10/11/2013 08:25 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Matthew Shepard's Murder

I'm stunned that people could take seriously any sort of linkage or theory of causal effect that "explains" or "puts into context" Matthew Shepard's torture and murder. What the hell would it matter if he knew his killers? Or used meth with them? Or even sold it? Firstly, such factoids are dubious, but let's assume for that sake of argument that they're true. Let's pretend that Matthew Shepard's killers were bisexual, and that they'd known or befriended their victim, as some claim. Wouldn't that make it worse, to kill someone you've known or had sex with?

Looking past that issue (i.e., of personal or sexual knowledge), how can anyone possibly substitute the core issue with more lurid ones? As someone who came of age in the '60s, of course my friends and I used drugs! Of course we went beyond safe boundaries as we discovered who we were! Remember a little event called Woodstock? I was there. Talk about drug use! And I was in SoHo with Andy Warhol, and in San Francisco in the '70s. Like it or not, drugs have been at the axis of our society for decades. The fact that youngsters experiment with them, or experiment with sex, is a given. What's unusual or surprising about it?

The core issue is that a gay kid was pistol-whipped, tortured, tied to a fence and left to die, his tears streaming down his blood-stained face. If his killers were gay or bi and in the closet, so much the worse. It would still be a hate crime -- perhaps self-hatred taken out on a chosen victim? And if they knew Matthew Shepard or were involved with him sexually, or in dealing, so what? Is that relevant?

I find it worse that someone with personal knowledge of their victim might commit such an atrocious crime. Nothing can diminish this particular crime, but at least if they were total strangers, some strange case could be made for them having savaged Shepard for his "otherness." Conflating issues or trying to fabricate "facts" in an effort to contextualize barbarism insults common sense. I don't dispute the right of Stephen Jimenez, author of the controversial new book The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard, to conduct research or present his findings, but no one of conscience should allow any reinterpretation of the evidence to alter the bottom line: This was a murder. It involved a sexuality element. That makes it a hate crime. As the old saying goes, "There's no such thing as being a little pregnant."

Subscribe to the Queer Voices email.
Get all of the queer news that matters to you.