Mother of slain gay son to speak |

Mother of slain gay son to speak

Susan Wood

Judy Shepard comes to town next week as a stay-at-home mom on a national mission.

The mother of Matthew Shepard, the Laramie, Wyo., college student who was murdered in October 1998 in a gay-bashing incident, wants to end discrimination.

When he died, her stay-at-home life was transformed into being a national figure speaking against bigotry and hate crimes.

Shepard formed the Matthew Shepard Foundation on her son’s birthday – two months after his murder. While her husband runs an oil business in Saudi Arabia, she travels the country to speak her mind.

Her journey to honor her son brings her to Tahoe next Wednesday. She is the keynote speaker at A Rainbow of Hope. The 7 p.m. gathering at Harveys Top of the Wheel is part of Ascent – The Winter Party at Lake Tahoe. The proceeds from the gay and lesbian ski week will benefit five local charities and two national organizations. All seven will be featured that evening.

This is Shepard’s third visit to Tahoe. The previous ones were as a family.

“I get up every day and think of how I can tell Matt’s story. I miss him terribly. This is important, so we don’t allow another Matt to happen,” she said Thursday.

Shepard advocates gay people come out to benefit the whole community. Events like the one the Lake Tahoe Gay Lesbian Foundation is putting on next week helps in that regard. The LTGLF, a nonprofit South Shore group, wanted to tie in the fun of Ascent with the seriousness of gay issues.

The group wanted someone to speak out about their cause. LTGLF found that someone in Shepard.

“The project and event seemed to cater to what we do,” she said in stating why she accepted the invitation.

For the most part, Shepard receives a warm welcome from a receptive audience – usually at colleges. Some students already agree with the message. Others attend her speaking engagements just to get extra credits.

“Corporations don’t think it can happen to their kids,” she said.

She agonized over watching an ABC 20/20 special disputing her son’s death as a gay bashing.

Her family has been supportive of her quest, but “some friends don’t understand how I do what I do,” she said.

“They just don’t want to talk about it,” she said.

Shepard has one message for attendees at events where she speaks.

“The community needs to bring out a united front,” she said.

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