Féi Hernandez, a poet and teacher, drove all the way from Inglewood to attend Bakersfield’s LGBTQ Youth Summit this month at Cal State Bakersfield.
As a teacher, Hernandez saw the youth summit as an opportunity to give back to the community.
“I have been working very hard to be the mentor I never had — the teacher I never had,” Hernandez said. “This is why I’m here.”
The event welcomed people of all identities to learn about resources available in the community, to partake in a safe space and to teach those in leadership roles how to be inclusive and supportive.
The event was hosted by California Rural Legal Assistance in partnership with The Center for Sexuality and Gender Diversity, Kern County Public Health Department, Bakersfield LGBTQ, Dolores Huerta Foundation, Teacher Education Department, California Teachers Association and Planned Parenthood.
Gloria Garcia, an LGBTQ community worker at CRLA, was excited about offering and informing youth about the resources available in Kern.
“This event to me means an opportunity to providing young people a resource that a lot of us older LGBTQ people did not have growing up,” Garcia said. “It means an opportunity to create a safe and open space for everybody to be able to be completely themselves.”
“[P]eople who care about LGBTQ issues are everywhere,” Garcia said. “So, we definitely want to ensure that everybody leaves with a sense of ‘Wow this is such an empowering opportunity for me.’”
There have been major advancements in the U.S. for LGBTQ people, but more needs to be done, Garcia said. Garcia pointed to the passage of marriage equality, and more people have been open about their identity in the popular media. However, she said there are misconceptions where some people think being LGBTQ is a fashion statement or trend.
“I’ve gone to other events where some older folks think that being LGBTQ is in fashion or is in right now because a lot of people are coming out,” she said. “But my rebuttal to that is it’s not that it’s in fashion or popular to be LGBTQ, it’s that for the first time in a very long time, we have the ability to come out without all of the carried stigmas that people before us used to have.”
“Trans women of color are still being killed left and right,” Hernandez said. “We have to continue fighting for these safe spaces. There are more advocates yes, but I still think resources are not being given to the right places or to the right people.”
The event featured workshops on LGBTQ rights, therapy techniques, STI prevention and awareness and more. There was also a drag show performance.