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Judy Shepard Speaks on Legacy of Murdered Gay Son Thursday

By Joseph Erbentraut in News on Sep 29, 2010 5:40PM

2010_09_29_judyshepard.jpg Mother-turned-activist-turned-author Judy Shepard will be in town tomorrow evening as the featured keynote speaker of H.E.A.L. Ourselves: Opening Eyes, Closing Wounds at the Center on Halsted in Lakeview. Shepard, thrust into the national media spotlight after her then-21-year-old son Matthew was brutally murdered because he was gay in 1998, has since become an outspoken advocate of hate crime legislation.

In late 1998, Shepard and husband Dennis founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation as a means to advocate for LGBT victims of prejudice and violence and push for federal legislation on hate crimes against LGBT people. On Oct. 22 of last year, Shepard got her wish as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law, eight years after it was originally introduced. Her memoir, The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed, was published last year.

While she's achieved success in raising the profile of anti-gay violence, Shepard realizes there is still plenty of work to be done in efforts to protect queer youth. Just this week, news has emerged of two more teenage victims of anti-gay bullying who have ended their lives: Seth Walsh of Tehachapi, Calif., and Asher Brown of Houston, both 13 years old.

Shepard will speak at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted, at 7 p.m. Thursday. Admission costs $10 at the door or online.

In related news, remember the It Gets Better video project being led by author Dan Savage and husband Terry to provide a positive message for bullied LGBT youth? Blogger Jake Stigers has organized a video shoot for Chicagoans interested in participating in the project this Sunday, Oct. 3, from 1-7 p.m., also at the Center on Halsted. According to gay blog Joe.My.God, Savage will be in attendance at the event.