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Book-signing at high school draws attention to gay rights, diversity issues

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By Sandy Barnes

 Judy Shepard was sitting in the main hall of Evergreen High School with copies of a book she had written about the anti-gay murder of her son Matthew when parent Lia Christians walked up and greeted her with a hug. 

“She is amazing,” said Christians. Shepard is turning her son’s tragic death into something that will make a difference to others, she said.

Shepard traveled from Wyoming to be at EHS the day before Diversity Day on Oct. 12.

“This whole thing is new to me,” Shepard said about the book signing she had agreed to do in cooperation with HearthFire Books in Bergen Park.

Her son’s brutal death in Laramie is far from recent. The tragedy occurred 14 years ago when Matthew Shepard was a student at the University of Wyoming. 

Since that time, Shepard has chronicled his story and its aftermath in her book “The Meaning of Matthew: My Son’s Murder in Laramie and a World Transformed” to help people understand the true nature of her son and the crime against him.

The books she sells also raise funds for the Matthew Shepard Foundation that advocates for human rights and offers educational programs.

Representing the foundation, Shepard makes presentations at colleges and corporations throughout the country and internationally.

“It’s what Matt would have wanted,” she said. “It’s hard because you relive it every day.”

During Shepard’s visit, teacher Tom Lukich and students at the high school also came to talk with her.

“I’m amazed there is so little homophobia,” Lukich said after his conversation with Shepard. “The younger generation seems to be less so. (But) it’s no easier for kids to come out today than 10 years ago.”

Student Marilyn Segovia said she came to the book signing because she wanted to learn more about other people. 

“To me, it’s amazing she is able to talk to the public about it,” she said of Shepard. “She’s done a lot of good things.”

Student Tim Ross said he believes that to some extent homophobia is an issue at the school.

“We’re sort of sheltered,” said Ross. “There’s more stuff out there. People can learn something they didn’t know.”

“For the most part, we’re pretty accepting,” said Mali Holmes. “It’s more like they’re saying something they’re not aware of,” she added while discussing the issue.

Regarding acceptance of people who are in various minorities, Christians said there are challenges at Evergreen High. 

“It depends on the kids they hang out with,” she said. 

While in Evergreen, Shepard was also promoting “The Laramie Project,” a production by the Evergreen Players. The drama relates the story of the town’s reaction to her son’s tragedy through its characters. The Evergreen Players’ production of “The Laramie Project” runs from Oct. 19 through Nov. 11.

 

Contact reporter Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com or call 303-350-1042.