Parents join the conversation at 2016 Orlando Youth Empowerment Summit

By : Adam Manno
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From Tumblr to transgender trends, the leaders, teachers and students who attended the third annual Orlando Youth Empowerment Summit tackled a wide range of topics of interest to modern LGBT youth.

Co-sponsored by the City of Orlando in partnership with GLSEN, the Orlando Youth Alliance, and Zebra Coalition, O-YES is a collaborative workshop and panel-based conference aimed at empowering Orlando’s LGBTQIA+ community through dialogue and discourse.

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After a yearlong delay, renovated GLBT Center set to open in February

By : Jamie Hyman
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Sometimes, a fire escape is a simple safety mechanism. But sometimes (or this time), it’s the final piece in the much-anticipated, long-delayed renovation of the GLBT Center of Central Florida’s headquarters, located on Mills Ave.

The fire escape isn’t solely to blame for setting the project back about a year longer than planned. “The building was built in 1941,” says Terry DeCarlo, executive director of The Center. “There have been no major upgrades or renovations until this came about. Code enforcement in 1941 was a lot different than [now], and we had to bring everything up to code.”

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Wedding Bells at Watermark: Manny Agon and Nick Kresky

By : Samantha Rosenthal
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WB_NickKresky_MannyAgonEmmanuel “Manny” Agon, who is an Expedia market manager, and Nicholas “Nick” Kresky, who is a team member at Universal Studios Parks and Resorts, first met through their shared love of music as members of the Orlando Gay Chorus at the first rehearsal for the 2010 “Rainbows over Broadway” Spring Concert.

“Our section leader in the Chorus, Sheri, we call her our ‘Sheri Godmother,’ kind of nudged Nick into my direction, knowing that I really liked him. We have a lot to thank Sheri for—for getting us together,” Manny says.

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Young with heart: Zebra Coalition’s Youth Council act as ambassadors for LGBT equality

By : Ciara Varone
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Orlando – The Zebra House has always been a safe space that takes in LGBT youth, but now the Zebra Coalition is reaching outward, into the community, with a Zebra Youth Council.

Nine young people, ages 17 to 24, have been serving on the council since this past summer. In addition to their role as ambassadors for the LGBT youth community, the council members are tasked with helping Zebra Coalition to better understand the young people it serves. The Coalition is a network of Central Florida social service providers, government agencies, schools, and colleges and universities that provide a full continuum of services to at-risk LGBT+ youth.

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The eyes have it: Photographer Jess T. Dugan’s remarkable portraits of masculinity in the LGBT community enlighten and inspire

By : Billy Manes
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There’s an almost jarring sense of intimacy as you wander through photographer Jess T. Dugan’s Every breath we drew exhibit sparsely occupying the center of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College. All the white spaces separate the moments. Faces, eyes especially, greet the viewer, and, without a word uttered, people in portraiture open themselves up to judgment and understanding. It’s a bit of “#nofilter” exuberance, though the filter is Dugan herself.

The exhibit, ostensibly about confronting notions of masculinity and how they play out in the LGBT community, is the brainchild of Dugan, who has been widely praised for her technique and ability at capturing moments and souls and all of the things that make art so evocative.

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10.8.15 Editor’s Desk

By : Billy Manes
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“Turn and face the strange,” a certain crazy-eyed pop-cultural god once warned us through the bedazzled bullhorn of a 1970s rainbow of weathered hope. “Ch-ch-changes” were at the root of David Bowie’s 1972 rhythmic cause for alarm and call to arms, a sort of anthemic response to a society teetering on various brinks, with only the scary monsters and super freaks holding on to any notion of prescribed normality. Everything – from war crises to social shifts to women’s rights to gay rights – was caught in the shuffle, and, these days, we’re better for it, right? Plate tectonics, changing fads, political upheaval and shifts in the weather have all resulted in who we are right now. And, in many ways, we are better for it. In some, we are far worse.

