Best Voice for the Little Gay - 2012
Growing up in the 1960s in the San Fernando Valley, LGBT advocate Laura Kanter's handful of black friends was often denied entry to the homes of her white friends. The discrimination she witnessed as a child has twisted and morphed into present-day homophobia. Fortunately, we have Kanter, who is now director of youth services for the Center OC in Santa Ana, on hand to help deal with this plague of idiocy. At the Center, she hosts CO2, a free, late-afternoon drop-in for teens at which they have access to computers and counseling; her Rainbow Youth Group on Wednesday has become so popular it's been expanded to Friday nights at Shanti Orange County and Saturday mornings at the Center. As if that weren't enough, she's also mentoring YETA (Youth Empowered to ACT), which was sparked by this year's silencing of Fullerton Union High School student Kearian Giertz when he spoke out in support of gay marriage. YETA's smart young activists took to task the school official who did the initial silencing and are now working to make sure recent California anti-bullying laws (Assembly Bills 9 and 1156) are fully implemented via an impressive Safe Schools Campaign, including letters to principals, anti-bullying pledges and surveys that will aggressively detail the progress (or lack of such) in local schools. Aided by a recent six-figure grant from Liberty Hills Foundation, Kanter will be able to afford to provide space, structure and encouragement to the youth-led program. "Once they get the spark, they're the best organizers," she says. "The future is queer."