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How We Got Started

On February 2, 2004, my wife and I went to Indiana University of Pennsylvania to hear Judy Shepard (Matthew's mother) speak. During her presentation, Mrs. Shepard mentioned that a young woman had said something like, "If all gays and those who support them and those who have family members or friends who are gay would paint themselves blue for ONE day, then everyone would see that there are a LOT more of us then they think and things would really start to change." Mrs. Shepard added that she thought wearing a blue hat would do the same thing. And so the idea for the Purple Hat Project was born.

OK, so Mrs. Shepard said blue hat, but I chose purple for several reasons. First, I don't particularly like blue. (Not much of a reason, I know.) Second, purple is often associated with the gay pride movement because of the lavender triangles that gays had to wear in the Nazi concentration camps to designate why they were unacceptable to the Nazi regime. Purple thus became tied to hatred of gays and so by now tying it to support of gays, maybe we can ease some of the pain from the past. And third, so many baseball caps and other hats that are worn on a daily basis are blue. Purple will stand out much more.

This project is near and dear to my heart and if you want to find out why, you can read the article I wrote on an incident that happened the weekend before we heard Mrs. Shepard speak. It was both one of the most painful times I have ever experienced as well as one of the most eye-opening and inspiring— but the latter didn't come until after the emotional breakdown the day after the lecture. You can read more about it here.

So I'd like to thank Mrs. Shepard for coming to speak to everyone that night despite the weather delays in her travel and car sickness on her way to the campus. And I'd like to thank the anonymous young woman who made that comment to Mrs. Shepard. And I'd like to thank you— for taking the time to read this and to get involved.

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