We live in an age where it can be easy to forget your pride. The White House certainly does. Even with orange prominently displayed in our flag, the current administration declined to issue a proclamation acknowledging LGBTQ Americans for the second year in a row.

The Pentagon followed suit, opting for the first time since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to not formally acknowledge LGBTQ Pride Month. It was a bold reflection of the administration’s ever-looming transphobic military policies.

Days after, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. While the narrow ruling wasn’t a full license to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, despite what many clever memes suggested, it certainly wasn’t the Pride Month kick-off many hoped for.

Despite a lack of national support, however, the LGBTQ community carries on and thrives. It’s what we do following adversity or tragedy, from the Stonewall Riots to Pulse. All throughout cities in America, Pride celebrations are underway—like right here in Tampa Bay’s St. Petersburg.

Local buses are covered with “YOUR RIDE TO PRIDE,” proudly displayed in the colors of the Transgender and LGBTQ Pride flags. From the Grand Central District to downtown, St. Pete Pride banners and rainbow flags decorate lampposts and business windows. On June 21, the Pride flag will also fly above City Hall when Mayor Rick Kriseman once again raises it, proving yet again that in St. Petersburg, the sun shines on all.

It’s a part of what makes St. Pete Pride so special. Year-round, the LGBTQ community thrives here, so it’s not surprising that 220,000 people popped in for last year’s Pride weekend.

Confession time: I wasn’t one of them.

I love St. Pete and I love St. Pete Pride. In my 10 years in Florida, I’ve gone to eight. Most I remember, some I wish I didn’t, and there are certainly some my husband, Facebook’s “On This Day” and my friends won’t let me forget.

I didn’t go because I didn’t support the parade’s move. It’s not something I’m proud of and I hope you won’t hold it against me, but I opted not to bring my personal negativity to a celebration of love.

I’ve regretted it ever since. I still had a wonderful Pride—in fact, I celebrated a bit too much and likely couldn’t have gone downtown last year, anyway—but I came to realize I’d made it all about me and what I wanted.

In my time at Watermark, I’ve been given the opportunity to cover and attend Pride celebrations and events all throughout Florida: some large, some small; some incredibly hot, others mercifully cool. As with the LGBTQ community at large, they’re all different—but the themes of love and equality are always there.

I’ve met LGBTQ children whose supportive parents draped themselves in rainbow flags and I’ve met elderly couples still grateful to hold hands in public. No matter which Pride celebration I go to, I’ve found it’s a celebration for all of us—a community bond, amongst strangers and non. No one told me I didn’t belong because I wasn’t in my hometown, nor did they care where it was being held.

At the end of the day, whatever my location, love won. I came to realize that St. Pete Pride, which would go on with or without me, wasn’t about a place—it was about a feeling. A celebration of our shared LGBTQ experience, from Stonewall to 2018.

This year’s St. Pete Pride will be its sweet 16th, one I look forward to attending and that St. Petersburg’s Iberian Rooster helped us celebrate by proudly baking a cake for our cover. We review the milestone year’s upcoming offerings in our cover story.

In Arts and Entertainment, we talk “the other side” and celebrities with “Hollywood Medium” star Tyler Henry ahead of his Clearwater and Orlando stops, and rock out with the Cocoa Village Playhouse’s “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”

In Tampa news, we check in with the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital for its upcoming Pride program highlighting elderly LGBTQ veterans and discuss changes in Metro Wellness and Community Center’s leadership. In Central Florida, we take a look at the Orange County Regional History Center’s Pulse exhibit and detail a new lawsuit filed by Pulse survivors.

We strive to bring you a variety of stories, your stories. I hope you enjoy this latest issue—and Happy Pride, St. Pete.

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