12.18.14 Editor’s Desk

By : Steve Blanchard
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SteveBlanchardHeadshot_137x185It’s not easy being gay. It sounds trite, but it’s true. And I’m assuming it’s just as difficult being lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

As we look back on 2014, we have a lot to celebrate. Marriage equality continued its sweep across the state, domestic partnership registries and human rights ordinances have finally protected some of our rights—even in the historically conservative counties—and more and more people holding elected offices have stepped out in support of their LGBT constituents.

But it’s also been a frustrating and exhausting year, especially in Florida. Too many anti-LGBT candidates won in the November elections. Pam Bondi—whether you think she’s just doing her job or not—continues to do everything she can to block access to marriage for gays and lesbians while ignoring other crimes in the state, AIDS “cures” are announced and then redacted, and crimes motivated by hate still make it into the headlines

It’s easy to forget the progress we’ve made over the last 40-plus years, even though change is happening rapidly right before our eyes. I’ve heard friends say on more than one occasion, “I’m tired and the fight seems to be never-ending. It’s time for me to step back and stop fighting.”

And I am ashamed to admit, I’ve said those words—or a similar phrase—more than once.

But for every struggle, every defeat and each disappointment, there is 10-times the amount of inspiration. That is what we must focus on as we move into 2015 and long into the future.

The people profiled within these pages of Watermark give me hope. Their stories inspire me. And, most of all, they prove to me that no matter what is happening in the world, there are good people out there who are doing everything they can—against all odds—to leave the world a better place than where they found it.

This is the last issue of Watermark to have the year 2014 emblazoned on its cover. This issue is also the one that spans the entire holiday season. So our gift to you, no matter which holiday you celebrate, is a look at the 14 Most Remarkable People of 2014.
Each individual has a story that inspires and, I know for me, seeing life from their perspective has helped renew my focus and my energy for the continuing fight for equality.

Our two cover subjects—my personal friend Garry Breul of Bradenton on the Tampa Bay edition and Joan Rodriguez on the Orlando edition—were kind enough and brave enough to open themselves to our questions and to our photographers while sharing their struggles and triumphs. We asked for your suggestions for people to highlight and they came rolling in. Our editorial team debated on who to highlight and who to put on these two covers. So Joan and Garry didn’t land on that front page by chance. Their stories motivated us all, were the reason a few tears were shed and we are excited to introduce you to them this holiday season.

That’s not to say those who aren’t on the cover are lesser. In fact, all 14 of these people have gone above and beyond in the past year to improve the world around them, whether it’s politically, socially, medically or through education or entertainment.

All of these amazing people are also featured on WatermarkOnline.com, and their stories are longer than what you may see in print, since word count isn’t an issue in cyberspace. So if you feel inspired, share these stories online, hand an issue of the paper to a friend and remind those around you that true champions and inspiring people live all around us.

No matter what those who oppose us say, we don’t choose to be LGBT. Many of us—myself included—struggled with our sexuality early on and tried to wish or pray it away. It takes time to realize that it’s not a curse, but a gift.

What we do with that gift is up to us. And it’s my resolution, thanks in large part to these inspiring, remarkable people, to use this gift and make being LGBT easier for those who come after me.

Happy Holidays!

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