Monday, October 12, 2009

Remembering Matthew

I once had a big argument with a gay man I knew slightly, who was going on and on about how unrealistic he thought the movie Brokeback Mountain, about how we've made such strides towards gay liberation that surely the movie doesn't represent the truth.


I assured him that Wyoming is still more like it's depicted in the movie—which, a detail he had overlooked in his argument, was set in 1960s Wyoming, not in 2000s Wyoming—and that in fact parts of Wyoming are still just as bad as depicted in the movie. As is much of the rest of the rural West, in many areas. I've lived in Wyoming and in New Mexico, and I know people who are more like the characters in the movie than not. Heck, if I'd stayed in Wyoming, I might have been one of those lonely rural men, myself.

But this city-born-and-city-living gay person still didn't get it, and still insisted that everyone was doing better than that now. He went on and on and on. We've come so far. Even LGBT people in rural USA are doing better that that. Surely everything's changed for the better, now. It's time to move on now. Etc.

I spoke in return about how there are many kinds of bullying, many ways in which verbal harassment is almost as bad as physical gay-bashing, and doubly worse when done by gay men who should know better. I could tell I wasn't getting through. It's become clearer and clearer to me, over time, and this was a key moment in learning this, that one of the biggest divisions in gay culture is between urban ghetto-dwelling fags and rural-living fags. Many city boys just don't get it, when it comes to rural life. Or want to.

Finally, I looked this man in the eye and said to two words to him, after which he finally shut up. I don't believe he "got it," but he couldn't deny the reality of what I was saying after that.

He couldn't deny it. He could only refuse to accept it.

The two words I said to him were, "Matthew Shepard."

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