The LGBT community has come a long way over the years. While it is true there is still much further to go in regards to equal rights and protection under the law, the strides that have been made so far are impressive and worth noting. The important LGBT figures who inspired lawmakers to change their policies have done so in a variety of ways. Some marched and fought valiantly for their rights, like the infamous case of Harvey Milk.
Unfortunately, not all of the figures who have inspired the LGBT community have done so in life. While there are many people out there with happy endings to their stories, there are far more human beings who were killed for their sexual orientations and gender identities. Knowing the stories of those who have passed on is just as important as speaking about the people who are currently fighting for a better future for all.
In 1998, a young man named Matthew Shepard was found beaten within inches of his life in the small town of Laramie, Wyoming. Shepard died from his injuries but his legacy has continued to carry an important message. Shepard was beaten by strangers due to the fact that he was gay. The media coverage at the time bounced around, with Shepard’s murderers denying his sexuality had anything to do with it. However, testimonies from others led most people to see the truth: Shepard was randomly beaten to death for being gay.
This case is important because it showcased how little protection there was for LGBT individuals under hate crime laws at the time. While Wyoming had absolutely no laws based on sexuality at the time, the nation quickly realized that there were no federal laws protecting members of the LGBT community from a random assault based on hatred. Shepard’s tragic death led to new federal laws protecting LGBT individuals. His family has continued to speak out for LGBT rights and the award-winning play “The Laramie Project” about Shepard’s story continues to be performed decades after his passing.
Many people have died during the fight for LGBT rights. Still, there are plenty still alive and fighting each day. A few years ago, Amanda Simpson made a huge name for herself by becoming the first openly transgender person to be asked to work for a presidential administration. In 2010, Simpson was appointed to the position of Senior Technical Advisor in the Bureau of Industry and Security. Simpson’s appointment is a milestone for transgendered individuals everywhere. By working from within the system, Simpson is able to make real change happen for those who need additional protection.
Though Simpson no longer sits in her former position, she continues to do good work through the United States Department of Defense and the many humanitarian organizations that she sponsors. Simpson’s rise to power has inspired many young people to take action and try to work within the government to make a better world for people of all walks of life. The more members of the LGBT community working within the government, the easier it will be for important legislation to be passed down the line.
A Brighter World
The history of the LGBT community is a rich and complicated one. Though there have been many positive changes to come around in recent years, it is important to keep in mind that the trail was not always so clear of obstacles. Though Matthew Shepard might not have realized how important or inspiring his life would one day be, his death was able to send a ripple through the very fabric of society and point out the serious flaws in the nation’s laws so that people like Amanda Simpson could try and make a change.