05.03.18 Tampa Bay Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Whoever said money can’t buy happiness was never a chubby Ohio kid on vacation at Disney World.

At a ripe and round 13, my parents used the money they’d received after my dear grandmother’s passing to take me to the most magical place on earth. It was my first foray into Florida, and while I’d have gladly moved into the castle that day—it was transformed into a birthday cake for its 25th anniversary and I was chubby for a reason—I had no intention of moving here until a decade later.

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05.03.18 Central Florida Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Jeremy Williams
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This past weekend officially kicked off (at least for me) the summer season with the release of “Avengers: Infinity War” in theaters. No spoilers, I promise, but at the time of writing this I have seen the film three times and it may be the greatest movie ever made. From here on out until July—along with a few more weekends of blockbuster cinema—we have Fringe, Orlando’s Big Gay Weekend, Pride month and my birthday among the events to look forward to.

Since starting here at Watermark as an account manager for the sales department more than five years ago, I have developed quite a few traditions within the LGBTQ community.

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Positive Living: Puppy Love

By : Greg Stemm
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For the past several years I’ve been asking God for a husband. Instead she gave me a puppy.

Now far be it from me to question God’s will. Although, I do have to wonder about the benefit analysis she might have gone through in making this decision. I adore my new 4 month old chiweenie girl named “Joy,” but I thought I’d do my own comparative analysis to see if a puppy or a husband was a better choice. I thought I’d look at six categories to see which won out on each. I’ll be honest with you, as I begin this column I have no idea who will come out on top in the end. Let’s see:

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Keeping It Real: No, it’s not over yet

By : Nathan Bruemmer
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So, how many days until summer vacation? After spring break all across this nation, this is one “critical” question most middle and high school students would probably get right. While kids beam with pride when they recite the exact number of days, parents across this nation fall back into shock and awe that another school year is about to end.

Why aren’t we asking our youth a truly critical question—Do you know about HIV and AIDS? April 10th is National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day. This year we celebrate the fifth annual observance of a day created to educate about the impacts of HIV and AIDS on youth.  According to the CDC, 1 in 5 new HIV diagnoses were in young people aged 13-24 years, but only 10 percent of high school students have ever been tested for HIV. That means there is a significant gap between those who have it and those who know they have it. Without knowledge, you cannot prevent transmission. But where do our youth get their education on HIV and AIDS?

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The Tender Activist: Two decades

By : Scottie Campbell
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I’ve been fortunate in my life to have deep relationships and friendships. I’m the kind of guy who reflects on the significance of people in my life, what I’ve learned from them, what we’ve learned from each other. So it is not without consideration that I say the person who has made the deepest impact on me was Sidney Vincent Chase.

That’s not because Sid was my first true love, though there is that sweet reality. It is because in the fall of 1997, just a few days shy of his 30th birthday, Sid sealed himself up in a garage and asphyxiated himself on the fumes of a Jeep Cherokee. He was found a couple of days later by a friend of the family; it was her garage, he had been living with her. It was terrible.

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4.19.18 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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I haven’t always loved my job. Who loves anything all of the time? Even a parent who loves their child might want to slap them “into the middle of next week” occasionally. So I hear. I don’t have children, but I have adorable dogs that drive me crazy as much as they warm my heart.

I remember I was at a low point in 2004 with my career at Watermark. The repetition of an administrative assistant position with a local niche newspaper was taking its toll on me. I was young, stupid and combative. Up to this point, I never held a job for more than a year and a half and I was currently over two years at Watermark. I was starting to get antsy, so I looked for another job. Walt Disney World accepted me to their entertainment team as a production assistant and I took a few days off at Watermark to enroll in the Disney training class known as Traditions. The only thing left to do was put in my notice and leave.

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The other side of life: I, You, We: Living with AIDS

By : Jason Leclerc
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As American art museums go, New York’s Whitney (the old one, on the Upper East Side, before they moved it to the High Line) is the top of my list. In April 2013, I visited for a book launch event in Chelsea and then trekked northward to pass five hours wandering exhibits of contemporary art.

