Helena Gudell’s WONDERLAND: No H8

H8(9)On October 6, 1998 Matthew Shepard met two men named Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson at a bar he frequented. There are multiple stories surrounding his death. The original story that was put out in 1998 was that Matthew Shepard was killed because he was gay and no other reason. In one of the confessions given by Aaron it was a gay panic killing. Matthew had come on to them and they beat him out of reaction to his advances and didn’t mean to do anything. In another confession it was a robbery gone wrong. The events of that night are still in question to this day as a gay journalist has said that it has nothing to do with Matthew being gay but that it had to do with a drug deal gone wrong. I will get to the details of that shortly…

Lets talk about how Matthew died and some of the other details surrounding that night. h8(2)Whatever happened at the bar that caused Matthew to leave with the two men, they ended up taking him out to a field in the middle of Laramie, Wyoming. There they pistol whipped him and tortured him and tied him to the fence resembling the position of Jesus on the crucifix. They fractured the back of his head and the side of his head by his right ear. He suffered brain stem damage which can cause many issues such as inability to regulate body temperature, heart rate, and other vital functions. There were also about a dozen small cuts to his face, head and neck from the beating. Doctors couldn’t operate on him because of the severity of his injuries. He was found about 18 hours after he was left by his assailants by a biker who originally thought he was a scarecrow. He died from his injuries after never recovering from a coma on life support in the early morning hours of October 12, 1998. The police found the bloodied pistol and Matthews wallet and shoes in the truck belonging to the suspects shortly after. The defendants tried to get their girlfriends to lie for them to give them an alibi but that didn’t go very far. As I said before the defense tried a couple different stories. The first one was that they were temporarily insane when they killed Matthew because he had come on to them and they had beat him off and were in a panic when they killed him H8accidentally to fend off his advances. The second defense was that they hadn’t tried to kill him they only intended to rob him. Now law states that if a death is committed during a felony you are guilty of felony murder and can thus be sentenced to death if the state has the death penalty and that is what these two ended up facing. Well of course when you’re faced with the death penalty you do whatever you can to get out of it and that means you save your own ass and snitch on your friend. Because of course that’s what friends are for right? The prosecution said that the guys pretended to be gay to lure Matthew out of the bar and into the truck so that they could rob him after he asked his new friends for a ride home. They say they beat him so bad that the only spot on his face that H8(3)wasn’t bloody was the lines where he had cried the blood off begging for them to stop and when he cried after he was left. Aaron took a plea deal and agreed to testify against his friend to avoid the death penalty. He received two life sentences for pleading guilty. Russell went to trial and was found guilty of felony murder and as the jury was deliberating as to whether to sentence him to death the Shepard parents requested the state offer him the same deal as Aaron and allow him not to be given death but that he serve 2 life sentences as well. Both of the convicted felons will serve the rest of their natural lives behind bars never to see the day as a free man again.

Now as I said there was some controversy surrounding the story of his death. In 2004 20/20 did a report about the death of Matthew saying that the murder was in fact about drugs and not about him being gay and then last year a gay journalist released a book called The Book Of Matthew with the same claims. Both claim that it was a drug deal/drug robbery gone wrong and that there was nothing involving his sexuality surrounding his death. Their claims are that the night of the murder, Matthew whom they say was a major meth dealer met with one of his occasional sex partners (Aaron) died when he was robbed for his drugs. The book says that Russell and Aaron tried to trade the gun earlier that night for drugs and when they weren’t successful with other dealers HENDERSON MCKINNEYthey went to the one they knew would have drugs on him and robbed him and beat him and it got out of hand. According to 20/20 and the book, they have gotten these details from the accused as well as others close to them. The police chief said that those claims are laughable and if you believe that, you’ll believe anything. I have to agree with that statement. Why wouldn’t they just say that was the case back then? They would have gotten a lighter sentence than taking a plea deal with the prosecution saying that they beat him because he was gay.

