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By Andrew Alvarez
Kern County is a place where social change is infrequent while conservatism is common.
With Pride month being in June, it is important to give recognition to social issues that LGBT youth face, and the impacts of Kern County’s conservative social climate.
South Kern Sol hit the streets and asked local LGBT youth, “What is it like being LGBT in Kern County?”
“I am ‘out’ to my immediate family and they are very supportive of me, so I have support at my house. Though, when I go out in public, I hear and see how my situation is not similar to other LGBT youth.”
— Emily Nunez, president of the West High Gay-Straight Alliance Club
“Many times it can be difficult and scary to go out in public and be yourself because you never know what response or look you’ll get from people. However, I’ve realized that over time people have gotten more comfortable with the idea of accepting LGBT people.”
— Julissa Morales, junior at West High
“It’s challenging, but doable. I feel like even though Kern County is conservative, there are many who identify as LGBT. So I always feel like I have people like myself to rely on.”
— Chyna Patz, vice president of the West High Gay-Straight Alliance Club
“The truth of the matter is that although we live in such an advanced era, change has yet to occur. Kern County is one of those places where it feels like you have to worry about your safety if you are LGBT. Personally, I believe living in a conservative county allows LGBT people to fight for their voice to be heard. Living in a conservative place gives me [and] gives other people the ability to make change happen.”
— Jovanny Ruvalcaba, junior at South High
“It is not homophobia, but ignorance that runs rampant in Bakersfield. If they knew of the injustice or at least took time to look at a LGBT individual, they would learn to be empathetic people.”
— Julian Melendez, senior at Foothill High School
“Personally, being LGBT in Kern County has brought a lot of stress onto my daily life. My hope is that people in Kern County will begin to see LGBT people as people — not a threat to their society. I am thankful that there are active LGBT voices in this county who are bringing change to issues like this.”
— Helen Magana, junior at West High
“Speaking as a trans male who’s bisexual, living in Kern County can be hard at times, but it can also be a smooth breeze with the right people around you.”
— Dylan Strope Morgan, sophomore at West High
“Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community in such a conservative places as Kern County is more difficult than the average person might think, considering we are in what can be argued as a state where progression is very much needed. There is a fear of being judged, rejected or even the fear for your life. We constantly change things about ourselves to conform to what society wants and often time[s] find it difficult to be real and honest and true to yourself. Being LGBTQ+ in a conservative county is frightening and creates a certain barrier around the individual that may never leave them in their lives.”
— Breanna Michelle Castro, junior at West High
Read the original version of Andrew Alvarez’s piece at South Kern Sol.