I was young, probably around 12 or 13, but I vividly remember the first death I helped cause. They say you never forget your first.

I was in middle school and likely clad in a pair of husky jeans, the free whale necklace that came with the “Free Willy 2” VHS and a “Batman and Robin” tee beneath my Starter Jacket. Clutched against my side was the thickest Trapper Keeper a family like mine could afford, something I rarely let out of my sight during school hours because it protected two of my dearest possessions.

The first was my “Get Out of Sports Free” card, a letter I frequently convinced my mother to write my gym teachers exploiting my asthma. It ensured that I wouldn’t have to participate in “physical education” that week, where I would inevitably fail to kick a homerun, bat a touchdown or sink a goal. The second was my Tamagotchi.

If you’re not familiar with the term, a Tamagotchi is a digital pet first released by Bandai in 1997. It housed a tiny, egg-shaped computer dangling from a flimsy chain. Not unlike the majority of my college relationships, they were incapable of loving you as much as you loved them but were an absolute must have at the time.

Perhaps in an effort to teach children that they should never bear the responsibility of another, the Tamagotchi pets showcased distinct stages of life. They could even die of old age—or more commonly, because you left them in your Trapper Keeper for the majority of the school day because they were outlawed at Glen Este Middle.

As my first Tamagotchi taught me, you have to care for the things you love in order for them to thrive. I was recently reminded of that fact July 28 during the Flamingo Resort’s final Sunday Tea Dance, surrounded by more people than I’d seen poolside in years. The resort closed shortly after, bringing its more than decade of service to Tampa Bay’s LGBTQ community to an end.

I was present for a similar phenomenon at Georgie’s Alibi, St. Petersburg’s former de facto LGBTQ hotspot where I met my husband, the best men in our wedding and most of my dearest friends in its heydey. In Sept. 2015, I watched as a community that had abandoned it showed up in droves to bid Alibi adieu.

While there are certainly many factors that led to the closure of both establishments, those far beyond the control of any patron, it’s important to remember that establishments run by and for the LGBTQ community need the LGBTQ community’s support.

The sentiment extends beyond the bar scene—which I’ll note frequently serves the LGBTQ community more than alcohol, offering a safe space for community charities and events. The same can be said for LGBTQ-owned and operated art galleries, hair salons, health care organizations, photography studios, restaurants and, while I have an even more personal stake in this one, newspapers. The best way to do that is by supporting the businesses that support you by advertising with us and more.

Our ever-expanding LGBTQ community, which includes our many wonderful allies, is a network of diversity and strength. We all need to do our parts to make sure it thrives, long before sharing any fond farewells.

Opportunities to support our community abound at this year’s GayDayS in Orlando, something we examine at length in this issue. As the organization prepares for its first and possibly only August outing, they pave the way for their June 2020 return.

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” finalist Kameron Michaels takes the Parliament House stage for GayDayS 2019 before they do, something she dishes about in Arts and Entertainment. We also pick up a copy of University of South Florida Professor and author David K. Johnson’s latest deep dive into LGBTQ history with “Buying Gay.”

LGBTQ commerce is a focal point in Tampa Bay news as well, as more than 1,400 LGBTQ and allied professionals prepare for the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 conference in Tampa. The Matthew Shepard Foundation, Metro Inclusive Health and MillerCoors also detail “Stay Proud, Be Loud,” designed to erase hate in Tampa and beyond.

LGBTQ community leaders take a stand of their own in Central Florida news, petitioning Orange County to ban conversion therapy. Come Out with Pride also shares its 2019 theme and more.

Watermark strives to bring you a variety of stories, your stories. I hope you enjoy this latest issue—and for those of you joining us in Orlando, have a safe and wonderful GayDayS 2019!

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