The ashes of Matthew Shepard, who became a national symbol of deadly violence against gay people after his brutal murder in 1998, were finally laid to rest at the Washington National Cathedral on Oct. 26.
Choosing Shepard’s permanent final resting place during a time when violence has been normalized is significant, especially considering the recent erosion of protections for the LGBTQ+ community under the current presidential administration. It sends the statement that LGBTQ+ people aren’t going anywhere and violence against the community will not go unnoticed.
For example, just a couple of weeks ago, the Trump administration began working toward erasing transgender individuals, drafting a law that defines gender as “a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth,” according to The New York Times.
Shepard’s murder played a substantial role in laying the groundwork for federal hate crime legislation, specifically aimed at protecting LGBTQ+ individuals, which was passed under the Obama administration. Now, the Trump administration seems intent on undoing all that work.
Finally laying Shepard to rest does not mean the fight is over. Every day, people are still assaulted and murdered because of their sexuality or committing suicide due to related trauma.
On the contrary, Shepard’s final burial is a call to action. Now more than ever, we need to fight to protect LGBTQ+ individuals.
Shepard’s horrifying murder drew attention to how bad things had gotten for the community. Laying him to rest is a reminder of the consequences if we don’t demand improved treatment of LGBTQ+ community.