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A gay dad’s birthday letter to Matthew Shepard

I’ve been told that the activist spirit we’ve witnessed in your mother Judy demonstrates that the apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree.

The activist she became was the one you’d intended to be yourself.

As you lay clinging to life, your family was asked if they wanted to remove you from life support.

It was a choice they would never want to make.

A family friend came in to talk to you, and in his talk, he told you it was okay for you to let go of your life.

He told you that all you set out to do — namely, become a voice and a hero — had been achieved.

You lent fame to the issue and laid out homophobia in its stark bare evil for the world to see.

He told you that you’d be famous. That night, having heard him, your spirit departed, allowing the rest of your legacy to begin.

A child of December, strung up on a cross, left to die on a lonely plain, who certainly let out a final cry to God: “Why oh, why, hast thou forsaken me?”

It is all too reminiscent for me as a Christian. As the man who experienced it died as a lightning rod for our sins, you died as a lightning rod for the scourge of homophobia.

You inspired a change in consciousness in the public that allowed people to see the humanity of LGBTQ people — many for the first time.

You were the ripple that caused a wave — the equality that many of us hadn’t dreamed of witnessing in our lifetimes.

I stop and wonder what your life would be like now.

I think that you’d be a lot like me. You’d have love in your life, and potentially be a gay dad, with kids who adore you.

You’d have years of being yourself, and attracting people who loved you for it.

Remember his name: The legacy of Gene Anthony Ray

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