“Liberal Redneck” Trae Crowder talks about his ties to the LGBTQ community and incoming tour

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Trae Crowder, the 31-year-old comedian better known as the “Liberal Redneck,” gained national notoriety after he and his southern drawl supported transgender rights in April 2016.

He’d been a stand-up comedian for nearly six years at the time, but it was his condemnation of North Carolina’s bigoted HB2 “bathroom bill” that thrust him into the viral video spotlight. That first video, originally uploaded to his personal Facebook page, has garnered over 980,000 YouTube views to date. In total, his hot takes have drawn over 50 million.

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PHOTOS: Tampa goes gaga for Lady Gaga

By : Danny Garcia
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Lady Gaga stormed upon Tampa with hordes of her Little Monsters hanging on every word she sang at the Amalie Arena Dec. 1.

The show sold out within minutes last year soon after becoming available to the public, with rumors circulating that tickets sold on the secondary market were going for as much as $1,000 each.

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Stories from gay and straight women in Central Florida, Tampa Bay and the nation during the AIDS epidemic

By : Greg Stemm
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It was the late 1980s. All across America, including right here in Central and West Central Florida, gay and straight women were suddenly finding that their gay male friends and relatives were dying from a tragic and perplexing new disease.

From our vantage point in 2017, AIDS has become a chronically manageable disease instead of a death sentence and PREP has dramatically reduced the likelihood of transmissions. It can be hard to remember just how dire a time it was.

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Central Florida and Tampa Bay recognize World AIDS Day with events from coast to coast

By : Jeremy Williams
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World AIDS Day is the first ever global health day and has taken place every Dec. 1 since 1988. It is a day which the entire planet comes together to remember the nearly 40 million lives lost to the virus, but also to acknowledge those still living with the disease today and to celebrate the advances made in fighting HIV/AIDS.

From candlelight vigils to luncheons and HIV testing sights, several groups and organizations have events throughout Central Florida and the Tampa Bay area for you whether you want to pay your respects or know your status.

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Metro’s Celebrate 25 Gala raises $65,000 for LGBTQ youth, seniors and transgender services

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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St. Petersburg | Metro Wellness & Community Centers has announced that its Celebrate 25 Gala, held this year on Nov. 11, raised just over $65,000 after expenses for programs and services for LGBTQ youth and seniors.

The event was hosted by comedian Christine O’Leary, nominated by Curve Magazine to be one of the “50 Funniest Lesbians in America,” with additional entertainment provided by local favorites Jennifer Real and DJ Bill Kody. It generated record attendance for the organization, which holds a gala annually to raise funds and celebrate the community, with over 500 attendees gathering to commemorate Metro’s 25th year.

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Local husbands lace up for the 14th annual Tampa Bay AIDS Walk & 5k

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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St. Petersburg | Tampa Bay’s 14th annual AIDS Walk & 5k will be held Dec. 9 at the Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg, and the city is lacing up for the event benefiting EPIC/Empath Health.

In its 14 years, the event has drawn thousands of walkers and runners, with even more donating crucial funds to raise over $1 million to combat HIV/AIDS.

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Why having a family is easier than ever for Central Florida and Tampa Bay’s LGBTQ couples

By : Holly V. Kapherr
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When Randy Lowe met Joshua Melendez five years ago, both men were entering their 50s. “I just kind of assumed that having a family wasn’t going to be an option for me,” says Randy, who runs the event coordinating business Lowe and Behold, and had recently lost his partner, Jason, to brain cancer. At the time, Joshua had been taking care of two young boys occasionally on weekends to give their single mother a break to run errands or have a moment to herself.

Randy loved having the boys around. It was then that the couple realized they wanted kids. “I thought, ‘Wow. This is really beautiful to have these little boys with us,’” says Randy. He decided that if he and Joshua ended up together, he wanted to pursue options to have a family of his own.

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Kate Shindle on playing out author Alison Bechdel in the national tour of ‘Fun Home’

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Kate Shindle is an author, activist, actor and ally to the LGBTQ community. She’s also the youngest-ever president of the Actors’ Equity Association, the labor union fighting for the fair treatment of over 50,000 theatre industry professionals, and is only the third woman to hold the title.

Last year, Shindle broke ground in another way when she began touring the country as Alison Bechdel, the lead in the Tony-award winning Fun Home. The show, based off of Bechdel’s graphic memoir of the same name, is the first Broadway production to feature a lesbian protagonist.

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Watermark Holiday Giveaway: Win tickets to “A Drag Queen Christmas: The Naughty Tour” at the Straz Center

By : Jeremy Williams
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You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout, I’m telling you why. Drage Queens are coming to town!

Get ready as queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race are performing live on stage this holiday season in A Drag Queen Christmas: The Naughty Tour. Hometown hero Trinity Taylor hosts alongside some of the most talented queens this side of the North Pole including Sasha Velour, Latrice Royale, Farrah Moan, Kim Chi, Naomi Smalls, Chi Chi DeVayne and Eureka O’Hara.

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Transgender Day of Remembrance 2017 events in Central Florida and Tampa Bay

By : Watermark Staff
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Transgender Day of Remembrance, held annually every Nov. 20, is a day to commemorate and reflect upon transgender individuals who have passed away due to transgender-related violence.

The day began after a transgender woman named Rita Hester was brutally stabbed in her Massachusetts apartment in 1998. Graphic designer and advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith held a candlelight vigil in memory of Hester. Every year, there are services and candlelight vigils held across the nation to commemorate the death of Hester and all transgender people lost to violence.

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Gone, not forgotten: St. Petersburg Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil to honor lives lost in 2017

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | St. Petersburg residents are preparing to honor 25 lives lost to anti-transgender violence in 2017, in what organizers of this year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil are calling “the largest number of murders to date.”

The claim is no exaggeration. In all of 2016, according to the Human Rights Campaign, advocates tracked at least 23 deaths related to known anti-transgender violence—two fewer than the 25 known lives lost in 2017 thus far.

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Equality Florida’s Todd Richardson shares his story of being discharged from the United States Air Force because he is gay

By : Jeremy Williams
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“Airman Richardson, I am here to escort you to the commander’s office.”

Long before Todd Richardson, the Pinellas County Regional Coordinator at Equality Florida, was an openly gay man living in Tampa Bay, he was an airman in the United States Air Force. He was also in the closet.

“Escort me?” Richardson said to the Technical Sergeant who had just walked into his office. The sergeant’s tone let Richardson know that he was in trouble, but for the life of him he could not figure out what he had done. Richardson’s performance reports showed he was an exemplary airman with an impeccable record. As they approached the commander’s office door, Richardson noticed several airmen standing in front of the office. Richardson suspected he knew what they were there for, probably the same reason he was there.

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