Orange County Mayor names new LGBTQ+ Community Liaison

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | Chief of Staff to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, Roseann Harrington announced Marc Espeso as Special Assistant to Demings during the One Orlando Alliance quarterly meeting held on Aug. 14. Espeso will act as the LGBTQ+ Community Liaison for Demings.

Espeso, who is currently Orange County’s Digital Communications Editor, will expand his responsibilities to include the new position.

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Support builds as LGBTQ groups call on Orange County to ban conversion therapy

By : Jeremy Williams
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ABOVE: (L-R) Heather Wilkie, Andrew Chang and Eric Rollings are among the community leaders helping to ban conversion therapy in Orange County. (Photo by Jeremy Williams)

ORLANDO | A petition calling for the ban of so-called gay conversion therapy for minors in Orange County has been launched on the website Change.org.

The petition, which can be found at ConvertToLove.org, has the support of local, state and national LGBTQ organizations including Equality Florida, Orlando Youth Alliance (OYA), One Orlando Alliance, The Trevor Project and the Zebra Coalition.

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Petition launched in Central Florida demands Orange County ban conversion therapy

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | A petition calling for the ban of so-called gay conversion therapy for minors in Orange County, Florida has been launched on the website Change.org.

The petition, which can be found at ConvertToLove.org, has the support of local, state and national LGBTQ organizations including Equality Florida, The Trevor Project, Zebra Coalition, Orlando Youth Alliance (OYA) and One Orlando Alliance.

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Bliss CARES partners community leaders with professional dancers to raise money for transgender housing

By : Jeremy Williams
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Bliss CARES, a nonprofit healthcare organization in Central Florida, has created a new dance competition to help raise money for transgender emergency housing.

“Sweet Dreams: Dancing for TRANSitional Housing” will partner 11 amateur dancers, all LGBTQ community leaders in Central Florida, with professional dancers for a night of fast-paced, fancy footwork at the DoubleTree by Hilton in downtown Orlando on July 13.

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PHOTOS: One Orlando Alliance holds ‘Love and Kindness’ event, announces new Barnie’s coffee honoring Pulse victims

By : Jeremy Williams
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ORLANDO | One Orlando Alliance gathered people at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Orlando for “Love and Kindness on the Lawn” on June 9.

The event was to honor the spirit of #OrlandoUnited!, and featured food trucks, games and dancing as well as performances by Jasmin Rhia, Melissa Crispo, the Orlando Gay Chorus and Pulse survivors Joshua Lewis and Vico Baez Febo.

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RED Shirt Pride Day looks to continue Orlando’s traditional Gay Day at the Magic Kingdom

By : Jeremy Williams
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In June 1991, a group of LGBTQ Central Floridians—led by openly gay Orlando resident Doug Swallow—decided to meet at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom to say to “The Most Magical Place On Earth” that “We’re here, we’re queer and we’d like to see Cinderella’s Castle!”

“[Doug said] ‘let’s go be somewhere where we can be ourselves and let people see that we’re normal people, but let them know that we are gay … we’ll do something like wear a red shirt so we can know who each other are.’ That was totally Doug’s idea, to make that day what it is,” said Michael Wanzie, a Central Florida entertainer who was at the very first event, in an interview with Watermark in 2018.

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One Orlando Alliance to host community discussion on LGBTQ homelessness

By : Abigail Brashear
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ORLANDO | The One Orlando Alliance is hosting a Central Florida-based discussion on the topic of LGBTQ youth homelessness at the Holden Heights Community Center in Orlando on April 11.

The discussion panel will consist of representatives from Alliance member organizations Bliss Cares, Equality Florida and Zebra Coalition; and will be moderated by Homeless Services Network of Central Florida Deputy Director Brian Postlewait.

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We look back on 2018, a midterm year for a country that’s just living on a prayer

By : Jeremy Williams and Ryan Williams-Jent
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It’s been two years since we, as a country, entered into the reality that is the Trump Administration. The country feels more divided than ever and the phrases “fake news” and “it’s all a witch hunt” are commonplace.

The violence that seems to define who Americans are these days is also there, particularly in Florida, where there has been no justice for the five transgender women of color who were murdered and yet another mass shooting—this time at a high school in Parkland, Fla.—pulled the focus of the world to our state.

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12.27.18 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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It’s hard to believe the end of the year is here. It’s cliche to say, but when you live your life in two week cycles across two metropolitan areas—time flies. 2018 zoomed by in the blink of an eye.

Watermark did well in 2018. We saw an increase in sales, so thank you to the businesses and organizations that support us and help us to continue bringing the latest in LGBTQ news to our readers—and congratulations to Senior Account Manager Sam Callahan who had a stellar year. We also saw an increase in distributions sites and are now available at over 600 locations in Central Florida, Tampa Bay and surrounding areas.

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Jennifer Foster: One Orlando Alliance Executive Director

By : Justine Thompson Cowan
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Justine Thompson Cowan

When asked to write about Jennifer Foster, I knew it would be easy enough to list her accomplishments.

A natural leader, she always has her hands in something transformative. She co-founded the Human Rights Campaign community in Central Florida, served on the statewide board of the Florida Red and Blue Campaign and co-founded One Orlando Alliance.

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12.13.2018 Central Florida Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Jeremy Williams
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It’s here! That magical time of the year, kiddos—where the holidays are upon us and most people have a little more pep in their step and cheer in their voice.

It’s also that time of year when everyone is doing up lists. Santa has a list of nice and naughty children. Entertainment critics have lists of the year’s best films, shows and songs. Everyone has their list of all the personal changes they hope to make stick in 2019, me included. May the odds be ever in our favor.

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The fifth annual Orlando Youth Empowerment Summit unites LGBTQ youth

By : Melanie Ararat
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ABOVE: City of Orlando’s Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Senior Specialist Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez gives a speech at the Orlando Youth Summit at Valencia College – West Campus. Photo by Melanie Ararat

ORLANDO | LGBTQ youth, organizations and allies were able to network, engage in interactive workshops and listen to community leaders for the fifth annual Orlando Youth Empowerment Summit (OYES) at Valencia College – West Campus on Nov. 3. A special appearance was made by Orange County Mayor and School Board Chair-Elect Teresa Jacobs.

“It’s important for our youth, our educators and our professionals to all come together and talk about the best ways to help our youth as they discover who they are and how they can make sure that they can live their authentic selves in our community,” Jacobs says.

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