2017 was a roller coaster of a year. Our highs were marked with great achievements and big celebrations, and our lows were filled with the passing of great LGBTQ leaders and fear-filled headlines we thought we would never read.

Below we look back on the top 5 LGBTQ headlines out of Central Florida, Tampa Bay, from the state of Florida and across the nation, and the world.

Central Florida News

Orange County gets its first transgender deputy

Rebecca Storozuk became the first sworn in deputy at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office who is openly transgender in 2017.

Storozuk joined the Orange County Sheriff’s Office in 2012 after serving in the United States Army. In an interview with Watermark, Storozuk said that most have been open and accepting at the Sheriff’s Office, and those you were having trouble with it are working on it. “They are coming up and asking me how to act appropriately. They are asking me questions about me and what makes me feel comfortable and uncomfortable, and they are carrying that over into the public,” Storozuk said.

MBA Orlando celebrates 25 years, named Chamber of the Year

The Metropolitan Business Association celebrated 25 years, as well as the recognition of being named the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s Chamber of the Year, in 2017. MBA Orlando was formed more than two decades ago to pursue equality through economics, according to their website. “MBA’s strategic focus is to serve as a resource to bridge the gap between small business and large corporations,” the website states.

The Pulse tragedy, one year later

The one-year mark of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history loomed over Orlando as vigils, memorials and remembrances were being planned for June 12. The One Orlando alliance, the City of Orlando, Pulse and may other groups and organizations declared June 12, 2017 as a Day of Love and Kindness. Hundreds turned out to vigils at Pulse and Lake Eola. The Orange County Regional History Center displayed hundreds of Pulse memorial items in an exhibit for the One Orlando Collection. Sadly, less than four months later, the title of “worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history” was handed off to Las Vegas when a lone gunman fired from a Vegas hotel into a crowd of concert goers, killing 58 and wounding 489.

Billy Manes dies at 45

Billy Manes, legendary Orlando LGBTQ activist and former editor-in-chief of Watermark, died July 21 from a sudden onset of pneumonia. He was 45. Manes, who grew up in Boca Raton, moved to Orlando in 1997 where he began his career working at Orlando Weekly, first in the sales department, then as an influential political writer. Manes joined Watermark in 2015 and was the editor-in-chief during the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage,  the 2016 presidential election and the tragic mass shooting at Pulse. He is survived by his husband, Anthony Mauss.

Parliament House sold to Miami-based company

Miami-based Kenergy Scientific, Inc. announced it was acquiring Parliament Holdings Inc., the company that owns the Parliament House Resort, in a press release Nov. 13. While initial reports stated the announcement was “premature,”  Parliament House posted on social media that “although the news broke prematurely, it’s true, there are incredible things happening at Parliament House Orlando.”  Parliament House owner Don Granastein would not comment further but has said a joint press release from the world famous resort and Kenergy would be coming soon.

Tampa Bay News

Anti-LGBTQ group files suit against Tampa’s conversion therapy ban

In April, Tampa’s city council voted unanimously to ban the harmful and ineffective practice of conversion therapy on minors.  The Tampa ban became law in April, signed by Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and carries fines of up to $5,000 for violations. Eight months later, anti-LGBTQ group Liberty Counsel filed a suit against the city for the ban, citing a violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The city of Tampa is currently reviewing the contents of the lawsuit.

Metro Wellness & Community Centers celebrates 25 years

Metro Wellness & Community Centers ushered in its 25th year of operation in November with the organization’s Celebrate 25 Gala. Over 500 members of the community  dined, drank, took photographs and participated in auctions. Metro subsequently announced that just over $65,000 was raised, after expenses, for programs and services for LGBTQ youth and seniors. It’s Metro’s commitment to the community it serves, and the community’s reciprocal support, that contributed to the organization’s successful 25 years.

St. Pete Pride to move parade downtown, keep street festival in Grand Central

For the first time in 15 years, the St. Pete Pride parade was held in downtown St. Petersburg rather than the Grand Central District. When the organization initially announced the controversial move, the Street Festival was also scheduled to be held downtown. This prompted backlash from Grand Central businesses and Mayor Rick Kriseman. After Kriseman threatened to pull city funding for the event, the organization announced that the St. Petersburg City Council had voted unanimously to approve a five-year agreement with St. Pete Pride. “The shopper friendly Street Festival will remain in Grand Central while the Pride Parade will run through Downtown St. Pete,” they announced.

St. Petersburg Moves Forward: Mayor Rick Kriseman wins re-election campaign

On Nov. 7, with a turnout of 27.02 percent of the city’s registered voters, St. Petersburg re-elected incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman. “I’m so proud to be your mayor,” Kriseman said during his victory speech. “We call ourselves the Sunshine City for a reason. We embrace light and love here. That is evident to me every single day, but especially tonight.”

Passing of beloved Tampa Bay drag queen spurs fight against silicone procedures, memorial fund

After beloved Tampa Bay drag queen Tanisha Cassadine passed away due to complications from silicone injections, the Divine Cassadine Transition Scholarship was created in her honor. The goal of the fund is to “help someone transition the right and healthy way,” a close friend of the late entertainer said, and to aid in the removal of silicone injections. The money raised each year will be awarded at the Black Trans Advocacy Award Gala.

State News

Health Department to offer PrEP for free by end of 2018

The Florida Department of Health announced they are currently working to make Truvada available at no cost at all of the 67 county health departments by the end of 2018.

Florida stripper arrested for killing cannibal boyfriend

A Tampa stripper was arrested in Key West after killing a 67-year-old man, believed to be the stripper’s boyfriend, he suspected may have been a cannibal.

World OutGames cancelled

World OutGames organizers cancelled most events the day before the games were scheduled due to financial issues.

Equality Florida celebrates 20 years

Equality Florida celebrated two decades as the largest civil rights organization for Florida’s LGBTQ community.

Jacksonville approves HRO

Jacksonville City Council voted to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the city’s Human Rights Ordinance.

Nation & World News

Equality March draws thousands

Tens of thousands of LGBTQ people and their supporters marched from the White House to the National Mall near the U.S. Capitol in the Equality March for Unity and Pride.

Edith Windsor dies

Edith Windsor, a lesbian activist who brought down the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, died at age 88.

Trump tweets trans military ban

President Donald Trump announced via Twitter that transgender people will not be allowed to serve in the United States military.

Trans woman defeats man who penned anti-trans bathroom bill

Danica Roem become the first openly transgender person seated in any state legislature in the country when she soundly defeated Virginia state Del. Bob Marshall by a 54-45 percent margin.

Chechnya police arrest 100 alleged gays, 3 killed

Police in the southern Russian republic of Chechnya rounded up more than 100 men suspected of homosexuality and send to ‘concentration camps.’ At least three were killed.

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