WatermarkOnline.com had its largest number of visitors in 2018. Hundreds of thousands of readers came to the website throughout the year for the stories that impacted the LGBTQ community in Central Florida, Tampa Bay and across the country.

Below, we have complied the top five headlines from each of our LGBTQ news sections: Central Florida News, Tampa Bay News, State News and Nation & World News. The sections top headlines are based on the number of clicks on each story.

CENTRAL FLORIDA NEWS

1. GayDayS moves dates, host hotel for 2019 event

GayDayS, Inc. announced April 24 that it will move its annual events from the traditional first weekend of June to mid-August starting in 2019. One Magical Weekend, Girls in Wonderland and Tidal Wave followed the news by announcing their events would remain on the first weekend of June.

2. Transgender woman found dead in Orlando apartment complex parking lot

Sasha Garden, a 27-year-old transgender woman, was found dead in the parking lot of an Orlando apartment complex on the morning of July 19. Garden was the fourth trans woman of color murdered in Florida in 2018. Members of the trans community took to social media outraged by local media and law enforcement that had been misgendering Garden early on in the investigation.

3. New Pulse lawsuit announced days before massacre’s 2-year mark

A civil rights lawsuit was filed in federal court June 7 by more than 35 Pulse survivors and family members against Orlando police officers and the City of Orlando just days before the two-year mark of the nightclub tragedy.The lawsuit specifically names Adam Gruler, the off-duty police officer who was working as security at Pulse the night of the shooting, and 30 anonymous officers — referred to in the suit as “John Does” 1-30.The suit alleges that 20 of the “John Does” remained outside of Pulse instead of going inside to capture the shooter. The other 10 “John Does” are accused of unlawfully detaining survivors.

4. Come Out With Pride expands events to week-long celebration

Come Out With Pride (COWP) expanded its annual Pride celebration from a weekend to a full week of events running from Oct. 8-13. Along with the launch party, block party and Lake Eola festival and parade, COWP added a Drag Race 5K, a Reel Pride film screening, a circuit party and a recovery brunch. COWP’s Week of Pride saw more people than any of its previous years.

5. Paintball shooting in Lake Eola linked to potential LGBTQ hate crime

Police investigated a possible hate crime at Lake Eola Park in Orlando after several LGBTQ individuals were attacked by a paintball gun being shot from a moving vehicle on July 27. The attacker also shouted homophobic slurs at the victims.One Orlando resident was shot in the leg with paintballs while playing the popular app game “Pokemon Go” with a friend at Lake Eola Park. He also said that a lesbian couple in the park told him they were hit with paintballs. Another Orlando resident was shot after leaving his job at the LGBTQ bar Savoy.

TAMPA BAY NEWS

1. G St Pete announces grand opening in St. Petersburg

The Florida Entertainment Group, responsible for Ybor’s The Honey Pot and G. Bar, announced July 26 that G St Pete would open its doors in downtown St. Petersburg Aug. 4. The 7,000-square-foot club – the latest venture from co-owners Ernie Webb, Steve Donahue and Stephen Moss – touts the world-class sound and lighting synonymous with the group’s other LGBTQ hotspots.

2. Breast cancer survivor confronted during Bucs game for using female restroom

Orlando resident Toni Gott prematurely left a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game honoring cancer survivors Oct. 21 following a confrontation with a stadium employee over her use of a female restroom. Gott, a breast cancer survivor who has undergone a double mastectomy, says an employee repeatedly and publicly accused her of being male.The Tampa Bay Buccaneers referred Watermark to the Tampa Sports Authority for comment, who advised: “We will continue to provide staff training to address the needs of our guests in the future.”

3. Hamburger Mary’s patron seeks $1.5 million in damages for alleged injury from drag queen’s breasts

Colorado resident Neldin Molina filed a lawsuit Feb. 15 against Hamburger Mary’s Tampa and entertainer Amanda D’Rhod for an injury she allegedly received from the performer’s breasts in 2015.The suit argued that D’Rhod approached and “wiggled” her breasts against Molina’s head eight times. It noted that Molina was subsequently grabbed by the performer, who “violently” pounded the patron’s head and neck against her chest. Molina seeks $1.5 million in compensatory damages.

4. Bambusa Bar & Grill no longer opening at former Georgie’s Alibi locale

Bambusa Bar & Grill, an LGBTQ-friendly restaurant and entertainment hotspot in Naples, confirmed that it would not open a St. Petersburg location at the still-vacant Georgie’s Alibi April 6. The news came nearly eight months after the eatery announced that it would resurrect the location synonymous with St. Petersburg’s LGBTQ community for years, even sharing that Tampa Bay entertainer Kori Stevens would serve as entertainment director. Co-owner Steve Soutner told Watermark that “too many unforeseen problems” arose.

5. St. Pete Pride votes to hold 2018’s street festival in Grand Central District

St. Pete Pride voted Jan. 9 to hold 2018’s street festival in the Grand Central District after speculation that the Pride staple would follow the celebration’s parade to downtown St. Petersburg. Of the six-person vote, five voted in favor of holding the event in the district while one attendee abstained. “Grand Central is where we originated,” St Pete Pride Executive Director Luke Blankenship told Watermark. “We will never forget this part of the community and will continue to foster a relationship along each step of the process.”

STATE NEWS

1. Adult film star Matthew Rush enters drug program after third arrest

Gay adult film star Matthew Rush was arrested by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and was ordered to enter a drug diversion program.

2. Florida AG candidate Sean Shaw fights ‘for the people, not the powerful’ if elected

State Rep. Sean Shaw tells Watermark he pledges to fight “for the people, not the powerful” if elected as Florida’s next attorney general.

3. Florida plans to build first affordable housing project for elderly LGBTQ residents

The Pride Center announced it wants build the state’s first affordable housing project for elderly LGBTQ residents in Wilton Manors, Fla.

4. Publix to begin covering HIV preventative drug PrEP for employees

After meeting with Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, Publix begins allowing PrEP to be covered for their employees under their prescription benefits.

5. Florida AG Pam Bondi files suit against defunct Legendary Journeys, ‘Al and Chuck’

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed legal action against Legendary Journeys, Inc., owner/president Adrian L. Ferguson, Jr. and vice president Charles T. Scott, commonly known as Al and Chuck, alleging the defunct travel agency owes consumers over $3 million.

NATION & WORLD NEWS

1. Andrew Christian emails Tom Daley’s leaked nude photos to customers

Underwear brand Andrew Christian’s email blast featuring Tom Daley’s leaked nude photos sparked controversy and was deemed unprofessional.

2. ‘Superman’ actor Dean Cain slammed for speaking at anti-LGBT event

Actor Dean Cain, best known for portraying Superman on the TV series “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” came under fire after he agreed to speak at the Family Research Council’s Value Voters summit.

3. ‘Storm Chasers’ star Joel Taylor found dead on board gay cruise

Joel Taylor, star of the Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers,” was found dead of a suspected overdose on board a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

4. Alaska Airlines asks gay couple to make room for straight couple or to get off the plane

Alaska Airlines was in clean-up mode after asking a gay couple to move seats to make room for a straight couple that wanted to sit together.

5. Delta flight attendant suspended for having sex with porn star mid-flight

Delta suspended a flight attendant for having sex with a porn star mid-flight after clips of the bathroom hookup were uploaded online.

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