This will to make Shepard a martyr is part of a broad change in the philosophy of the gay rights movement of the past several decades, which has retreated from its traditional advocacy for the equal legitimacy of all sexual and gender identities to the assertion that gay people are just like straight people, in a way that ultimately cuts against the broader movement to equally protect and value all human beings across difference. “Respect all forms of human difference” is a liberal argument. “Everybody’s the same” is a reactionary one.
If there was a time when robbing Shepard of his life’s complexity was a necessary part of the political effort to defend people like him, that time has passed. The gay rights movement is ascendant, and those within it should use that visibility and power to advocate for the right to be different, not merely for the right to be gay.
I would put the task in more neutral terms: we should advocate not for normalcy or queerness. We should fight for the right of people to be fully themselves.
See the Dish’s Ask Anything series with The Book Of Matt author Stephen Jimenez here.