More than 100 students, staff and community members mourned the loss of a Bay Area teenager last night in Storke Plaza.
The vigil was held in honor of 17-year-old Gwen Araujo, who was murdered at a party on Oct. 3 after two other teenagers discovered she was transgender.
Event organizer Ted Burnes was the first to speak. He led a moment of silence in honor of Gwen and invited mourners to “gather and reach out to one another.”
“I’ll open the floor and you can say whatever the fuck you want,” Burnes said. “This space is your space just like this space was Gwen’s.”
Janet Stanley, executive director of the Pacific Pride Foundation, a local nonprofit organization that provides services to the local queer community, related the vigil to recent incidents in the area. Last week, parents of Goleta Valley Junior High School students protested to the school board when a lesbian community member spoke to students about homophobia as part of a Diversity Day event.
Last February, Clint Scott Risetter, a Santa Barbara resident, was murdered when a man poured gasoline over him as Risetter slept. The man claimed he killed Risetter because he was gay.
“This is the third vigil of hate crimes I have attended in the last nine months, and I’m growing tired of them,” Stanley said. “This is something where we gather and share our grief and then don’t know where to go from there.”
“Society only seems to pay attention when there’s a murder,” said Kyle Richards, the director of the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity.
He added that transgenders individuals deal with issues that homosexuals don’t have to face.
“It’s important to understand what privileges I have that transgenders don’t,” Richards said. “Transgender people are on the fringe of society.”
Sara, a Port Hueneme resident and 1985 UCSB graduate who did not want to use her last name, drove up to support the Santa Barbara community.
“There’s a sense of profound sadness,” Sara said. “It would have been nice if [Gwen] had something like this when she was alive.”
A second vigil will be held in Anisq’ Oyo’ park Friday at midnight.