Like every other gay male in America, I was deeply affected by Matthew Shepard’s murder. Indeed, I, too, believed the simple black-and-white hate-crime narrative when I first travelled to Wyoming to do research for a screenplay that I planned to write about the murder. When confronted with new information indicating Matthew had known Aaron long before the night he was fatally beaten, and that crystal meth was the glue that connected the two young men, the journalist in me responded without regard to the political consequences.
I understood that I was playing with fire, that if my reporting corroborated these new assertions some members of the advocacy establishment would revile me. I figured if my heroes, like Randy Shilts (And the Band Played On) and Larry Kramer (The Normal Heart), had the guts to champion the truth during the AIDS epidemic and endure the criticism of people I have come to regard as ‘reactionary progressives’, then I should, too.
I never before fully appreciated the degree to which some on the left can be just as closed-minded and vindictive as their counterparts on the right. I had always considered myself a progressive, but I thought this meant being sceptical of the media, questioning authority and following the money. Now that I understand self-described liberals can be as likely to suppress the truth as conservatives in defence of their turf, I no longer have any use for those political labels.