Just ahead of the year 2000, while my parents frantically fought over whether or not we owned enough bottled water and canned corn to survive the impending Y2K apocalypse, I had two main concerns as I entered my freshman year of high school.

The first was “X-Men,” an upcoming film starring Patrick Stewart from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Ian McKellen from “Apt Pupil” and Hugh Jackman from … nothing, really. No one knew “Hugh” he was. It was based on the Marvel property, which I’d obsessed over in comic form for as long as I could read, and was hot off of the hero heels of “X-Men: The Animated Series,” one of the strongest animated television shows to date. It was almost unheard of for a studio to tackle something as insane as a superhero film – who would pay to see something like that? It was critical that Fox get it right. I was very invested in it.

The film would arrive on July 14, the same day that I had tickets to see *NSYNC in concert with my girlfriend. She would go on to teach me every dance move to the popular boy band’s “It’s Gonna Be Me,” my second concern as a freshman (and a much longer column for another time.)

I distinctly remember the “X-Men” trailer being released well ahead of that, which would reveal the first live action look at characters I’d adored for years. I devoured every bit of information I could, which wasn’t much, because so few outlets cared about “nerd movies.” On top of that, cell phones barely supported “Snake” and YouTube wouldn’t exist for five more years, so access was limited.

To watch it, I started (completely legally) downloading the trailer via a computer program I wasn’t supposed to have installed on a school computer. It was during my first period class of Journalism, my home base at Glen Este High, so thankfully my teacher didn’t mind. During the class I was able to view a few frames and listen to several sound bites from the impending mutant mania.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we are now seeing the beginnings of another stage of human evolution,” Famke Janssen’s Jean Grey began, and she was right. While I would have to wait until the end of the day to view the entire trailer, after an excruciatingly long download process, I wasn’t able to make rash judgments about what I was watching until dwelling on it for hours.

That’s very different now. We live in an age of information and access, where cell phones hold more data than the school computer I used to download the film’s first look. On top of that, social media lets us share anything at any time, often without a second thought.

As amazing as that is, it’s dangerous—and something I’ve witnessed in both national and local headlines over the last few months. It might be the journalist in me, but I’m inclined to do as much research as I can before I share my thoughts and relay them as facts, particularly when they relate to the LGBTQ community.

We have to choose our words and actions carefully—particularly on the national stage, Jussie Smollett—and ensure that every cry and claim of homophobia is actually that. As a community, we’re under constant attack from D.C. and often Tallahassee. Let’s not make ourselves easier targets.

In this issue, we examine the beginning of Florida’s 2019 legislative session for that reason, scheduled to begin March 5. After the introduction of both the Competitive Workforce Act and the Florida Inclusive Workforce Act, lawmakers and activists are divided on how to best move pro-LGBTQ legislation forward in the Sunshine State. We present you with the facts.

Equality makes news in Tampa as well as the statewide Equality Florida Action PAC and the nationwide LGBTQ Victory Fund announce their endorsements of Jane Castor in her race to become Tampa’s next mayor. The Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber also announces that they’ve postponed their annual gala to focus on hosting the National LGBT

Chamber of Commerce Business & Leadership Conference in August.

In Central Florida news, West Melbourne Police arrest an individual who called in a bomb threat to an LGBTQ-inclusive bar. Lucky’s Market in Orlando also shares that the Orlando Youth Alliance has been selected as one of three nonprofit partners participating in its Bags for Change program.

In Arts and Entertainment, The Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg dazzles with “Jewels of the Imagination” and DeLand’s teen queen Clawdeena takes social media by storm.

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

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