St. Pete Pride: Grand Marshals

By : Aaron Alper
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Ashley Brundage – PNC banker/transgender activist extraordinaire

For Brundage, trans-advocacy was not something that was originally in her admittedly exceptional wheelhouse.

“I didn’t really actually have any thought into the world of being anyone’s spokesperson originally,” Brundage says. “When I came out, self-identified as transgender, at that point I realized how underrepresented we are in the community. I don’t want to say that I feel like I was obligated to it, but I feel like it was my duty to help spread education about it.”

When asked what are the important aspects of what defines Brundage as a spokesperson, she pins it all down to equality (which is apt, considering she does work with Equality Florida).

“It is about equal rights for everybody. I was involved with the transgender community from the beginning because it was an easy segue way for me and then spreading out into the LGBT organizations. And now I am trying to be involved in all organizations.”

And what is ‘all organizations’?

“For me,” Brundage confides. “It’s about being main-stream.”

One doesn’t get more main-stream than Brundage either. Her highlight reels include the Tampa Chamber of Commerce (she is the president of the LGBT chamber of commerce), advocacy training at PNC bank and a myriad of other credentials that are so numerous it borders on superhuman.

“I think it is just being there and showing up. Doing that brings an awareness to more people, and through that I am affecting change.”

Another aspect of mainstream living is Brundage is married with children. Together wife Whitney Rousseau-Brundage, she is raising her children with a full on education of their unique upbringing . “They know everything,” Brundage laughs. In their off time the Brundage family enjoys theme parks. Brundage hopes her children will make an appearance with their mom during the parade.

“I hoping the kids want to ride in the car. I’ve already ordered 2000 light up necklaces to throw, and I know how much they like to throw things!”

Nick Janovsky – Strategic Campaign consultant/author

Nick Javonsky has spent the majority of his life in Hillsborough area. If you had asked him ten years ago whether or not St. Pete would be the place he calls home, his answer might have been different than from today. For him, it was the shift of pro-LGBT acceptance that sealed the deal.

“If you had asked me a few years ago whether or not I would have stayed in St. Pete I would have said ‘absolutely not’. I would have seen myself in Washington. But I fell in love with the art, the culture, the dining and I made so many political connections that I thought, ‘Yeah. I am gonna live here.”

Equality is what drove Javonsky towards a political career as well as life as a LGBT activist.

“I do what I do so other people don’t have to go through experiences I went through. I worked for a company that wasn’t open and inclusive. I was a top lever performer, and the only gay male member of the management team and I was not getting the same recognition as my peers and colleagues. I also have parents who are from a conservative background. So I realized it was up to me to take this entire issue head on.”

And that he did. He has managed political campaigns for Kevin Beckner, Darden Rice and Alex Sink. Javonsky authored a book (Gay: A New Path Foreword) that dealt with his own trials and tribulations of coming out of closet. He fought against Pam Bondi, as well as founded his own LLC Strategic Campaigns where he provides consultation to politicians who support pro-LGBT policies. Javonsky has also been a mentor to young LGBT interns, solidifying his passion for making the path easier for those who have come after him.

Not only did his work ethic pay off in the traditional sense, but it also made for acceptance in his home life. His family is now accepting of his being out as a gay man.

Janovsky rarely takes time off, but admits he will be taking a day off for his 34th birthday. However, for the most part his job is 24/7, 365 days a year.

In his “off time” Javonsky considers himself to be a “closet redneck”. He loves country music and sports. Javonsky is single, but not lamentably so. For those interested, his only request is that he find someone who “will go with (him) to any situation and not make it any worse”.

Janovsky is not lacking in any aspect of his life, “I am extremely happy, I keep busy and I have some of the best friends in the world.”

He is excited to take on his role as Grand Marshal. “I want my time as Grand Marshal to be a way to show that we all have one voice and that we all deserve an equal playing field.”

Larry Biddle – Metro Wellness Center/fundraising guru/elder statesman

With age comes wisdom and Larry Biddle is proof positive of this. Too often the gay community is quick to treat age as a disability rather than an asset and it is a shame. Larry Biddle’s life is a fascinating tale.

Rather than go into the details of his success as a community leader, like having raised the money to help fund the new Metro Wellness house downtown, Biddle is keen to discuss his love for his husband of 23 years, David Warner (who is the editor of Creative Loafing Tampa). Biddle speaks of Warner with a candid nature that was both hysterical and heartwarming.

“We met in Philadelphia. David was a buddy volunteer of somebody who had AIDS. Of course, when I saw him I thought ‘Wow. That is a very good looking man’. It took me a while to approach him. During that time he had been dating someone who I absolutely hated. So I thought, well as good looking as he is maybe that wasn’t the best, uh, recommendation.”

Luckily Warner broke up with Biddle’s adversary and the dating commenced. Despite Biddle’s carnal attraction to Warner, he is proud to say his sexuality did not get the best of him.

“We didn’t do the thing the most gay men do. We actually dated a few months before we had sex.”

Kizmet brought Biddle and Warner to the area. Despite initial apprehensions to the political climate, the two built a home together and became one of the power couples of the Burg area. It is clear Biddle has an immense amount of pride when it comes to where he lives.

“It has changed so much for the better since we first came here.”

Of course, being a role model for the Grindr generation of gay men isn’t the only talisman Biddle has to his name. Throughout his career his tenacity has allowed him to raise record-breaking amounts of money for local pro-LGBT politician’s campaigns. As stated before, he helped rebuild the new Metro Wellness house where his focus his providing a safe space for homeless LGBT youth. Biddle is excited about a grassroots training program that is blossoming from it.

“St. Pete just got 100% score of being a gay friendly city,” Biddle says. “The problem though… is how do we know what businesses are gay friendly? So we are offering training programs that creates a sort of a scale that can be applied to businesses so not only are we a gay friendly city but we are going to make sure we can get that from businesses as well.”

Biddle plans on retiring soon but admits that his work ethic will probably keep him going.

“It’s one project to the next that keeps me happy.”

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