I’m pretty sure I was 16 the first time I went to Gay Day at Disney. I was only out to my mom and a handful of friends back then, so it was a little awkward when my brothers and I rolled up on the second annual Gay Day at Disney. It became a tradition in my family that when one of the brothers graduated high school, we’d celebrate with a trip to the Magic Kingdom—just us boys. Turns out that celebration always happened on the first Saturday of June. We didn’t know what that day meant to so many people, but we picked up on it pretty quickly.

I remember being petrified my brothers would figure out somehow I was gay, as if just being in close proximity with so many LGBTQ people would cause me to grow a boa and hum the ABBA anthology. I also remember experiencing immense joy and comfort. It was scary being gay in the early ‘90s, not to diminish the struggle today’s 16-year-olds face with their own coming out. But that one day, every year, was a day of happiness in the happiest place on earth. It was a day to be normal, to be together and to be visible.

It took a lot of bravery for people to don their red shirts in those early years. That’s probably what I love most about it. I often wonder if the organizers of that very first day had any idea the magnitude of what they were doing, or more personally, the impact it would have on my life. A lonely kid who just happened to wander into a place where he found out he wasn’t alone.

That magical day has turned into almost a week-long celebration with well over 100,000 people from all over the world converging in our backyard to celebrate who they are. It’s inspiring to see and it’s inspiring to know that it started with a small group of local friends who just wanted the world to know we are all just like everybody else.

Somewhere along the way, it seems as if we may have lost sight of that original intent. The bigger the week got, the more money was at play and the more players there were in the game. Many promoters have come and gone throughout the years, but it’s the most recent announcement that GayDayS, Inc. will be moving their location and event to a new venue and date that has caused—or shed light on—much confusion surrounding what is commonly referred to as “gay days.”

When someone asks me what I am doing for gay days, I’ll tell them my usual: staying at the host hotel, going to Typhoon Lagoon and working. This is both accurate and inaccurate. It’s correct in the sense that what we think of as gay days week includes all of those events, but it’s confusing because all of those events are not hosted by the organization GayDayS Inc., which has a copyright on the name Gay Days. So, when you hear Gay Days is moving it sounds like the whole week is changing, but it is actually the GayDays Inc. host hotel and events that are moving. Still confused? I don’t blame you. Hopefully Jeremy Williams breaks it down in our In Depth section in a manner that helps clear it up for you. He takes a historical look at where the day started, where the week is and what the future hold for all those involved.

I have worked with all parties involved in this week of celebration and I wish them all success and prosperity in what they do. After all, at its core Gay Day at Disney and the events that followed are a result of the ground work by our local community for the betterment of our community. It’s always been that for me and it needs to stay that way for the next LGBTQ 16-year-old who happens to wander into it.

In addition to our coverage of Orlando’s big gay weekend, Watermark outlines the efforts to commemorate the two-year mark of the deadly attack at Pulse. In Tampa Bay news we talk Gulfport Pride and Polk County Pride. For Arts & Entertainment we bring you a look at Mad Cow Theatre’s “Fun Home” and take a look at out comedian Kevin Allison’s award-winning podcast in Tampa and Orlando. Our Last Page introduces you to what makes Viewpoint columnist Sabrina Ambra tick.

We strive to bring you a variety of stories, your stories. I hope you enjoy this latest issue.

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