This week’s Watermark explores the changes we’re going through, both nuanced and on the real-estate surface, against the backdrop of Orlando’s Come Out With Pride celebration, of which we are always proud to be a part. While many, including those of us making journalistic noise at this publication, are urging caution in just how the LGBT community evolves from dissimilation to assimilation, how we negotiate our path into the grand old world of marriage and acceptance and infinite joy, we’re also aware of the shoulders upon which we’ve stood to get us here, even to get us in the conversation. You’ve heard this lecture before: Don’t forget from where you’ve come and never forget the history upon which you stand. You get it.

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The Zebra Coalition celebrates their first college graduate

By : Jeremy Williams
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Peter Ruiz was only 14-years-old when he had to start looking out for himself. He was living at home with his mother and siblings, and she had just moved them from New York City to Orlando. Ruiz’s mother also suffered from mental health issues.

“When we moved down here, my mother’s schizophrenia started to get worse,” Ruiz says. “From the time I was 14 until I was 16, she started to have episodes where she imagined I would physically abuse her, and she would call the cops and have me arrested.”

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Gender identity and expression added to Orlando’s anti-discrimination ordinance

By : Samantha Rosenthal
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Orlando – Changes to Chapter 57 the City of Orlando’s ordinance for protections against discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations—were unanimously adopted Aug. 11 to now include protections for the transgender community.

“Society in general has changed, in that people are much more inclusive and much more accepting of the LGBT community,” said Gina Duncan, transgender inclusion director of Equality Florida.”But secondly, which is what has really driven us, is that the transgender community has also stepped up and is visible, so that people see and are more aware of transgender people.”

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Transgender activists: ‘Time to step up for our own advocacy’

By : David Moran
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In the 1950s and 1960s, the United States saw a cultural shift in its approach to civil rights. African-Americans and their allies finally stood together and demanded change. The movement killed segregation, ignited debate about interracial marriage and helped pave the way for equality among races in the United States. Some argue that battle is still continuing.

In 1969, the Gay Rights movement took off after the Stonewall Riots. Forty-Five years later, same-sex couples can legally wed in 17 states (and counting) and more government agencies are granting domestic partnership benefits.

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‘POZ’ founder to address the criminalization of HIV

By : Greg Stemm
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Winter Park – For people with HIV, a contentious relationship, a personal misunderstanding or even a minor infraction of the law can lead to a long jail sentence, public shaming and registration as a sex offender. HIV-specific criminal charges have been filed in the United States more than 1,000 times.

About two thirds of U.S. states, territories and possessions have HIV-specific criminal statutes or STD criminal statutes that have been used to prosecute people with HIV. But people with HIV are potentially subject to prosecution for non-disclosure, potential exposure or transmission in every jurisdiction under general criminal statutes. 

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Interactive version of the Laramie Project will be first in history

By : Susan Clary
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STATE OF REHEARSAL: Peter Ruiz rehearses with Samantha Cooke in preparation for the first interactive version of The Laramie Project. Photo courtesy of Richard Gottfried.

STATE OF REHEARSAL: Peter Ruiz rehearses with Samantha Cooke in preparation for the first interactive version of The Laramie Project. Photo courtesy of Richard Gottfried.

Orlando – When Baggy Pants Artistic Director Steve Halpin called the Matthew Shepard Foundation to float the idea of an interactive version of The Laramie Project, he was surprised to hear he was the first person to ever suggest the idea.

Since 2000, the play about how the townspeople of Laramie, Wyo., felt after the 1998 torture and murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard has been performed thousands of times. An estimated 30 million people have seen it.

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Are you at the Tea Party (without knowing it)?

By : Tom Dyer
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TomDyerHeadshotWe’re now less than a year out from 2014 mid-term elections. Candidates are gearing up. Fundraising is at full steam. Like a Thanksgiving sale, Charlie Crist’s recent announcement that he will run for governor, this time as a Democrat, made the season official.

Crist’s race to unseat incumbent Republican Rick Scott, Skeletor, but with less charisma, will be fascinating and consequential. After all, Florida has a half million more Democrats than Republicans but hasn’t elected a Democrat as governor in twenty years.

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