By Advocate.com Editors
Originally published on Advocate.com October 26 2002 12:00 AM ET
In a sunny parking lot outside St. Edward's Church in Newark, Calif.,family members released 17 butterflies, one for each year of Eddie "Gwen" Araujo's life. The transgendered teenager who lived her life as a woman was beaten and strangled at a party October 3, allegedly by three men who discovered she was a biological male. On Friday, Araujo's family and hundreds of mourners buried her the way she wanted to live: as a woman, in women's clothing and make-up. "Angels don't have a gender and he's my angel now. I know that he's safe somewhere where no one can hurt him," said Araujo's mother, Sylvia Guerrero, addressing the crowd.
Two weeks after the slaying, one of the suspects led officers to Araujo's body in a shallow grave in the Sierra foothills about 150 miles east of San Francisco, authorities said. One defendant has pleaded innocent while the other two have not yet entered pleas. All three face charges of murder as a hate crime. Activists in the often-ignored transgender community have held vigils, saying they don't want Araujo's death to slip into the shadows. "We can't let one of our sisters' lives go unnoticed," said Rachael Janelle Light, president of Transgender San Francisco. But Araujo's family has shown a reluctance to see the name Eddie Araujo added to the list of hate victims such as Matthew Shepard, the gay college student beaten and left to die on a fence outside Laramie, Wyo., or Brandon Teena, whose murder at the hands of men who discovered he was anatomically female was the basis for the Oscar-winning movie Boys Don't Cry. Jaron Kanegson of the Youth Gender Project said activists sympathize with the family. "No one wants to be remembered because they got killed in a horrible way. That's not what you want for your family member."
For the funeral, there was a service for family and close friends Friday morning, followed by an afternoon service open to the public. Hundreds of people filed somberly past the open casket. Family members said they felt Araujo would want to be buried as a woman and they honored that. Later, more than 700 people packed into St. Edward's for the funeral, many standing outside when there was no more room. "I believe that our lives are changed now," said Father Jeff Finley. "I believe, I want to believe, that we will be able to say to each other, 'I appreciate who you are."'