PHOTOS: Watermark’s Swipe Right Party Tampa Bay 2019

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | Watermark celebrated love and the release of our second annual Most Eligible Singles issue with our latest Tampa Bay Swipe Right Party held at G St Pete Feb. 7.

The LGBTQ singles mixer featured several of Tampa Bay’s most eligible singles with light bites provided by Iberian Rooster. Attendees were given bracelets representing if they were looking or taken, with blue indicating they were looking for individuals who identify as male, purple for individuals who identify as female and yellow for individuals who identify as non-binary. Orange represented those who were taken and celebrants were free to wear as many as they felt appropriately expressed themselves. Check out some of our photos below.

Photos by Dylan Todd, Russ Martin.

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Gulfport welcomes readers, writers to ReadOut 2019

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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GULFPORT, Fla. | The second annual Gulfport ReadOut—three days of events held primarily at the Gulfport Public Library for LGBTQ readers, writers and their allies—will take place Feb. 15-17.

Festivities begin Feb. 15 with “An Afternoon of Romance,” bringing together lesbian romance authors for afternoon tea ahead of a reception. They continue Feb. 16 with a full day of events beginning at 10 a.m., where keynote speaker and workshop leader Leslea Newman—author of 70 books including “A Letter to Harvey Milk,” “A Song for Matthew Shepard” and “Heather Has Two Mommies”—will present “It Takes a Village to Raise a Writer and Activist.”

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Straz Center announces ‘Hamilton’ ticket lottery for Tampa run

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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TAMPA | Producer Jeffrey Seller and the Straz Center for the Performing Arts announced Jan. 31 that a digital lottery for “Hamilton” tickets will begin in conjunction with the popular production’s opening night in Tampa Feb. 12.

The musical details the story of America’s Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the West Indies who became George Washington’s right-hand man during the Revolutionary War. It features a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, blues, rap, R&B and Broadway by Lin-Manuel Miranda.

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Judge says Tampa should be barred from enforcing parts of conversion therapy ban

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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TAMPA | A federal magistrate judge has recommended that the city of Tampa be barred from enforcing parts of its ban on the discredited practice of conversion therapy.

Tampa’s Ordinance 2017-47 is designed to protect the physical and psychological well-being of LGBTQ youth from “exposure to the serious harms and risk caused by conversion therapy.” It was signed into law in April 2017.

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Metro unveils new name, branding and renovation details

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | Metro Inclusive Health–formerly Metro Wellness and Community Centers–unveiled its new name and branding while providing additional details about the organization’s state-of-the-art health and community center Jan. 29.

“For 26 years, Metro has provided healthcare services that are inclusive of all segments of our community, starting with its roots in HIV case management in 1992,” the organization’s press release reads. “The new brand, Metro Inclusive Health, is a nod to the organization’s role in serving all aspects of our community as well as a highly-modernized approach in delivering health services.”

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Watermark’s 2019 WAVE Awards Final Round – Tampa Bay/Sarasota

By : watermark staff
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We asked for your local favorites and you responded in the largest numbers we have ever seen. The 2019 WAVE Awards are now in full swing and, thanks to you faithful readers, we have our Top 3 in each category.

Now it’s time to tell us the top of the tops.

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Watermark’s 2019 WAVE Awards Final Round – VOTE NOW

By : watermark staff
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We asked for your local favorites and you responded in the largest numbers we have ever seen. The 2019 WAVE Awards are now in full swing and, thanks to you faithful readers, we have our Top 3 in each category. Now it’s time to tell us the top of the tops.

The WAVE Awards, or the Watermark Awards for Variety and Excellence, recognize the best in Central Florida and Tampa Bay’s LGBTQ community in the areas of activism, service, entertainment and more.

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PFLAG Tampa paves the way for love in Ybor

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Watermark’s Most Remarkable People John and Nancy Desmond – community activists known for their work with Tampa Pride, PFLAG and more – have long shared their support for the LGBTQ community throughout Tampa Bay.

On most weekends, the duo can be seen on 7th Ave. in Ybor City proclaiming that support and love, pro-LGBTQ signs in hand across from religious protesters. Now, even if they can’t make it, the protesters will be greeted from below with a paver reading “I love my gay son, PFLAG.”

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Metro announces grand opening for state-of-the-art health and community center

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | Metro Wellness and Community Centers will welcome the public into its new, state-of-the-art health and community center during a grand opening celebration Feb. 9.

Metro currently offers personalized health and wellness services in St. Petersburg, Tampa, Clearwater and New Port Richey. The organization first began transforming its St. Petersburg location after purchasing the 47,000-square-foot building it called home in partnership with CAN Community Health in 2016. At the time, they utilized only 18,000 square feet of the campus.

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Anti-LGBTQ activists target Pasco County Schools

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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PASCO COUNTY | Anti-LGBTQ activists are targeting Pasco County Schools for the district’s internal efforts to support LGBTQ students, utilizing a 26-page “pastor packet” to mobilize for the “Protect our Children Project” during school board meetings and more.

The project is spearheaded by anti-LGBTQ activist Terry Kemple, president of the Community Issues Council. The organization’s website advises its primary method of operation “is conducting small local gatherings of pastors” to protect “the traditional family” and shield “our children from indoctrination in the public schools.”

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PHOTOS: Watermark Wednesday benefits SPCA Tampa Bay at Woodhouse Day Spa

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | Watermark’s bi-monthly Tampa Bay social networking event Watermark Wednesday benefited SPCA Tampa Bay at The Woodhouse Day Spa Jan. 16.

SPCA Tampa Bay is the only nonprofit animal welfare agency that runs an open-admission animal shelter, pet training facility and public veterinary center in Pinellas County. Founded in St. Petersburg in 1940, the organization has cared for homeless pets throughout the area for over 75 years.

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Second Chances: The LGBTQ community, addiction and the road to recovery

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Editor’s Note: At their request, the last names of three recovering addicts featured in this story have been abbreviated for their anonymity and to protect the programs utilized to maintain their sobriety.

It wasn’t drinking his own urine that forced Michael J. to make a change in his life. He’d already decided he should. That just got him high again from the crystal meth coursing through his system, his only access to the drug while strapped to a hospital bed in Central Florida.

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