Jane Castor poised to become Tampa’s first openly LGBTQ mayor

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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As Tampa highlights its diversity with the fifth annual Tampa Pride March 30, Jane Castor—the celebration’s two-time grand marshal and arguably one of the city’s most stalwart servants—will continue her journey to become Tampa’s first openly LGBTQ mayor.

Castor, who will face retired banker and philanthropist David Straz in Tampa’s runoff election April 23, is familiar with firsts. Ahead of her 31 years of service with the Tampa Police Department, which she began as a beat cop patrolling the city in 1983, she was elected the first female president of a Tampa Police Academy class.

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Positive Living: A former Methodist laments — It’s Homophobia!

By : Greg Stemm
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As most people are aware, the United Methodist Church’s board of directors recently voted to uphold that body’s ban on performing gay marriages and ordaining gay pastors. For a church that once touted a slogan of “open hearts, open doors, open minds,” it seems to me that they have proven they espouse none of those things.

For a season of my life (mostly because it’s where my parents belonged) I was a card-carrying member of the United Methodist Church. In fact, my senior year of high school I was president of my Methodist Youth Fellowship. I was a closeted kid in a corn field in Ohio and just beginning my spiritual journey. I even went to a United Methodist liberal arts college, Otterbein University in a suburb of Columbus. Today I hardly recognize that earlier version of myself.

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Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County announces Pride Build

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County has announced its inaugural Pride Build, inviting members of the LGBTQ community and their allies to build a home in St. Petersburg.

Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County is a locally run affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, the global nonprofit housing organization that builds and sells homes to qualified buyers at zero percent interest and no profit.

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2019 WAVE Awards Spotlight: The Bow Wow Barber

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Tampa Bay’s Favorite Place to Pamper Your Pet

Like his four-legged clientele and the humans who “own” them, Bill Leuck sees walking into The Bow Wow Barber in St. Petersburg as a real treat.

“We’re extremely pet friendly,” the owner says of his grooming business. “We like to play with the dogs and they love coming here.”

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2019 WAVE Awards Spotlight: John Gascot

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Tampa Bay’s Favorite Local Artist

“Art should be for everyone,” St. Petersburg’s John Gascot says. “It shouldn’t only be for the educated or only for people with a lot of money.”

That’s why the artist’s work is accessible not only in its subject matter and aesthetic, but also its price point. “You can go into my studio and get a hand painted magnet for $5 or a painting for $3,000,” he explains.

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LGBTQ author alleges discrimination after Catholic school cancels appearance

By : Tiffany Razzano
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ST. PETERSBURG | Gale Massey, who released her novel “The Girl from Blind River” last summer, says that the Cathedral School of St. Jude in St. Petersburg canceled her scheduled appearance because she is a lesbian.

In January, a St. Jude student emailed Massey about her book for a project. “I was delighted,” she says. “When someone has read your book and reaches out, it’s wonderful.”

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MFA highlights Tiffany & Co. designer Jean Schlumberger’s masterworks, relationships in companion exhibits

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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“Some women want to look expensive,” French jewelry designer Jean Schlumberger said in 1956. “I would prefer to have them look precious.”

His clients did both. The former Tiffany & Co. vice president, who had his own design salon at the luxury retailer’s New York headquarters, was innovative and elegant. His whimsical and exotic pieces adorned the necks, wrists and lapels of 1960s and 70s style icons like Jacqueline Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Rachel “Bunny” Mellon—many of whom he and his life partner Lucien Bouchage grew to know personally.

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02.21.2019 Tampa Bay Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Just ahead of the year 2000, while my parents frantically fought over whether or not we owned enough bottled water and canned corn to survive the impending Y2K apocalypse, I had two main concerns as I entered my freshman year of high school.

The first was “X-Men,” an upcoming film starring Patrick Stewart from “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Ian McKellen from “Apt Pupil” and Hugh Jackman from … nothing, really. No one knew “Hugh” he was.

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Metro announces grand opening for state-of-the-art health and community center

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | Metro Wellness and Community Centers will welcome the public into its new, state-of-the-art health and community center during a grand opening celebration Feb. 9.

Metro currently offers personalized health and wellness services in St. Petersburg, Tampa, Clearwater and New Port Richey. The organization first began transforming its St. Petersburg location after purchasing the 47,000-square-foot building it called home in partnership with CAN Community Health in 2016. At the time, they utilized only 18,000 square feet of the campus.

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Watermark’s Wedding Bells: Mark & Ricky Celaya-Renaud

By : Aaron Drake
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“I proposed to Mark – we are both Eagle Scouts and have a shared affinity for the outdoors and nature, so I planned out a camping trip to the Florida Caverns State Park,” Ricky Celaya-Renaud shares. “We did a flashlight tour of the main caverns, and at the last possible chance before leaving the cave, I gathered my courage, got down on one knee and asked him to marry me.”

“Ricky decided to sign us up for a cave tour in the woods – I’m terrified of bats, by the way – where he decided to ask me to marry him at the very end,” Mark Celaya-Renaud adds. “At that point, I would’ve done anything to get out of that cave! Luckily, I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t already want to, so not only did I get to get out of the home of winged-monsters, but I came out of it engaged to the love of my life.”Ricky, a property manager and native of St. Petersburg, currently lives with his husband Mark, a senior analyst and transplant from Granada Hills, Calif., in Tampa.

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Jim Nixon: St. Petersburg LGBTQ Liaison, LGBTQ Welcome Center manager

By : Kevin King
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Jim Nixon is remarkable. He is known to the LGBTQ community through his many years of advocacy, his sales work with Watermark and his efforts to elevate Metro Wellness and Community Centers through strategic outreach and marketing. Thanks to Jim, the LGBTQ Welcome Center in St. Pete’s Grand Central District has been refreshed and refocused, serving as a safe and inviting place for both residents and visitors.

The broader Tampa Bay community, and especially our growing arts community, may know Jim through his work with Ruth Eckerd Hall or The Dali Museum. Today, we also know Jim as St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s LGBTQ Liaison, a vital role encouraged by the Human Rights Campaign. It speaks to Jim’s remarkability that he volunteered for the position long before our city coffers allowed us to fund it. As both a volunteer and an employee, he has excelled. Readers of Watermark likely know that Mayor Kriseman is a longtime champion for the LGBTQ community and has illustrated that in ways big and small.

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12.13.18 Tampa Bay Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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It occurred to me as I began to write this column that it would be my last in the year it began, 2018. It’s been a year I’ll never forget for a number of reasons, “chief” among them that I celebrated one year on Watermark’s staff Dec. 11.

My first column highlighted how writing full-time had always been my lifelong dream, something I’ve reiterated ad nauseam, but I’m still thankful that I get to do it and that I get to do it here. I’m very grateful for the family I’ve made at Watermark, for our readers and for our advertisers who make all of this possible. The stories of our ever-expanding LGBTQ community matter and have to be told.

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