in observance of national coming out day and the anniversary of the death of matthew shepard, we had the distinct honor of shining our spotlight on judy and dennis shepard. we are thankful they have taken a few moments to spend with us. it has been our privilege to support the matthew shepard foundation and it's efforts to ERASE HATE. our t shirt collaboration has raised money to support all their beautiful and most important work . t shirts can be purchased here on our site/ proceeds go directly to the matthew shepard foundation.
1. what is the best advice you've been given on this journey?
ds/js: stay true to what you believe in; stay true to what your short-term and long-term goals and objectives are.
2. what is the most surprising experience you have had in your roles as advocates?
ds/js: how passionate young people are in wanting to make change so their family members and friends have the same opportunities to succeed in meeting their dreams and goals.
3. three wishes for the world?
a) acceptance of others as deserving be their equals.
b) realization that climate change is real and needs immediate action.
c) all religions accept their counterparts as believing in the same thing- that there is a creator- so the violence due to religious differences ends.
4. your favorite books?
judy- no specific book but genres include science fiction, fantasy, mystery, action, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, action.
dennis- no specific book but genres include science fiction, fantasy, mystery, action, western, detective, biography, autobiography
5. how do you see the matthew shepard foundation evolving?
ds/js: we continually evolve to meet the needs and concerns of our audience, which mostly consists of young people.
6. what is one action you suggest EVERYONE can take EVERYDAY in the interest of erasing hate from their lives?
ds/js: there are several actions that can be taken. (a) show respect for everyone else. you don't have to hug them, you don't have to try and make them your best friend, you don't have to invite them into your home, you don't even have to like them. but you need to be respectful. (b) by showing respect, you are acknowledging that a person exists. that is so important. just a simple thing like giving another person a nod of your head, saying good morning as you walk by, holding a door so the person behind you can enter shows that you realize the person exists and has a place in this world. (c) another way of taking action is to live your life totally open, not trying to hide who you are. we understand that is difficult if you're a recent immigrant or a member of the LGBTQ community in one of the thirty (30) states where you can still be fired for being LGBTQ. however, the effort it takes to live (2) lives instead of living your true life takes a toll on your emotional, mental and physical well-being, not to mention the stress on your personal life and career.
these are simple actions. a person doesn't need to do all of them at once. decide which is most important and begin with that action. slowly add the other two (2) mentioned plus any others you may think of that help to erase hate in your life, your neighborhood, your community, and your town. bu setting an example, you will lead others to do the same.
7. you are a complete inspiration to so many: who inspires you?
ds/js: all those who continue to set the good example, to demand change, to show courage, to live their lives fully, in the open - whether they are LGBTQ, immigrant, etc - even in the face of discriminatory laws, blatant business and personal discrimination, gerrymandering, bullying, and violence.
8. most satisfying achievement thus far with the foundation?
ds/js: the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law by President Obama has to be a top accomplishment.
sadly, the second achievement is that the foundation is still in existence after 20 years. we had hoped that acceptance and respect of "others" would have been accomplished by now. unfortunately, after the presidential election of 2016, the country has gone backwards in that area.