents us.

i realize this was all very choppy and random but it was a little hard to recollect all these thoughts and put it down at once

and on a last note i also want to say that im very dissappointed that there hasnt been, from reading your other blogs, any change to the political system. we need to take a step and demand the rights we are deserved.

Andrew said...

A martyr gives themselves willingly to the cause. Matt did not.

He should not be seen as a martyr, but as a symbol of hope. Hope that society can react against and prevent the repetition of this hate crime.

When directing this play with a group of high school students in the UK, I hoped that it would produce a reaction. It did, beyond my expectations.

Overhearing two 11 year old boys after a performance discuss how unfair it was that someone was murdered "just because he liked boys instead of girls" instilled a sense of pride - in my cast, in this play, and in the discussions it was provking. The word 'unfair' is powerful to an 11 year old.

The purpose of the Laramie Project is to provoke a reaction against a hate crime. To see the work continue, enabling more discussion and facilitate action, and to help influence attitudes once again, fills me with pride.

The UK has come a long way in terms of legislation that counters homophobia. We are 95% equal in the eyes of the law - just a little more work to do. The US is sadly still in the 20th Century in terms of legislation. A homophobic legislative provides for a homophobic society.

My best wishes to Matts' family at what must be a difficult time in remembering what happened to their son, and to Tectonic Theatre in having the courage to revisit this inspiring work.

Andrew said...

p.s.

Harvey Milk Plazza is at the corner of Market & Castro Street in San Francisco. Not forgotten!

Why would we honour Rock Hudson? He never came out or admitted his HIV status in public.

dargese91 said...

after reading this blog one part stuck out to me and pasquale brought attention to it. it is when a student on campus says we dont need a gay martyr now as pasquale said that is not what mathew was ment to be but it is what he has become. so i cant say i blame that laramie student for what he said.

sayyournametoo said...

xbI agree with dan. I feel that the martyrdom of matthew is not what we as a society should be aiming for. what happened that night should warrant a yearning for serious change in all of us. the fact that a bench is supposedly being created in his honor is fine and dandy, but is a bench all we should get from this tragedy? no. we cannot forget that this happened, and we also can't forget that this same hate that took matthew's life ten years ago is still a pressing issue everywhere. this is our world. hatred toward difference is merely unacceptable.

what occured that night is something we need to see as a reason to change things. ten long years have passed and we have seen little to none of said improvement. we cannot just block this out of our minds. we cannot feel content with a commerative bench. benches are for sitting, and unfortunately that is what it seems everyone is doing- sitting back and accomplishing nothing.

kimalu said...

It blows me away that nothing has changed in Laramie. I'm currently in production of this show with the Allentown Advanced Theatre Program and, after reading these blogs, I am very aggravated. This happened, a boy was killed and, while yes it does happen in other places too, nothing has changed. And worse, people are forgetting.

Todd said...

No one should ever forget.

This was a hate crime. Matthew was murdered because he was gay and FOR NO OTHER REASON.

If we allow people to forget such a crime, we are opening the door to new holocausts.

What was the expression? "First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me."

We should never forget when a group--any group--of people is targeted for death because of who they are.

And someone like Matthew Shepard, whose cause was just trying to be himself, or Harvey Milk, whose cause was equality for all, can help us remember.

And in that their deaths have meaning.

Kate said...

I would like to sincerely thank you for handling Matthew Shepherd's death and the outrage and incidents surrounding it with such delicacy.
I can imagine Laramie would be going through transition - anything bad that happens in a small city, people automatically want to disengage from.
I live in New Zealand, 9 years ago, a 14 year old boy was killed in the middle of my city, bashed to death, because he was a touch Effeminate - the way the media handled the situation was disgraceful. Also, a local theatre company valiantly and with the best intentions tried their hand at making sense of the disaster but, unfortunately, made a lot of fiction, with a lot of opinion. And in my humble opinion, did not serve the boy's life and the family's wishes.
Now, when people look back at this sad and horrific 'event' they pretend that everything has changed, that we are somehow better now. But hate crimes have happened since the beginning of time and are just as relevant now as they were 5, 10 or 100 years ago. Keep going! I congratulate you on persevering and trying to make a change in the world.
I admire your work immensely and look forward to the next installment.

