A new book is challenging the idea of Matthew Shepard as a gay martyr, claiming instead, that the truth behind his 1998 murder is much more complicated, and that he was targeted not because he was gay, but because he was involved in Laramie's meth scene.
Journalist Stephen Jimenez's exhaustive, 13-year investigation into Shepard's killing has resulted in The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard—out September 24— and it's sure to ruffle feathers. Almost immediately following his death, Shepard became an important and iconic figure for gay rights. His murder sparked a national conversation about anti-gay violence and led to bipartisan federal hate crime legislation.
So it might not go over well that Jimenez has discovered that one of the men that murdered Shepard, Aaron McKinney, was his sometime lover and that Shepard was killed, not because he was gay, but because McKinney believed he was in possession of six ounces of crystal meth that had just been shipped into Laramie. It just has a twinge of victim-blaming to it. But sometimes the truth isn't so black and white.
That being said, it still doesn't mean that the brutality of the crime was not motivated by anti-gay sentiments, particularly if McKinney was a closeted bisexual, as Jimenez says. Has a commenter on Andrew Sullivan's blog put it:
[N]either Mr. Shepard’s involvement with drugs nor any potential sexual relationship with one of the perpetrators of his murder reduces, let alone excludes, the likelihood that his murder was fundamentally an act of horrific anti-gay violence.
The research on the relationship between male (closeted) bisexuality and anti-gay attitudes and anti-gay violence is limited but nevertheless compelling. At least one study is I believe referenced in the Forrest Sawyer documentary on anti-gay violence. Research volunteers had sensors attached to their penises and were shown heterosexual as well as homosexual pornography. My recollection is that there was a substantive correlation between bisexual arousal and anti-gay affect (as represented by their responses to questions about homosexuality and gay people). The gratuitous brutality of the torture and murder is more consistent with anti-gay violence than most drug-related violence – at least in this country. These things should be acknowledged first and last.
The Role Of Meth In Matthew Shepard’s Murder [The Dish]