I am proud of being a lesbian, but I also identify with other terms including queer and pansexual. When I came out in the early 90’s during the height of the AIDS epidemic, I was immediately drawn to queer resistance movements like ACT UP. Queer fits for me because I have never been comfortable being forced into a box. Being queer frees you from limited ways of knowing and defining yourself. To know this can be scary but it is ultimately liberating. And since those boxes are social constructions, are not all beings, in essence, queer?

At the same time, my lesbian identity is something deep within me; it is my true romantic and sexual nature. But I am also attracted to people regardless of their gender identity or body parts. Until I started working with so many youth I didn’t know there was a term for this – pansexual. This fits me too.

Navigating society as a queer lesbian has always been difficult but has also been the way my life makes sense and has meaning. I have never had a choice about being anything other than authentic; being false to myself or others creates a painful cognitive dissonance that I have never been able to tolerate. To be honest, I wish I could sometimes. Wearing my heart on my sleeve and my politics on my tongue sometimes proves complicated. But with that struggle there is also the freedom that comes with being true to myself. This is an ongoing journey. Even at 55, I am still learning who I am at each stage in my life. And as I grow older, I embrace my queerness more and more. I can’t wait to see myself in my 70’s!

We must ALL be visible and counted. What is the opposite? To be defined by others who tell lies about who you are against your will. To be denied a voice and your own agency and personal power. To not be. This is the legacy of our past and the roots of deep psychological and spiritual suffering. This is an act of violence.

To thrive as human beings we must be seen and we must feel a sense of belonging. I am so grateful that there is a LGBTQ community where I and others can go to feel that we belong and where we can feel pride in who we are. And I will always fight for this community, and to end this systemic violence that causes suffering to ALL people.

Laura Kanter
Santa Ana, California