BAKERSFIELD Calif. (KGET) — It wasn’t the crowd that California State University, Bakersfield organizers had anticipated, but it became the perfect setting for an intimate conversation about domestic violence, as well as partnership, support and visibility in the LGBTQ+ community.
And just one of the most jarring facts shared with attendees is that the center for sexuality and gender diversity estimates that 36,000 to 50,000 Kern residents identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, making up around 3 to 5% of the more than 916,108 people that live in the county.
However, according to leader of the event, Gerardo Bobadilla, many are not “out of the closet”, and the county does not have the best record of providing a welcoming environment.
“I think people are much more comfortable with the knowing and not having to do so much research, or not knowing how to speak to certain populations that they just tend to ignore, and they just tend to stick with what they know and feel comfortable with,” said Bobadilla.
For example, in March of this year, the Delano City Council voted to no longer fly the pride flag at city hall, leaving Senior Jonathan Bass questioning if Kern County is a safe space for LGBTQ+ Californians. Bass shared that while living in Lake Isabella, he has learned it can be very difficult for the LGBTQ+ community.
“There’s very little visibility for the gay people, it’s very hidden,” said Bass. “I’m the only one flying a rainbow flag in Lake Isabella, and I get some of the neighbors that say, ‘Hey, that’s beautiful, I love that,’ and then I get some other people that come by and say, ‘You come by and fly that around here, you’re going to get shot with a gun.'”
Yet, Bobadilla sees hope in creating a safe space and visibility for the LGBTQ+ community in Bakersfield with events like this.
“Even though maybe outside of campus they don’t have that support, when they step here on campus, there is that support and love, appreciation and advocacy for them,” said Bobadilla.