It’s hard even to know where to begin. Maybe, I’ll begin as the lights went up just after the Laramie Project, Ten Years Later: An Epilogue at Northampton’s Academy of Music Theatre ended. Lucien, my eleven year-old declared, “My favorite part was the interview with his mom. He asked, ‘How did you know (I was gay)?’ and she said, ‘It’s a mom thing.’” Lucien smiled his super-wide smile. What mattered, to him, or what resonated was that Matthew’s mom understood him and accepted him and loved him. The Judy Shephard interview, reflecting upon the decade since her son’s horrific murder actually was one of those that most resonated with me, as well. In essence, she explained, “I have a story, this story about Matthew, and by telling it, I keep him alive—and by telling it, I try to get people to listen and pass a hate crimes bill, so that his death is not in vain.”

As the lights went down about an hour and a half before that moment, what felt powerful about simply sitting in my small city’s municipal theater—for those who don’t live here, picture a majestic and lovingly restored (just last month, the marquee's restoration made its Main Street debut) theater building, a downtown jewel—almost packed house was knowing that the stories we were about to hear were also being heard by audiences in over 100 other theaters, in over 100 cities and towns.

Ten years ago, the Tectonic Theater Project went to Laramie and interviewed residents, University of Wyoming staff, faculty and students, Matthew’s friends, the bar owner, some clergy, the police, family members of Matthew Shepard’s killers, and anyone else they could about what had happened, what it meant, and how they were moving forth. Ten years later, the company went back and re-interviewed as many of its original interviewees as possible and added some new ones, including, powerfully, both the men convicted of killing Matthew Shephard. In an article for Newsweek written by members of the Tectonic Theater Project: “The interviews upon this anniversary return trip were very much focused upon what had changed—in Laramie, to people’s understanding of what happened to Matthew and why, and how the story had been held over the past decade. ‘Moved on to what?’ asks Reggie Fluty, the policewoman who was the first to arrive at the fence where Matthew was tied. ‘If you don't want to look back, fine. But what are we moving towards?’"

In Laramie, Wyoming, change is of the one step forward, two steps backward variety one of the interviewees argued. The fence where Matthew Shephard was hanged has been taken down—poignantly, its sections now placed into new fences so that it’s unclear where the original fence is, what a metaphor for the play’s central query—the bar where Shephard met Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson has been sold and reopened with a new name, the state has passed no legislation regarding hate crimes and the University, despite intensive lobbying, hasn’t granted domestic partner benefits to its employees, and many current students at the University do not know who Matthew Shephard was. And yet… there’s no question listening to the range of voices that a different openness and tolerance, surprising flashes of acceptance and support have sounded over this past decade, perhaps most powerfully a speech in the Wyoming legislature by a leading Republican against a constitutional amendment declaring marriage solely the right of a man and a woman; he explained that his daughter is a lesbian and that she and her partner of many years are upstanding citizens, who should be allowed to marry. In Casper, Wyoming, where Matthew Shephard grew up, there is an openly gay mayor.

In Northampton, Massachusetts, that speech was delivered by actor for the evening—and only very recently openly gay State Senator Stan Rosenberg—rendering it that much more powerful a moment. Was Rosenberg gay ten years ago? Probably, yes. Was he out? No. Also onstage, both candidates for mayor in our city—current mayor Mary Clare Higgins and former City Councilor Michael Bardsley—and this is notable because both candidates are openly gay—and that hasn’t been an issue during the race.

In this country, The Laramie Project, Ten Years Later: An Epilogue comes at the same moment as National Coming Out Day and on the heels of the National Equality March in Washington, DC. While there’s all sorts of debate in the LGBT community about the efficacy of these specific actions and much debate about whether President Obama will make good on his campaign promises (after the health care legislation passes, perhaps) to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Of the March, the next generation of LGBT activists, dubbed Stonewall 2.0, had one participant say, “I can get domestic partnership benefits where I live; everyone should have that right.” What’s happened is that things one generation barely dared to dream about now seem to another generation like rights to be claimed. This is a powerful example of why change does take time. Last week, the Hate Crimes legislation passed in the House of Representatives.

One website put up favorite signs seen at the March. My favorite, a child’s handwritten message—Boys Can Marry Boys—speaks to the fact that when moms and dads welcome their children to be themselves—and this means in regards to sexuality, gender identity, love of theater, love of sport (two blogs to know about by parents of “pink boys,” Sarah Hoffman’s blog and Accepting Dad speak to this quite powerfully)—the world changes. Matthew Shepard’s story indeed means a lot. I began this essay at the end of the play, but the end of the play is simply the middle of the story. The piece I take the most hope from is my children’s generation: I see so many kids (admittedly, my kids’ peers are being raised in a community particularly open to lesbian and gay families, as well as gender variance) who, without blinking, know that two moms or two dads loving their children makes a family. My kids often refer to their future marriage partner as “husband or wife.” All of these children—their friends, their loved ones—will carry the story along so that Reggie Fluty’s question—what are we moving towards—eventually gets a satisfactory answer.