The murder of Brandon Teena is a little more complicated. So lets start this from the H8(4)beginning… Brandon Teena was born Teena Brandon. He was born a she and never officially became a he so technically he was never really a he. Now before the whole LGBT community jumps down my throat I am not against him or her nor am I making fun of him or her. I am however trying to cover all my basis as a writer as to not piss anyone off. See this person’s mother buried them as her daughter not as her son. The headstone reads Teena Brandon tho when she died everyone knew her as him and referred to her as Brandon. However this very confusion is what caused her death to begin with. Now out of respect for the dead I will from here on out refer to the deceased as him or Brandon even tho the family doesn’t like it. Oh well someone always gets upset. So here goes trying to explain this story as easily as possible.  Now for starters if my mother had named me after the family dog I would have identity issues and change my name too but that isn’t the only H8(5)reason Teena became Brandon. When Brandon was Teena he went to Catholic school and was always getting in trouble. He rejected Christianity as much as his mother rejected her daughter becoming her son. In the later years of school he started acting as the class clown to deal with socially awkward situations and starting binding his (her?) breasts. Seriously this is really getting difficult. Brandon tried to join the military was was disqualified because he (she?) checked that he was a male. I’m really starting to confuse myself with all this. In 1990 he started dressing like a male to attract the attention of female teens. He started dating a few ladies and just days before graduation was expelled from school due to behavior and cutting class. Ok so now that we kinda got the jist of the type of lifestyle he lived lets get down to what let up to his murder.

After some legal trouble and a psych eval Brandon ended up moving to Falls City area in H8(6)Nebraska where he was solely known as male. He became friends with the locals who would later take his life. He moved in with Lisa Lambert and eventually starting dating her 19yr old friend, Lana Tisdel. It was also at that time that he started hanging out with ex convicts (why do these stories always have excons?) by the names of John Lotter and Tom Nissen both who were a year older than Brandon.. The path to the murder of Brandon Teena started with his arrest on December 19, 1993 when he was arrested for forging checks. He was bailed out by his girlfriend Lana. It was at that time that Lana found out Brandon was being held in the women’s section of the jail and of course she wanted to know why. Brandon told her that he was born a hermaphrodite pursuing a sex change operation. As most cities do, this one posted the arrest in the paper and it was posted under Brandon’s legal name and gender. This of course brought questions from H8(7)John and Tom. Tho Lana and Brandon were still dating they wanted to know if Brandon was really Teena in all senses of the question. During a Christmas eve party, John and Tom grabbed Brandon and forced him to remove his pants showing that he was anatomically a female. Lana only looked when the two guys forced her two and she didn’t say anything. The guys then assaulted Brandon and took him to a remote location and raped him. After the rape they took him back to their place and made him shower to get rid of any evidence and told him if he told the police they would silence him permanently. He climbed out of the bathroom window and went to see Lana and she convinced him to file a police report. They went to the hospital and a rape kit was done and lost. The Sheriff seemed more interested in wanting to learn more about Brandon’s sexuality than he did about the assault and rape so eventually Brandon stopped answering questions and left. John and Tom learned of the report and started to look for Brandon but couldn’t find him. Three days after the report was filed the Sheriff got around to interviewing the two offenders but didn’t arrest them citing lack of evidence as the reason. Approximately 1pm on December 31, 1993 John and Tom broke into the home where Brandon was living. They asked Lisa Lambert where Brandon was and she said she didn’t know. They found Brandon hiding under the bed. They asked Lisa if anyone else was H8(8)in the house and she told them Phillip DeVine, who was dating Lana’s sister was there. They shot and killed Phillip, Lisa, and Brandon in front of Lisa’s toddler. At some point (as part of his testimony in court) Tom noticed Brandon twitching so he asked John for a knife and then he proceeded to stab Brandon to ensure he was dead. They were both later arrested and charged with the murders. Tom accused John of committing the murders and worked out a deal with the prosecution for a lighter sentence. He pled guilty to accessory to murder and rape and got life in prison and had to testify against John Lotter at trial. John was sentenced to death for his role. And later Tom Nissen recanted his testimony in an attempt to help his friend’s appeal but the courts have said with or without the testimony the crime was heinous in nature and the sentence stands. The appeals have been denied.

