• Post the Orlando shooting, a solemn day for LGBTI supporters

    I had got an invitation a month back from the US Consulate in Mumbai to be a part of the LGBTI celebration where they would also screen a film to show the change that the society has undergone since a hate crime incident that occurred in 1998. Unfortunately, this celebration turned into a memorial after the news of the tragic Orlando shooting at the gay club Pulse.

    Matt Shepard Is A Friend Of Mine. This was the documentary that was screened at the event on Tuesday.

    Matt Shephard

    The documentary: Matt Shephard is a friend of mine ( Picture Credit: popculturebeast.com)

    Matt Shepard was tied to a fence and brutally beaten to death in Wyoming, USA in 1998 because he was gay. Years after the incident, Matt’s friend, Michele Josue, revisited the horrific scene and made a heart wrenching, captivating documentary.

    The hall was filled with teary-eyed men and women who felt the pain of Matt’s family and friends. You could hear a sniff every now and then, a tissue brought close to the cheek, and the hands frequently reached for water. Never have I felt safer than I did being in this vulnerable crowd who were present to show their solidarity and support for the LGBTI Community. There were parents, students, members of the community, volunteers from various organizations; all in one place to tell the world that they are united and they stand together against discrimination.

    Documentary screening at the US Consulate

    Audience at the screening of ‘Matt Shephard is a friend of mine’

    The Director, Michele Josue, would often burst into tears while interviewing those who knew Matt, listening to anecdotes and one of the priests said to her;

    “There is right kind of tears, and there is right kind of a hate.”

    The hate towards those who ruthlessly beat Matt, and the tears of compassion and sadness is what revolutionized the incident. The story telling invoked feelings of sympathy amongst those who did not even know Matt Shepard.

    Also read: LGBT Rights: It’s tough at the workplace says Sonal Giani

    After the movie, U.S. Special Envoy Randy Berry, Judy Shepard, and Michele joined us on a live chat from the US, where we could directly ask questions, if any.

    It is heart breaking to know that a movement which started in 1998 to teach people to accept and love the differences that every individual is born with would see a setback as devastating as the Orlando shooting. In 2009, when Obama came into office, he signed the Hate Crime Prevention Act, with the aim of communicating to all members of the community that yes, we accept you, and this is a safe place for you. But seems like there is a long way to go as far as attitude changes are concerned.

    Also read: Weaving magic for transgender women: A unique initiative by a Kerala designer

    My Take

    Evolution teaches us change and how to embrace such a change. For a race who started a civilization in the hope of stability, peace and quiet; we are moving backwards. What is the point of a civilization when we cannot be civil to one another?

    Our aim should be to inspire people to be more open-minded and educate them about this very natural phenomenon. Many in India believe being gay is a disease that can be “cured”. Sorry to break it to you fellas, but this is as natural a phenomena as being heterosexual is.  Don’t believe me? Speak to a doctor, read up on the Internet, ask questions and believe you me you will find a clear explanation.

    Many use religion to try to justify their hatred towards the gay community. A flawed concept developed by a man who knew no better than you or me. And if you still don’t believe this is natural, I hope to my God, to open your eyes, as yours seems to be on a vacation clearly.

    And to end with, some thought provoking words from a priest who was interviewed in the documentary “Embrace what happened and never forget”

    Over and out.

    Feature Image Credit: bianet.org

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