Every year in October, Sylvia Guerrero stays up, remembering nights when she would wait up for her 17-year-old to come home.
But tonight marks 10 years since Guerrero last saw her second oldest child alive.
Gwen Araujo – born Edward “Eddie” Araujo – was a pre-operative transgender teenager who was born as a boy and lived life as a girl since the age of 14. Her name was legally changed to Gwen Amber Rose Araujo two years after her death.
In the early hours of Oct. 4, 2002, Gwen was brutally killed by a group of men in Newark then buried in a makeshift grave in the Sierra after they learned she was biologically male.
Gwen's death garnered national attention, sparking discourse about transgender issues. Her life served as the subject of multiple documentaries and 2006 Lifetime television movie "A Girl Like Me: The Gwen Araujo Story."
On Saturday, a remembrance for Gwen will be held in San Francisco.
Two men were convicted of second-degree murder in connection to the killing of the teenager, who was beaten, tied up and strangled, according to previous media reports. A mistrial was declared for another man who faced charges in the killing.
While Guerrero said she forgives the men responsible for Gwen’s murder, she said the pain remains.
“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her and honor her,” said Guerrero, now a San Joaquin County resident. “I wish I could tell you that 10 years has healed me, but I can’t.”
Known for her bold smiles and notable laugh, Gwen is remembered by Guerrero as a “beautiful soul.”
To Newark native Stephanie Baumann, Gwen was the most loving person anyone would ever meet.
Baumann, now 27, spent countless days with Gwen during their elementary and junior high school years.
The two would walk home together from school every day, and despite being taunted when other children thought Gwen was homosexual, Baumann said Gwen was never ashamed of who she was.
“She was always happy and fun,” Baumann recalled. “You would never see her down. … She could’ve been hiding it, but she was really strong.”
It was not until high school that Baumann said she saw Gwen, who attended American High School in Fremont and later Crossroads Independent Study in Newark, with long hair and dressed as a girl, but the change didn’t surprise her.
“It wasn’t weird or different,” Baumann said. “It was normal. … She was a girl just trying to be herself, and people didn’t understand that.”
Advocating for gay and transgendered youth is a promise Guerrero made in the name of Gwen.
“I promised I would be her voice, and I upheld that promise,” Guerrero said. “It’s been 10 years, and, sadly, people are still dying for who they are.”
The thought of where Gwen would be today is one that haunts Guerrero.
“She was entitled to live her life. … to fall in love and fall out of love,” Guerrero said. “And in one night these men judged her and took her life.”
Still, Guerrero said she is proud to be Gwen’s mother and that while their story is tragic, she is glad that it has impacted people throughout the world.
“It’s a story full of love, hope and faith,” said Guerrero, who advised that people who are part of the LGBT community should aim to teach their family members about their being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered.
“Do whatever it takes to get through the part of life you’re getting through,” Guerrero said. “At the end of the day you are family.”
And for parents, Guerrero said to keep in mind that “it’s not a choice our children have made – they were born this way.”
“Embrace and love one another unconditionally, non-judgmentally and accept one another,” Guerrero said.
Guerrero will speak at the 10 Year Anniversary Remembrance of Gwen Araujo event being held in San Francisco on Saturday. The commemoration will be held at 2 p.m. at the Visitacion Valley San Francisco Public Library, 201 Leland Ave.