bashNow Gay Bashing as you can see is nothing new. It became a major thing in the 70s/80s when HIV and AIDS was making its way into the gay scene and people were afraid of homosexuals. It was prominent then and it is prominent now. I won’t say that homosexuals don’t have to put up with their fair share of discrimination because they do. Sometimes a little bit more. Now you have Gay Pride festivals and Parades that draw more attention to the scene and New York is still a huge area when it comes to gay bashing despite having some of the most known homosexual tolerant areas. So what causes the hate of the LGBT community? Is it fear? Do people feel that its contagious? Are they just ignorant assholes? Does this fall under the same reason of hate that they’re hated because they’re different? Is it religion that makes people hate those who are homosexual? I know that some say the bible tells you its unnatural but doesn’t the bible tell you not to judge lest ye be judged and to treat others the way you want to be treated and to love thy neighbor and all that good stuff? Since I am talking about religion let me say this… no sin is greater than another. In the eyes of the Lord all sin is created equal SO all of you who had premarital sex (yup that’s a sin), if you murdered someone, if you lusted for someone, wanted something someone else had, cheated, all those are sins… so if being gay is a sin you are no different then they are so get off your high horse! He without sin cast the first stone! Put down your rocks and sit your ass down somewhere. You can’t judge someone for their lifestyle! It is NOT your place! No matter what your religious views are. If you don’t want someone judging you for being white, black, hispanic, asian, a nerd, emo, or whatever you are then don’t judge someone for being gay! But in the same token I have something to say to the LGBT community… you are not gayblackspecial. You are not entitled to anything more than what everyone else has. A friend of mine saw someone wearing a shirt the other day that said “Gay is the new black unless you’re already black, which in that case you’re still a nigger” I’m sorry I would’ve beat the shit out of you for that! IGNORANCE BREEDS IGNORANCE! If you wear stupid shit like that you deserve to get your ass beat! I don’t give a damn if you’re gay, white, purple whatever… you wear an ignorant shirt disrespecting a different race or a different lifestyle I hope someone beats your ass plain and simple. You deserve it. You want people to respect your lifestyle but yet you want to bash others? FUCK THAT! How about that?! What I don’t agree with is those legitimately trying to live their lives who aren’t affecting others and having to pay with their lives or who are being attacked for no reason. Now as I said there are some who entice it… not just by what they wear… There are some who wanna sit there and call a man a pussy or a faggot even tho that’s a gay slur and they themselves are gay and when the shit hits the fan and they get their ass beat they wanna say its a hate crime and it was a gay bashing. Yes it does happen. I am not saying that every gay person who is assaulted doesn’t deserve it and is assaulted because they are gay. Some just couldn’t handle the fight and cried wolf. They are not the only ones to do so. White men have done it after losing to a minority and black men have done it after losing to a white men. Women have done it to. You know the other day listening to satellite radio Black Eyed Peas came on and in the song they say we’re overseas trying to fight terrorism but we still got terrorists here living… CIA, Bloods, Crips, and KKK… that’s pretty accurate. We are terrorists in our own ways. We try to say who can do what, where, and when… if they don’t follow the rules they die. So I leave you with this final thought from the song “Where is the love” because I think maybe if we all took a little deeper look inside ourselves and wonder if people knew our deepest darkest secrets would they still look at us the same maybe there would be some more tolerance and a little less H8 in the world we live in.

“But if you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate
And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you’re bound to get irate, yeah

Madness is what you demonstrate
And that’s exactly how anger works and operates
Man, you gotta have love just to set it straight
Take control of your mind and meditate
Let your soul gravitate to the love”

As always, if you would like to be featured in our Q&A sessions with Helena, feel free to contact her with your questions or opinions on the featured stories via email at Wonderlandbce@gmail.com and follow me on twitter @WonderlandBCE. In the meantime, you can still make your way down our warped rabbit hole into Helena Gudell’s WONDERLAND every Mondays & Wednesday exclusively on Brewcityexpress.com.


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