Campus & Community

Film screening, discussion explore bigotry

In the documentary Laramie Inside Out, filmmaker Beverly Seckinger wanted to chronicle how her hometown reacted to the brutal murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard.

Seckinger shared her film and her own coming out story with DU students Oct. 9. The film and a panel discussion on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues coincided with the 10th anniversary of Shepard’s death as well as National Coming Out Day.

“Matthew Shepard’s death affected each of us very deeply,” says mass communications Assistant Professor Sheila Schroeder, who coordinated the event. “We wanted to examine how one hate crime could have such a profound effect on society and how it shapes who we are individually.”

The documentary follows Seckinger’s return to Laramie, Wyo., during the trails of Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, who were convicted of beating Shepard, tying him to a fence and leaving him to die. Through interviews and personal storytelling, Seckinger highlights the difficulties of growing up gay in Wyoming as well as the town’s — and the country’s — reaction to the hate crime.

Featured in the film is Jim Osborn, a University of Wyoming administrator and close friend of Shepard. He came to DU to talk to students about becoming a gay activist and the hard work he’s faced confronting bigotry. Osborn and fellow activists protested against those who picketed Shepard’s funeral with anti-gay signs and rhetoric.

“After Matthew’s death there was a message of hate coming to our front door,” he told the audience. “We realized that it’s now up to us to tell our stories and stop the hate. It’s up to us to teach the next generation.”

The film has been purchased for the permanent collections of more than 100 colleges and universities across the U.S. as well as public libraries, high schools, church resource centers and community education programs. A copy will be available at Penrose Library.

Funding for the film screening and LGBT panel was made possible through the Marsico Visiting Scholars program and was sponsored by the Department of Mass Communications and Journalism Studies, the Center for Multicultural Excellence and the Partners in Learning program.

Comments are closed.