When I told my friends I was going to a Pride in Laramie, Wyoming, their initial reaction was unanimous: Queer horror. I doubt any of us would have ever heard of Laramie had the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard never taken place there. Queer people are murdered every year, but there is something about the historical position and brutality of Matthew’s murder that clings in our collective Queer memory. The struggle for Queer acceptance took a turn in the late nineties. Twenty-five years later, Laramie remains “the place Matthew Shepard was killed.” I was curious to see how his specter would participate in a Pride there.
Minneapolis to Wyoming is a long drive, almost thirteen hours according to Google Maps. I could not predict how long Cookie and I would take. I was hoping to drive around ten to twelve hours and see if I could find a spot to land for the night. I stopped for gas at the Corn Palace after five hours, a surprisingly robust tourist destination and seed-art festooned truck stop in the southeastern quadrant of South Dakota. I assumed I would encounter some suitable parking lot in the remaining 560 miles to Laramie.
After nearly fifteen hours with nary a tree, I was pulling into a hotel parking lot in Cheyenne, a mere fifty miles from my morning destination. I managed to make myself a quesadilla before snuggling in between a semi and a mud puddle to pass out.
It was a quick and pleasant drive over a mountain pass after my required coffee and Spelling Bee. Laramie is a charming, Western mountain town with old brick storefronts and fluffy, cartoon clouds overhead. It’s the home of Wyoming’s only public university. Their mascot is the cowpoke. There are “Poke Pride” references everywhere which delighted my inner 12-year-old boy, especially since I came all this way for something gay.
I arrived in time for the morning assembly and sidewalk chalking before the Pride March. It took place in a small outdoor seating area between rail tracks and an indie coffee/tap house at the Western end of a main commercial corridor. There were a dozen youth making use of chalk provisions…