Sterlingmarie said...

Hi. This is kind of random, but I am actually from Laramie, lived there during the whole debacle. I've been living in Duluth MN for the pat 2 years and was begrudgingly drug into a discussion of the Laramie Project for a class through my Masters' Program. I came across your blog while doing some googling for my talk. If you are trying to get a hold of Sgt. Hing, try his wife, Yvonne at Department of Family Services.

Thuan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thuan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thuan said...

Dear Greg,

First and foremost, I would like to say that The Laramie Project has impacted me deeply. I am twenty, and three years ago I performed in my high school's production of The Laramie Project. Every aspect of the the story, and all the characters, shaped my mind during my late teenage years into what it is now. I always think about my experience with the show, the process in which you and the other members took to write the play, and of course, Matthew.

As a young gay man,I also feel a deep and strong connection with Matthew; because, October 6th, the night that the incident occurred, also happens to be my birthday. Each year as I celebrate my birthday, the day I was brought to life, I always think about Matthew the life he left behind. Having done The Laramie Project and finding that connection, I have grown to become a more compassionate and grounded person.

Now, as I read your entries, Laramie feels even more real. It feels so more more than just a place on mapquest or a place in a play. As I recalled what I had learned from The Laramie Project three years ago, the words within your entries and the town of Laramie touches my soul even deeper. Even though there are those who has either forgotten about the incident or decide to no longer speak about it, everything that had happened revolving Matthew means something to me. I thank you so much for sharing your experience, and I hope that one day I will be able to visit Laramie and visit the fence.

-Thuan P. Nguyen

p.s. I played you three years ago in The Laramie Project.

Caitlin said...

Hi! My school recently did The Laramie Project, which is how I came across this blog.

After some persuasion, my family saw the show. My youngest sister, who is ten, understood what had happened and realized it was wrong. While my parents did not strongly believe it was wrong, nor did they think it was right. Like many of the priests in Laramie, they did not "condone that sort of lifestyle" but nor did they "condone that sort of violence". I find that the younger generations are far more accepting than the older generations, which induces a feeling of hope, as the younger generations are our future.

Yes, there are many other cases like Matthew's but the fact that his case was publicized as much as it was, it helped instill some ideas and hope in people, which will (hopefully) help eliminate discrimination against others.

tanya said...

Matthew's family and close friends... And the families of his killers... They have to live with Matthew's memory every day. The thing about death is that, for everyone else, it goes away. I lost my mother (coincidentally, while I was in rehearsals for a production of The Laramie Project) and 3 years later I still cry at the smallest things that I know she's missing or wondering what she'd think or say. The world keeps turning for everyone else and it get's lost in the sands of time. It's very unfortunate :(

Dhanica said...

I don't believe it's fair to say that LGBT persons should sit back and be tolerated.
We have been tolerated for FAR too long, we have bore the brunt of numerous hate crimes and political rallies across history, and if every other minority can march for their own rights then why the hell can't we?
I am 18 years old, and I hosted my first gay rights rally when I was 14. I have always been open about my sexuality, but I have not had to deal with much pursecution. And yet it still pains me that I am constantly below other people because its how the public view my type.
I understand that mariage is a sacred christian ceremony, but they origianlly stole it from the paegans idea of a hand fasting ceremony, and paegans were more accepting of homosexuals.
I just want to be able to prove to my partner that I love her. Sure I'm a dyke, but I'm still a girl and I still dream of my wedding day like any other does. Maybe even more because Im a traditional romantic.
It's a good thing I want to have my own children, because I won't be able to adopt, because a gay house hold is not a conducive environment for the chalanges of raising a child! Bullshit! Lesbians and gays are often more loving parents and they stay together longer.
I cant get married, I cant adopt children, I'll probably have to get a permit for a gay man and a turkey baster and no one will allow us a fair chance.
I am sick of being tolerated and I am sick of being judged because I like girls. Fuck toleration. I can't tolerate your toleration. We have worked long and hard for it and we deserve ACCEPTANCE.

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