07.26.18 Central Florida Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Jeremy Williams
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As we head into the final summer month of 2018, I have been thinking a lot about the summer season from two years ago. All eyes were turned to Orlando as we were trying to make sense of a senseless act that left 49 people dead at Pulse. It was also a time when one of my college professors, Ken Carpenter, was battling for his life after a cancer diagnoses earlier in the year.

Ken was the journalism professor at Valencia College, and as I enrolled in more and more journalism classes he became a person that I started to see every single day. He became more than just a teacher to me. He became a friend and mentor, and not just to me. I can’t think of a single student who walked through those glass doors at Valencia College’s West Campus, passing by the mannequin wearing a suit made entirely out of newspaper, into the newsroom, who didn’t feel a connection with Ken that surpassed the word teacher.

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07.26.18 Tampa Bay Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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There are moments in our lives that stick with us—defining who we were, who we are or who we want to be.

Among my list of essentials are a summer with my grandmother, probably my favorite person that I’ve ever known. The two of us would take turns telling one another stories we’d make up on the spot, finishing each other’s dangling plot threads well into the wee hours of the night. She also helped cement my role as a night owl.

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The Tender Activist: How gay is The Great American Read?

By : Scottie Campbell
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I recently bought someone a book as a present. I remembered them reading the genre of book, detective mystery, in the past. I had stumbled upon the book and found myself enjoying a genre I normally wouldn’t gravitate toward. I thought by gifting the book we would share something.

To my surprise, the recipient thanked me for the book then said they hadn’t read a book in a long time. There was tired weight given to the word long. What to me is a common habit was being expressed as nearly alien to them. Caught on the judgment barometer somewhere between a mindful well-that’s-okay and an arrogant what-the-fuck, I told them they didn’t need to feel obligated to read it. They said they would give it a try.

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07.12.18 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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I’m not a very religious person. Actually, I’m not religious in the traditional sense at all. Organized religion and I have not seen eye to eye for some time. That’s not a secret to those who know me well, but sometimes I find it harder to admit that to people than to say that I am a gay man.

In a previous article of mine, I described in detail a story of how I felt manipulated by “the church,” which was the beginning of the end for me. I then attended a very religious college, which to a young and outspoken liberal just seemed like a propaganda machine and torture device.

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Fit for Print: The warm familiarity of the rainbow flag

By : Steve Blanchard
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Recently, and for the first time in my life, I traveled to another country. My husband and I spent two weeks in Ireland, where we toured historic sites, drank plenty of Guinness and mingled with the locals in several of the country’s beautiful cities and towns. It was truly the trip of a lifetime and one I would do again in a heartbeat.

Ireland is a welcoming country and was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage by a popular vote back in 2015. Knowing that marriage equality was voted into place by the citizens of the country, I knew that we would be welcomed and respected as a couple. In fact, we didn’t see or hear any negativity toward the LGBTQ community during our travels.

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The Other Side of Life: Independence Day

By : Jason Leclerc
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As holidays go, Independence Day is my favorite of the secular American celebrations. Other holidays, equally important in their own ways, like Veterans Day and Memorial Day are patriotic derivatives: without a nation, we wouldn’t have the heroes to honor.

Without that Declaration on July 4, 1776, we wouldn’t have a nation. Situated perfectly in the middle of the year, bookending Yuletides, we as a people are reminded that, like long summer days, the sun doesn’t want to set on our celebration of independence. America is not merely a “City on a hill” but, as Ronald Reagan reminded us, “shining” so: a beacon of hope to the world.

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06.28.18 Central Florida Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Jeremy Williams
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Growing up there were a lot of things I wanted to do with my life. I remember my mom telling me stories about when I was a kid telling her I was going to be the President of the United States. Well that didn’t happen, and at this point I don’t think I would want that office.

I developed a passion for writing not long after that. When I was a young teen that passion for writing turned into a passion for journalism after I saw the movie “All The President’s Men” on HBO. If I couldn’t be President, maybe I could be one of the guys who brought one down.

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06.28.18 Tampa Bay Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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You can ask any of my friends or family, here at Watermark or otherwise, and they’ll tell you it’s no secret that I love drag.

I don’t do it myself, given my penchant for facial hair and the amount of foam it would take to give me a proper backside, but it’s something I’ve respected for most of my life. It’s a love and respect that began in 1996.

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Homo Erectus: The Evolution of Us – Hey Starbucks: Unconscious Bias Training Doesn’t Work!

By : STEVE YACOVELLI
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Earlier this year, two African-American men were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia—for reportedly doing nothing but waiting for a business colleague to arrive.

This incident—and how horribly it was handled—ignited demonstrations, shouts for boycotts and a whole heap of apologies from Kevin Johnson (Starbucks’ CEO) and other leaders within the coffee empire. In a video message, Johnson said, “What happened in the way that incident escalated, and the outcome, was nothing but reprehensible. I will fix this.”

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In bed with Rachel – Tops vs. Bottoms: Do Two-of-a-Kind Make for a Perfect Pair or a Natural Disaster?

By : Rachel Stevenson
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Is it just me, or does the conversation of “tops vs. bottoms” always come up when talking about gay or lesbian sex?

For clarification, a top is one who gives penetration or stimulation (dominant) and the bottom is one who receives (submissive).

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06.14.18 Central Florida Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Jeremy Williams
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As you are reading this it has been a few days since the two-year mark of the Pulse tragedy, but because of how deadlines and press days fall, I am writing this the day before the June 12 date.

June 12 carries a weird energy with me now. For those who don’t know, I share my birthday with the same day that a disturbed individual decided to take 49 lives at Pulse. Last year at the one-year mark, while attending memorials and vigils, I was receiving notifications of Happy Birthday and messages wishing me a fun and happy day all while grieving with my community and consoling friends.

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06.14.18 Tampa Bay Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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We live in an age where it can be easy to forget your pride. The White House certainly does. Even with orange prominently displayed in our flag, the current administration declined to issue a proclamation acknowledging LGBTQ Americans for the second year in a row.

The Pentagon followed suit, opting for the first time since the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to not formally acknowledge LGBTQ Pride Month. It was a bold reflection of the administration’s ever-looming transphobic military policies.

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