06.27.19 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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Here we are again, the keystone of Pride around the world. We’ve celebrated Pride in Kissimmee and Polk County, and are still reveling in the joy that St Pete Pride brings. Now we turn to the event that started it all, Stonewall. This year is special, though. Stonewall turns 50 and the world is set to celebrate and honor the brave people who began a movement that would change lives for half of a century, with no signs of slowing down.

Stonewall 50 is going to be a massive event. The parade itself is expected to last longer than the average workday with over 150,000 participants and millions of spectators. My, how far we have come!

I didn’t grow up in a world as accepting as today, nor did I grow up in a world where police raided LGBTQ establishments. I spent most of my teenage years isolated from anything LGBTQ that was positive. All I saw of the LGBTQ community was from a negative perception. “Why would you want to do that? That’s what gay people do.” Gay characters on TV and movies were cheating on their spouses or a two-dimensional punch line. Naturally, I assumed this is what I would grow up to be—and this was 20 years after Stonewall.

In high school I remember hearing a rumor that two kids I played baseball with were gay. Of course the rumors were not talked about in a good way. I so desperately wanted them to be gay and I so badly wanted to tell them I could relate, but I was too afraid to do so. That’s what isolation does to you. That’s why visibility is so massively important. Harvey Milk, a genius, understood that. I wish he was alive today to see the world come together in New York City.

As pride celebrations ramp up, though, controversy is never far away. The growing popularity of parades and festivals brings with it a greater sense of celebration, a larger price tag and more corporate involvement. So where is the controversy? Is it that celebrations negate the protest aspect of pride? Is corporate involvement a sell out?

I’ve never really embraced those arguments. Parades by nature are a political protest, even as a celebration. Why can’t they be both? The more visible we are, the better off we will be and the better off those who think they are isolated will be. It takes all of us. It takes social justice warriors carrying signs and it takes shirtless guys in box shorts dancing. We are a vast community and we all need to support each other.

As for corporations, why would their involvement be a bad thing? I would have been mesmerized had a supportive Fortune 500 company walked next to me in my first pride parade, footing the bill so that a group of gay kids could walk, be entertained and celebrate for free. Although, it’s not all about the money. Visibility is key. The more support we have the better off we are.

My issue with some big corporations is that they slap a rainbow on their products for you to buy and wear for pride, but they don’t advertise that to you. They expect that local LGBTQ publications will inform you because a rainbow-colored potato chip is cool, saving them money on advertising.

From a business that is fueled by advertising dollars, it would be smart to advertise and ensure publications are always around to write those stories. As for products that LGBTQ people enjoy year round: Disney, Amazon, Apple and Starbucks—it would be nice to see you reach out to the National LGBTQ Media Association and start some local campaigns. Come into our homes and our lives and let’s work together. Thank you to businesses like Regions Bank, Target and Bud Light who see the importance and value in regional LGBTQ media.

In this issue of Watermark we hear from those who were at Stonewall the night of the riots in 1969.

In Orlando news, Hope & Help talks HIV prevention; while in Tampa Bay, Pasco Pride adopts a highway previously secured by the KKK. In entertainment we look at Florida artists’ take on LGBTQ icons and Central Florida’s “Sweet Dreams” fundraiser.

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

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