Lara defines her sexuality as "PANSEXUAL". To some, the word remains unheard of. So, what better way to learn what pansexuality is than from someone who is "pan" herself?
How did you first realize you were pansexual?
I always thought that I was straight, until I was 21 and started seeing the bodies of women differently. I thought there must be something strange with me. I then thought I just liked girls, but then I was also attracted to men. So I realized I liked both - I thought that if ever I had to have a label, I’d be bisexual. But then I fell in love with a transgender girl and all kinds of different people. There was never a specific category of person that I felt attracted to. So I started to think, okay, I guess I just feel attracted to people in general. Whether black, white, man, woman, this or that. I just knew I fell in love with the essence of the person, and that made me want to have a relationship.
Can you explain to us what pansexuality means?
For me to be pansexual, is to fall in love with the person standing in front of you. There is no colour, no gender, no religion - it’s just that person and all the things you discover from that person.
I accept human beings as they are. When you are pansexual, you love the person as a whole regardless of their sex or gender identity.
Did you come out to your family?
I was about to get married to a man, and then I started to have feelings for a woman, and I chose her over him, and had a 7 year relationship with her. At the beginning, I didn’t tell my family who she was, but I brought her to many family events, without ever mentioning we were together. At the beginning, they felt strange, but there is a famous saying in Portuguese: ‘Primeiro estranha-se. Depois entranha-se’, which means “first its strange, but then you become familiar”, so I think that by the time I wanted to tell them who she was, they had already figured it out.
My mom had a harder time accepting it, but with time she got to know my girlfriend, and really appreciating her, and that helped. My sister had no problem with it. As for my nephews, maybe they found it a little strange that their aunt was with a woman when they were kids, but they were so little that it was very easy to explain. I know there are families with far worse problems than mine. Now, my grandmother is always poking harmless fun at me, asking if this time I’m going to fall in love with a boy or a girl. I tell her I love ‘people’, and now she understands.
My family just wants to see me happy. For me it’s important that whoever is in my life is also in theirs. I feel very privileged because I know many people have to run away from home to be who they are. It took many many years with my grandmother to try to make her understand, or not feel awkward about using the word ‘bi’, ‘homo’ or ‘pan’. In the end, she doesn’t want to know if I’m “this” or “that”. She’s 91 years old, all she wants is to see me happy.
One of your hobbies and passions is oppressed theater, what is it, and what is its goal?
I started a group with ILGA 2 years ago - oppressed theater. It’s a technical theatre that comes from Brazil, where you explore what oppression is with a specific group. You put on a play, create a story that links to that oppression, whose end unfortunately ends tragically. The objective is to show this play to an audience and involve them. They come on stage and try to give the actors new options to solve the oppression with realistic measures. I talk with the audience, ask questions, create dialogues - it’s a lot of improv. We explore stories about LGBT+ people, and the play ends in either one of two solutions. You try one of them and see if it ends in success or failure - the goal being it to end as best as possible. So the play has to go on until it reaches a happy ending. Topics include coming out, bullying, procreation, adoption, transitioning when you’re transgender etc. Oppression theatre is about activism, and it helps the audience feel empowered.
What can you tell us about being pansexual in Portugal?
In Portugal, like in most places in the world, you are educated to like girls or boys. There is a binary system, you always need to check one box or the other, you can’t be a mystery, something in between both. People don’t understand what liking a person is like, because they are educated to like a gender. Some people joke around ignorantly and say if pansexual people can fall in love with absolutely anyone, they can probably fall in love with anything too, like animals for example. I tend to be someone who is very direct, I am not afraid of speaking out, so I can get a lot of hate sometimes. I think transparency is the first step to changing society.
Have you met other people who are pansexual?
I actually know at least one or two people who also identify as pansexual. It’s always nice to have someone to talk to about these things, because of course you can have doubts about certain elements. It’s a really good support system, and it makes you realize that you are completely normal and that there many others like you.