In the 25 years since Matthew Shepard’s death, has Wyoming changed?

Matthew Shepard’s mother, Judy, continues to advocate for the LGBTQ+ community since her son’s murder in 1998
Published: Nov. 10, 2023 at 5:48 PM CST
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CASPER, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - This October marked 25 years since Matthew Shepard was murdered in Laramie. After all these years, his mother Judy reflects on the progress that has been made and the roadblocks the LGBTQ+ community continues to face.

For Judy, this time has been flooded with mixed emotions. She explains, “This year was hard. The month of October has been just overwhelming with kind thoughts and kind words from tons of people. It’s been rewarding, and sad, and all those things.”

As it stands today, Wyoming’s civil rights laws do not protect sexual orientation or gender identity, leaving folks vulnerable to discrimination. Judy says Wyoming can be a difficult place to be different, LGBTQ+ youth often feel unsafe or targeted here.

Judy says there seems to be more acceptance for gay, lesbian and bisexual folks, but now, she fears for transgender youth. The solution she says is for folks to choose acceptance over ignorance.

“It’s not a choice, you don’t choose to be trans, it’s who you are, just like being gay, or lesbian or bi, it’s who you are. Nothing about that is a choice. The only choice here is choosing to not accept and to denigrate and to reject and hurt and harm. That’s the only choice here,” she says.

While there is still work to be done, Judy has hope for the future.

She says, “The fact that so many communities have taken up pride festivals this year, I think we’re gaining ground definitely in Wyoming. If we could just elect the legislators to go along with the folks in Wyoming, that would be great.”