The following quest post is from Andrew Hamilton. This is part of Queer Pioneer Week here at Approaching Justice.
When Matthew Shepard was murdered I hated homosexuals. I hated homosexuals because I had been taught to hate them. Don’t misunderstand, my parents never specifically taught me to hate gay people; they never would have done such a thing. When I was growing up I do not remember hearing anyone at Church specifically tell me to hate gays or lesbians. Never the less, I hated homosexuals. I hated them because I had been taught that they were “evil,” that they were “abominations”, that they were trying to “destroy the family,” that in their very nature of being gay they were “rebelling against God.”
When I say that I hated the LGBT community I do not mean that I hated them in the Westboro Baptist sense, or in the sense that I would have done something violent or horrible. No, my hate was the more traditional “Christian” type. I would have said of, or to, or about someone like Matthew Shepard had I known him, “He needs to repent”, “He can change if he tries hard enough and is righteous enough,” or the ever horrible, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” I thought that by saying these things kinds of things and having these kinds of attitudes I that I was “loving” my gay brothers and lesbian sisters with a “true Christian” love. But I was not. I realize now that people with attitudes like those I had have caused untold pain, familial rejection and even suicides.
The murder of Matthew Shepard and learning that one of his murderers belonged to the same Church that I do was one of the events that started me on a journey of self-discovery and change. It was a long journey that took over a decade, it is a journey that is not over.
I love this song by Thea Hopkins, which has also been recorded by my social justice heroes, Peter, Paul, and Mary. It is a song that has taught me to see Jesus in everyone. It is a song that helps me to remember and to say “NEVER AGAIN.” It is a song that gives me the desire to do all that I can to make sure, not only that that the violence that happened to Matthew Shepard never happens again, but to also do all I can to help to change the culture and attitudes that permitted it, and to reach out in any way I can to all those who are suffering, publicaly or privately, because of our cultural homophobia.
Andrew was born and mostly raised in Provo, Utah. When he was growing up there sometimes his family felt like they were the only Mormon Democrats in the whole town. In 1988 he broke his mother’s heart by announcing his support for George HW Bush, a decision for which he has long since repented. After graduating with a BS in film from BYU Andrew spent many years working in television news business. After a major life transitions Andrew returned to school where he is about complete a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling.
Andrew currently lives in Idaho with his wife Karen and their four children. By day he helps people find jobs; by night he tries to understand his teenaged children.