Judy Shepard lost her son Matthew in 1998 in a horrific hate crime. She is now the president and co-founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. She sent us this blog post in anticipation of Tuesday’s broadcast of Two Spirits. The film premieres at 10 PM on June 14 on most PBS stations (check local listings).
I flew out to Cortez, Colorado some months after Fred Martinez was murdered. Frankly, my hope was that my being there might help shine a little more light on this terrible tragedy and to remind people that these types of hate crimes were continuing to happen in pretty much every corner of this country, whether the media was picking up on them or not.
There was so much coverage of my son Matt’s murder in Laramie a few years before — so much that it was an incredible burden on the community and our family, even though it raised an amazing amount of awareness. This was a case where there was just so little, and that seemed like a different burden on Fred’s family, the burden of not knowing how much support and concern there was out there for them and for all the other victims of these types of crimes.
There was a memorial event in the park and a number of moms came – Carol Wagner (may she rest in peace) and Gabi Clayton of Families United Against Hate; and PFLAG people from Durango. Fred’s mom, Paula Mitchell, and I were able to spend some time together just processing her loss and helping her find her strength. My husband Dennis and I meet a lot of people who are struggling with the impact of losing loved ones to bias and hate. It’s almost more than we can bear, honestly, to know what we went through is happening all over again to another family, and that all the hard work of so many people to stop hatred has still not brought us to our goal. But keeping people aware of the challenge is what we all have to keep doing. And Paula became a part of that movement.
Later Paula and I were able to meet up again at the GLAAD awards in Los Angeles where we presented an award together. It was wonderful that Paula was able to see how very moved people were by her loss and her unconditional deep love for both of her son’s “two spirits.”
I am so glad Lydia Nibley and her team were able to make Two Spirits and do it so well. It clearly shows what Paula Mitchell suffered when she lost her child to hate violence. Fred was murdered simply because he dared to be himself, and the violence against young people like him must stop. We understanding, compassion, and acceptance. I was honored to have had the chance to meet Paula and try to help.
— Judy Shepard