National Coming Out Day is celebrated annually on October 11. Although this year will become a special date for millions in the LGBTQ community who decide to proudly announce who they are, this year holds special significance for many, including the family of Matthew Shepard.
Shepard was a student in 1998 when he was brutally beaten and tied to a fence outside of Laramie, Wyoming. He died six days later due to the injuries inflicted on him.
His death was considered a turning point in America, highlighting the severity and cruelties of hate crimes that were still being inflicted on the LGBTQ community across the nation, according to NBC 4 in Washington D.C.
On Thursday — the same day as National Coming Out Day — it was announced that Shepard’s remains would be interred at the National Cathedral in the nation’s capital. Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith announced how honored the church felt at being able to hold onto Shepard’s remains.
“In the years since Matthew’s death, the Shepard family has shown extraordinary courage and grace in keeping his spirit and memory alive, and the Cathedral is honored and humbled to serve as his final resting place,” he said.
In response to his death years ago, Shepard’s family created a foundation in his memory, the Matthew Shepard Foundation. Its mission “is to erase hate by replacing it with understanding, compassion and acceptance,” especially when it comes to issues affecting the LGBTQ community, according to the foundation’s website.
The Matthew Shepard Foundation’s website has a list of resources available for individuals considering coming out, and even provides an explanation on what National Coming Out Day is all about. According to the foundation, the day was created in 1988, on the anniversary of a March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights that took place a year prior.
The day was created, according to the foundation’s website, because too often LGBTQ activists were responding to events rather than having a proactive, positive message for their cause. National Coming Out Day was considered a way to rectify that issue, allowing people a means to be proud, along with millions of others every year, of who they were.