Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard and founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, is in Washington, DC, this weekend to share her new book, The Meaning of Matthew, on Saturday, September 19 at Borders at 1801 K Street NW at 2:00 p.m.
PFLAG had a chance to ask Judy some questions sent in by our blog's readers.
PFLAG: What keeps you going after ten years in the movement?
Judy Shepard: Things haven't changed that much yet - at least not at the legal/legislative level. I feel like we are fighting the same battles with the same people and the same rhetoric. There is much left to do and as long as people want to hear and learn from Matt's story - the Matthew Shepard Foundation will be there.
PFLAG: Where do you find inspiration within the movement?
JS: Parents who take up the challenge of telling their story and working within their comunity no matter the level of acceptance are one of my inspirations. Members of the community being denied their civil rights are another.
PFLAG: Do you feel a sense of responsibility to act as a surrogate mom for other LGBT kids, who may have parents who aren’t as accepting or understanding?
JS: No, I don't feel a 'responsibility' - I feel honored that they trust me enough to honor me with their stories.
PFLAG: What can the average person—whether straight or LGBT—do to help achieve equality for all citizens?
JS: We all need to tell our stories and share our lives with those who know nothing about the gay community. We have a responsibility to educate the ignorant and be role models for allies and member of the community.
PFLAG: There are a lot of specific issues within the movement—marriage equality, anti-discrimination in the military, employment non-discrimination, bullying and safe schools, and hate crimes legislation, to name only a few. Do you think this dilutes the power of those in the movement? Should we all come together to focus on a single, broader issue? If so, what would that be.
JS: I have thought that achieving things incrementally was important in the final goal of total acceptance when we reached the most challenging issue - marriage. However, the marriage issue came to the forefront much sooner than I anticipated. I guess that is the yin and yang of the movement. I don't think that the many issues dilutes their power. I think it clearly illustrates to the public at large how many there are.
PFLAG: What advice or wisdom do you offer to parents of LGBT kids, when those parents may not be as open to and accepting of their child’s sexuality or gender identity?
JS: I want them to understand and always remember that nothing is forever - things happen. They need to love their children and support them in who they are even if they don't understand it.
PFLAG: Do you think people in the movement should participate in the National Equality March, scheduled for October 11th in Washington, DC? Or is marching passe?
JS: I think the march is still relevant, but perhaps for a different reason than in the past. It sends a message to remind people that there are many things still being denied the gay community. And it shows numbers and passion. I do think we should be a presence in the Equality March. I think it would be a negative result if there wasn't support shown for the issues. It's a visibility issue now and showing a united front.
PFLAG: What are your goals for the next year, five years, and ten years?
JS: I have no 'goals' - I do this one day at a time.
PFLAG: Do you think we’ll ever reach a time when LGBT discrimination is entirely a thing of the past?
JS: That is my hope but the word 'entirely' makes it very difficult to achieve - I fear there will be ignorance/discrimination as long as society continues to teach hate.