As you work toward a healthier and happier you in 2019, we look at some LGBTQ-specific healthcare concerns you should bring up with your doctor

By : Jeremy Williams
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Members within the LGBTQ community are as diverse as the total population. They cover the entire spectrum of race, sex, gender, age, religion and socioeconomic status; so many of the recommended health screenings and medical evaluations for LGBTQ people are the same as the heterosexual and cisgender communities. However, there are certain health concerns that carry higher risk factors for members of the LGBTQ community.

Because of that, we spoke with LGBTQ-friendly doctors in Central Florida and Tampa Bay about specific community healthcare issues to help you begin the conversation with your primary care physician and get 2019 started off right.

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01.23.19 Tampa Bay Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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To celebrate the 25th year of Watermark and my first column of 2019, I want to share an exclusive with readers. It’s something that you’ve likely never read anywhere else, so feel free to take a moment and mentally prepare because this is big.

Smoking is bad for you.

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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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Metro Wellness and Community Centers relaunches LGBTQ Welcome Center

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | Community leaders and advocates gathered at Metro Wellness and Community Centers’ LGBTQ Welcome Center to officially relaunch the organization’s LGBTQ safe haven Oct. 6.

The welcome center, a renovated home located in the Grand Central District, has served Tampa Bay’s LGBTQ community since its opening in 2014. Through its weekly programming, the majority of which Metro Wellness provides at no cost, it offers a gathering space for LGBTQ community members of all ages.

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Metro Wellness, CAN Community Health open Clearwater Health Center

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: Rose Addison, Vilma M. Vega, Priya Rajkumar and Caroline White-Smith open Metro and CAN’s Clearwater location Aug. 30. Photo by Ryan Williams-Jent.

Metro Wellness & Community Centers and CAN Community Health leadership gathered Aug. 30 to introduce the community to their Clearwater Health Center and its team.

“I’m the Medical Director at this office and I’m really blessed to be here and to be able to provide care,” Dr. Vilma M. Vega shared at the opening. “I am blessed to see this. We’re here for all patients, whether insured or not insured; they are all treated exactly the same.”

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City of Tampa hosts LGBTQ youth forum

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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TAMPA | Community advocates will gather for an interactive and educational forum Sept. 12 at the Barksdale Adult Activity Center to spotlight the unique challenges faced by LGBTQ youth.

The forum is hosted by Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s Youth Leadership Council, a city program which allows local teenagers to develop leadership skills and apply them through service projects and workshops. To participate in the council, students must apply and have successfully completed one year in the Mayor’s Youth Corps. The latter program empowers youth to make community service a life-long commitment.

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Tampa Bay’s Overheard: Marshall Madness

By : anonymous
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ABOVE: Cheryl Hawkes and SuZie have been named Community Grand Marshals for St. Pete Pride. Image from Cheryl Hawkes Facebook.

St. Pete Pride has announced the Grand Marshals for this year’s St. Pete Pride Parade following open nominations and an online community vote.

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Metro Wellness, GLSEN hosts annual LGBTQ+ Youth Leadership and Empowerment Summit

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Tampa | Metro Wellness and Community Centers is partnering with the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) of Tampa Bay to hold its annual LGBTQ+ Youth Leadership and Empowerment Summit on Feb. 17.

“It is 2018, and our local and national leaders are looking to youth to rise up and create positive change!” Metro’s press release on the event reads. “The objective of the LGBTQ+ Youth Summit is to provide information on health, education and empowerment so that every attendee walks away knowing that they belong and have an important voice in the community.”

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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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Tampa Bay’s Overheard: Beckner’s next move and Pride Nights for all

By : Anonymous
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Private Beckner reporting for duty

Many have been curious as to the next move of former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner since he termed out of his seat last year. Hillsborough’s first openly gay commissioner ran unsuccessfully to be the next Clerk of Courts and since then has remained silent on whether he would pursue another run at an elected position or head back into the private sector.

Well, wonder no more. Beckner posted to his Facebook page April 20 that he has not one but two positions he will be filling: Executive Director of Hillsborough County’s Civil Service Agency and a position with human resource advisory and talent acquisition firm HR Trust.

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World AIDS Day reminds of what was and what can never be again

By : Billy Manes
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Thom Bland, 54, sits across the table from me at a downtown eatery. His signature shovel beard and glasses speak very much to the currency of fashion – we’re all dialing our time machines backward these days – but his cadence is certainly rooted in the trauma that brought him here. There are tears.

“I knew Patient Zero,” he only half-jokes. Bland is HIV-positive and, though his numbers may read “undetectable,” he’s fallen into the gray area – even the blackest of holes – that has picked off his friends and much of his history indiscriminately. He once woke up from anesthesia while having his lungs scrubbed for Kaposi Sarcoma. He has seen the worst. Bland was diagnosed in 1991.

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Transgender and Proud: Metro Wellness’ trans community looks to celebrate and educate

By : Jeremy Williams
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St. Petersburg – Metro Health, Wellness & Community Centers in St. Petersburg will again play host to Trans Pride, now in its third year, Nov. 5. The event originated not as a Pride celebration but as a way to honor a hero in the community.

“At that time in 2014, Dr. [Kathleen] Farrell was retiring from her psychology practice and we knew she wouldn’t let us give her a retirement party, but if we had a group event, we could celebrate the community and honor her there as well,” says Tristan Byrnes, a Tampa Bay area mental health counselor.

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