While there, I consumed an exquisite curation called I, You, We: Art & AIDS. I uncontrollably and openly sobbed as I walked through a room with photos by David Wojnarowicz and paintings by Hugh Steers. I stared into the hollow, sepia-tinged eyes of gay men gasping their last breaths under the oppression of a disease that disproportionately affected vibrant souls of gay men in the years when I was in elementary school.

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Sweet Divinity: Not Banned, But Certainly Barred

By : Divine Grace
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divine graceWhen the “Will & Grace” ensemble and their producers got the bright idea to resurrect their show and squeeze some new laughs out of today’s increasingly bizarre source material, many folks over in the offices at ABC TV (and one unstable has-been smoking weed on her nut farm) sat up to take notice.

Roseanne, a titan of television and one of the medium’s most powerful influencers, has seen her light dim since her meteoric rise in the ’90s. Stars in Hollywood are actually no different than stars in the heavens: Both are enormous balls of gas that eventually burn out. Also, much like their celestial counterparts, the bigger they are the more fiercely they burn. Eventually, they burn off all of that gas, slowly fading, dimming and becoming more obscure. Then they buy a macadamia nut farm in Hawaii, get drunk and lose their minds.

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04.05.18 Tampa Bay Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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It’s often argued that one shouldn’t discuss religion or politics,

so I’d like to talk about both.

When I was in high school, I learned through friends in my Southern Baptist youth group that the deacons of my small-town, smaller-minded church were trying to pray my gay away. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work.

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04.05.18 Central Florida Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Jeremy Williams
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In many ways I’m just a big kid. Unless a collar shirt is forced upon me, you will almost always find me wearing a pair of baggy jeans and a t-shirt with some cartoon character or pop culture phrase on it.

If you ever have the chance to come by Watermark and sit in my office, you will be greeted by a shelf behind my desk that is littered with a Hillary Clinton action figure, a faux-Oscar, a Baby Groot doll, an Iron Man mask, Wonder Woman and Catwoman Funko Pop! toys and an array of knick knacks and trinkets—most of which were obtained from my monthly Loot Crate subscription or my occasional Happy Meal.

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Homo Erectus: The Evolution of Us – Hope (and Thoughts and Prayers) for Our Gun-Totin’ Future

By : STEVE YACOVELLI
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Steve Yacovelli

The Parkland shooting has yet again re-ignited the great American gun control debate. Both sides of the coin have brought out their best arguments for control/freedom. It’s sadly yet another repeat of the same ol’ “thoughts and prayers” responses we have heard time and time again: from Sandy Hook to Virgina Tech to Las Vegas to our own Pulse massacre. Yet this time something feels a bit different; it feels like a tipping point of sorts.

While there was ample focus after Pulse within our community and beyond to look at common sense gun control, sadly we were constantly met with that “thoughts and prayers” shenanigans from politicians on both sides of the aisle. Some – like Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan and Florida State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith – passionately reached out to lawmakers to change things. Groups like the Orlando chapter of Gays Against Guns and The Dru Project formed and shouted for gun reform. But nothing seemed to change. Some thought that, gee, if Washington wasn’t moved into action when kindergarteners were gunned down in their own classroom at Sandy Hook, maybe nothing could really turn the dial.

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Queerly Beloved: Let’s Not Forget, This Started with a Riot

By : Rev. Jakob Hero-Shaw
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As the Tampa Pride celebration approaches, I am readying my family and my congregation for the festivities. Like many other LGBTQ-affirming organizations in the Tampa Bay area, my church is currently collecting our materials for the booth, gathering up beads to throw and buying new matching t-shirts for our contingent to wear in the parade.

I am honored to be one of the grand marshals for Tampa Pride this year. As a clergy person, the significance of holding a public role in Pride is not lost on me. I know that for some, seeing a religious leader at Pride is validating and empowering, but I know that for others it can be triggering and upsetting. As a faith leader, all I can do is offer love and compassion to everyone I encounter, especially at Pride.

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