Matt and Tim met at the Museum of Tolerance.

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Matt survived the beating in the alley, and after recovering, he says he moved on with his life. Then, in 1998, when headlines broke about the savage murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard in Wyoming, Matt felt a calling. "What struck me about Matthew Shepard was that the only difference between he and I was that he was dead and I wasn't," he says. "He no longer had a voice that he could use and I still did. I wanted to speak out for all people who suffer intolerance or become victims, and I had to find a way to do that."

Matt also went to work at the Museum of Tolerance, where he met Tim. They talked about where they'd grown up and where they used to hang out, soon realizing they both had spent time in West Hollywood. When Tim recalled the details of a particularly violent evening, "I said, 'You realize who you're sitting across from?" Matt says.

Stunned to be speaking with the man who'd once attacked him, Matt says he abruptly ended the conversation and headed back to work. Reliving that night was painful. "I remember the absolute violence of it," he says. "I really believed that, that was my last night on earth, that their intent was to kill me."

Tim says he'd never forgotten his part in that attack, either. "It was pretty brutal—one of the most brutal things that I've ever done," he says. "I've hurt a lot of people in my life, but for some reason that particular incident stood out all throughout the years."