Post submitted by Zack Hasychak, HRC Membership Outreach Manager.

matthew shepard memorial bench, laramie wyomingYesterday, HRC spent the day at the University of Wyoming in Laramie as part of our National Coming Out Day tour.

It’s simply impossible to be in Laramie without being reminded of the horrific tragedy that occurred here 15 years ago when Matthew Shepard was horrifically killed because of his sexual orientation. In the fifteen years since Matthew’s passing, Laramie and the state’s flagship university based here have come a long way.

HRC partnered with UW’s Rainbow Resource Center to provide coming out resources to the student body. I was surprised by the number of students who came up to talk about their experience being LGBT or allies in one of America’s reddest states.

“I think it’s incredibly important to come out in Wyoming,” one student explained. “There are a lot of people from across the more rural parts of the state who move here never having known a gay person, and it’s my job to show them that we’re just like everyone else.”

Here in Wyoming, a state with no gay bars or clubs, no Pride festivals or parades, and where many LGBT residents are forced to remain in the closet out of fear, social outlets for LGBT people are few and far between. The Rainbow Resource Center, which is funded by the University and was created in response to the Matthew Shepard tragedy, is working to bring the campus’s LGBT community together and provide both educational and social engagement opportunities.

Yesterday evening, we hosted a presentation for students and members of the Laramie LGBT community about the state of the LGBT movement, our hopes for the future, and what’s happening locally in Wyoming. Wyoming has no protections for LGBT people in the workplace, no relationship recognition, and no safe-schools laws, and the local community believes it’s time for that to change.

Following the presentation, many students expressed interest in becoming involved in the fight for LGBT rights in the Equality State, and vowed to work hard to see the progress so they so desire.

“I just really want to thank you for coming to Laramie,” one student told me. “It’s really hard to be an openly LGBT person here, and having HRC come all the way here means so much to us.”

For more information on HRC’s National Coming Out Day program, please visit

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