Local & Regional
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - Dean Welliver, 17, knows life can be difficult for transgender people who live in a conservative city such as Bakersfield. In other places, transgender individuals have been killed because of their sexual orientation.
"I just continue to live my life and hopefully nothing does happen," said Welliver.
The teen turned out to participate in Transgender Day of Remembrance, an event meant to memorialize transgender people killed in acts of hatred and violence. Supporters gathered at four different locations around Bakersfield Wednesday evening, holding signs and pictures of transgender people murdered around the country.
According to human rights groups, more than 1,300 transgender people have been reported murdered between January 2008 to April 2013 in 59 countries, including the United States. But many more cases go unreported.
"There's no justification for killing a transgender person, there's nothing that you can say that will justify that," said Welliver.
The day of remembrance was also meant to educate and raise public awareness about respecting basic human rights.
"I'm not saying you have to welcome them into your home with open arms," said Bakersfield High School sophomore Jade Burchette who was also participating at the event.
"But at least respect them and don't give them hate or bully them for it," she said.
The event comes amid political controversy over a law approved by state legislators earlier this year aimed at protecting transgender students. The law allows transgender students in grades K-12 to use the bathroom of their choice. Transgender students can also access the locker rooms or sports teams of the gender with which they identify.
But opponents of the law have collected signatures to put the issue on a referendum and put it before voters. More than 17,000 signatures to repeal the measure were collected in Kern County alone.
If enough signatures are verified to be valid, then the measure can go before the voters in 2014. The law is scheduled to be implemented on Jan. 1.