The Matthew Shepard we don't know

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The Matthew Shepard we don't know

There are numerous hagiographies on the Matthew Shepard murder. Twenty years after Shepard’s murder, they’re being challenged. Are we ready for the tale investigative journalist Stephen Jimenez, himself gay, spins?

I had the pleasure of meeting him at his book reading in the Harvard Coop this month. I told Stephen, referring to his book, that perhaps it's easier to kill the messenger (him) than hear his message.

Jimenez’s message in "The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard," upends a canonized narrative we all have grown familiarly comfortable with, irrespective of its sensationalized macabre details.

Jimenez posits that Shepard's murder had nothing to do with his sexual orientation but rather his involvement in the deadly underworld of Laramie's crystal methamphetamine drug trafficking. Jimenez writes that Shepard was not only a user but was a courier who had plans just before his death to drive a shipment of meth.

"I learned that Matthew had been a user of meth. And from everything I was able to trace, Matthew got into meth in a serious way, when he was living in Denver, before he moved to Laramie. He moved to Laramie in the summer of 1998. I ended up meeting and interviewing several friends of Matthew. One of them, Tina Labrie, talked about the fact that, you know, Matthew mentioned to her that each time he moved to a new place that he would try to leave the drug world behind, but he found himself getting pulled back in," Jimenez stated in a recent interview with Rachel Martin of "Weekend Edition" from NPR, reflecting on the anniversary of Shepard’s murder.

In a 2004 episode of the television newsmagazine show "20/20's" investigative journalist Elizabeth Vargas also reported that money and drugs motivated Shepard killers’ actions and not homophobia. And now with Jimenez's incontrovertible evidence that Shepard's murderers were not strangers—one is a bisexual crystal meth addict who not only knew Matthew, but partied, bought drugs from and had sex with Matthew. With this “new” information a more textured but troubling truth emerges.

This truth shatters a revered icon for LGBTQ rights, one deliberately chosen because of race, gender and economic background.

"Matthew Shepard's status as a gay everyman was determined—first by the media, then by gay-rights groups—with little knowledge of who he was. He looked like an attractive,