A year can pass by in a seeming heartbeat. For family members of a slain child, though, a year can seem an eternity. On the first anniversary of her Gwen Araujo's murder, Sylvia Guerrero sat with approximately 50 family members in the front row of the Newark Memorial High School auditorium during a memorial to her daughter.
On Oct. 3, 2002, people she knew slowly and brutally murdered 17-year-old Gwen Araujo. Gwen was murdered at a party after young men with whom she had previously had sex discovered that she was anatomically male. One confessed killer and three accused killers are in jail. Trial is currently scheduled for March 15, 2004.
The shocking news of Araujo's murder and the discovery of her body in a shallow California grave weeks later made national headlines. A year has passed and there is not yet closure for family, friends, the town, or the transgender community. 'It's still fresh in our heads, almost like it [happened] yesterday,' said Imelda Guerrero, Araujo's aunt.
Shocking as it was and as widespread the story, the murder of transgendered people continues at an escalating pace in the U.S. and around the world.
About 150 people gathered Oct. 4 for a mix of music, poetry, and speeches centering on the loss of Gwen Araujo. Several of Gwen's friends attended the memorial alongside government representatives, trans activists, and other Newark citizens, including members of the anti-hate group 'Not in Newark,' formed after her death.
Gwen's mother recalled the brutality of her death and the terrible pictures she was shown. 'I look forward to the day that there are no more labels,' Sylvia Guerrero said at the memorial. 'We're all human. We all bleed the same blood.'
The loss has been hard on Guerrero and has cost her her job, a relationship, and her peace of mind as well as the son she now considers a daughter. Besides being a grieving mother, Guerrero, a lifetime member of NTAC, has become an ardent transgender advocate.