LGBT community gathers for the 12th annual Bakersfield Pride event


Victoria Miller

Candy Moore

Rhiannon Stroberg, Features Editor


Bakersfield’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community and their supporters united as one at the 12th annual Bakersfield Pride event that was held on Oct. 17 at Stramler Park.

Several people who have attended Pride in previous years have stated that the turn out for this year’s event was probably the biggest they have had since they started Bakersfield Pride 12 years ago.

“This year is amazing,” Gina Blankenship, 48, said. “I’ve literally never seen a crowd this big at Bakersfield Pride before.”

Blankenship has been attending Bakersfield Pride for the past six years and has been with her girlfriend Heidi Ryken, 44, for two years.

She said that she went to this year’s event with the intent to get legal documents for her girlfriend and herself to see if they can get power of attorney over each other in the event that something might happen to one of them.

“We’re both disabled and that’s hard as it is,” stated Blankenship. “We don’t have anyone to care for us besides each other and we would like to see what we can do to get some type of legal document that says we can take care of one another if something were to happen to one of us.”

Blankenship and Ryken were referred to an attorney who helps the LGBT community deal with situations like theirs.

At the event, several local vendors and non-profit organizations set up camp to provide information about their organization to people as well as to sell clothing and items with flags and symbols commonly used in the LGBT community, such as the well-known rainbow that represents diversity as well as gender symbols for men, women, and transgender people.

Among the many vendors, the Gay and Lesbian Center of Bakersfield, a non-profit organization aimed to educate and raise awareness for issues involving sexual orientation, gender identity, as well as gender expression throughout the LGBT community, were there to provide information on the programs, services, and activities that they offer.

A project that the Gay and Lesbian Center has been working on, called the Speak Up project, ensures that local school districts are complying with Seth’s Law.

The law was passed in 2012. The law indicates that all school districts must adopt and enforce a strong anti-bullying policy that prohibits any type of bullying especially the bullying of students who identify with the LGBT community.

The California law was named after a 13-year-old Tehachapi boy named Seth Walsh who had committed suicide after his school failed to address the anti-gay bullying he had been dealing with.

The Speak Up project shines a direct spotlight on anti-gay bullying and strongly encourages students who are being bullied because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity to speak out about the bullying because there are now consequences for bullies themselves.

Bakersfield’s Gay and Lesbian Center also has Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) and Safe Youth projects available for students attending high school who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

Also in attendance at Bakersfield Pride was Bakersfield College’s own Gender and Sexuality Awareness club.

BC’S GSA came out to try to get more people involved with the club by passing out BC merchandise. They also tried to get the community more involved with BC football games by handing out tickets.

“We’re here to promote the students at BC to show them that they have that safe place here on campus to come to,” GSA president Ian Juarez said. “We understand that it’s hard enough for them as it is to be under the LGBT spectrum and they may be scared to take that step forward, but we’re here to reach out to them to offer them a safety net here on campus.”

Juarez also stated that although it was awesome to see new students being recruited into GSA on their Constitution Day, it reminded him that he would need to touch up the educational part to newcomers to inform them of other problems and issues that arise in the LGBT community.

“We want more people to learn about the LGBT community and other pressing issues people in the community face, so we would like to expand more on that with the new members,” said Juarez.

Bakersfield College’s Student Government Association (SGA), which Juarez is also a part of, offers a Safe Space program that was created to provide a safe and supportive environment for students involved with the LGBT community at BC.

The diversity of the event ranged from infants to elderly people, which showed the LGBT community how supportive families were toward them.

“I like that we’re able to see much younger people, like high school kids, attending Pride,” Ryken said. “It means a lot more parents, children, and families are accepting and it definitely means that we are making strides in the right direction.”

The event provided hours’ worth of entertainment such as bands, belly dancers, a choir called Rainbow Voices, and the event concluded with the 2015 Pride Drag Show that had drag queens, from the Bakersfield Community of Drag Queens, strutting across the stage in glittery costumes while they lip-synched to popular hit songs.

The Bakersfield LGBT community has several events they do throughout the year. For more information on how to get more involved with the Bakersfield LGBT community events, visit