An Editor’s Note for our 17th Anniversary

By Sean McEntee, Communications Associate

Dear Supporters and Readers,

The month of October is somber for the Matthew Shepard Foundation. On the morning of Oct. 7, 1998, Matthew was found brutally beaten and tied to a fence outside Laramie, Wyoming, and would later succumb to his wounds. During this week in 1998, a family experienced a tragic loss, and a nation was forced to address the violence, hatred and unacceptance faced by the LGBTQ+ community on a daily basis.

We will never forget Matt, but with each passing year as we reflect on the life lost in ‘98, we cannot ignore the lives that are still lost to hate and discrimination. This epidemic did not stop with Matt.

So far in 2015, 20 transgender women have been assaulted and killed in the U.S., a number that has already surpassed the total number of transgender homicide victims in 2014. A disproportionate number of these victims have been women of color.

For the Foundation’s 17th anniversary, I set out to bring this epidemic to the forefront of our efforts. The hate that claimed Matt’s life, that affects our community’s safety and security, is far from erased.

As more visibility for the transgender community presents itself through the storylines of Transparent, interviews with celebrities like Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner, and prominent positions being filled, for the first time, by transgender applicants, it’s our responsibility to bring visibility to the bigger issues affecting this community—issues many say are being ignored and misrepresented.

From accessing healthcare to securing employment, there are few areas that do not pose an obstacle to members of the trans community in their journey to live authentically. For too many of these people, the quest for equal rights is eclipsed by their struggle to survive.

By sharing these stories, just as the Foundation has shared Matthew’s story for nearly two decades, I hope to expose our audience to a new level of awareness about the hardships and violence that transgender women of color face simply for being themselves.

I worked with my friend and colleague Kaley Fowler, a Chicago-based journalist who previously reported on the victims of gun violence in Chicago’s most afflicted communities. With time as a constraint, I turned to Kaley to help report and document the stories of these women, as I trusted her ability to navigate this project with an incomparable level of sensitivity, awareness and respect. Throughout the interviewing and reporting process, both Kaley and I were met with unbelievable support from those we reached out to, and we are grateful to them for allowing us the opportunity to tell the stories of these women for who they were, and not just the victims they became.