Wednesday, October 12, 2011

An open letter to an old friend


It's been 13 years since I last saw you. Well, 13 years and 5 days to be exact. Since that night. A part of me will always wonder - if I had said or done something differently, would things have turned out differently? I try not to dwell on that thought, as it only serves to tear open old wounds. I think about you so often, though - pretty much every day. Sometimes I hear a song, or look at a picture, or notice a post on Facebook from a mutual friend. It'd be a lie if I said it didn't still hurt. I was just getting to know you - and it wasn't enough.

But then I try to focus on all the good that has come about since your murder. You wouldn't recognize campus these days. First, we have a Rainbow Resource Center. And two GLBTQ student groups. The Federal hate crimes law was finally passed - with your name on it.

I try to focus on the people who have come into my life because of you. I get to see your parents and brother this weekend at the Bear dinner. They have been amazing, and continue to inspire me. Many documentarians have become friends - or family. How cool are your friends from Switzerland?! I've traveled around the country speaking at colleges, universities, and high schools. Not nearly as many as your mom has, but I know it makes a difference.

I've met many folks who are part of a production of The Laramie Project - students, directors, set designers. They all agree on something - your story and the play have touched their lives. They think about people differently. They're called to be more involved. All because of someone they never met. That has such power for them...and that's a big part of what keeps me going.

I'm tired, Matt. I'm tired of having to keep speaking, of having to keep telling people the FACTS, not the garbage put out by 20/20. Just two nights ago I was over at a friend's house, and met someone who claims she was your "bestie." She didn't seem old enough, but I didn't call her out on it - I was a guest in my friend's house, and didn't want to be rude. She started talking about how it was really about drugs. And about how your mom has made "so much money" off of you. That was just too far, and I sure as hell spoke up about then. And I always will.

No matter how tired I get of speaking out, I always will. I will go wherever someone sends for me. I will repeat myself endlessly, reviewing the facts and truth - trying to counter the myths and inaccuracies whenever I can. I'll do it because it's the right thing to do. It's a way I can continue to make a difference. And I'll do it because I promised you I would.

Because you continue to inspire me. To look at everyone as a person first. To get involved and make a difference. To appreciate the time I have with loved ones, as it is finite. Because my life is better having known you. You STILL give me wings.