Watermark’s 2017 WAVE Awards – nomination round

By : Watermark Staff
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It’s that time of year again, time to do the WAVE!

Watermark Awards for Variety and Excellence, best known in these parts as the WAVE Awards, look to award the best in both the Central Florida and the Tampa Bay area LGBTQ community in the realms of activism, service, fun and more.

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Tampa Bay drag queen star Natasha Richards dies at 44

By : Chelsea Santiago
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Renowned Tampa Bay drag performer Natasha Richards, who lit up every stage she stepped on, died Dec. 2.

The Clearwater-based performer won dozens of titles in local and national drag pageants, including Miss National 2003 and Miss Gay USofA 1996.

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Tampa Bay’s Overheard: Streisand at Amalie and Equality Florida at UT

By : Anonymous
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Hello Gorgeous!

Most people at the age of 74 are kicked back in retirement, sipping on a cocktail and enjoying the warm weather of a tropical climate such as that in Florida, but most people aren’t Barbra Streisand. Babs has had a year that would exhaust a person in their twenties, but this Funny Girl has been globetrotting to promote her new album Encore and looking flawless along the way.

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ASAP, Francis House merger makes Empath Health largest HIV/AIDS services provider in Tampa Bay

By : Jeremy Williams
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ST PETERSBURG – Empath Health announced that AIDS Service Association of Pinellas (ASAP) and Hillsborough County’s Francis House will merge in order to expand the HIV/AIDS services available to the Tampa Bay region.

The two non-profits signed an initial memorandum of understanding and will operate under a newly-named member of Empath Health.

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Equal Time: Looking back, staring forward

By : Nadine Smith
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NadineCapWas the young man who fired a semi-automatic rifle into a crowd of more than 300 people at an Orlando gay bar an ISIS terrorist? Was he a closeted gay man lashing out explosively in the ultimate act of self-hatred? Was it both?

These were the questions I fielded from reporters in the days and weeks following the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.

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Overheard in Tampa Bay: Activism “reigns”

By : Jamie Hyman
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Poetry in motion
Poet Steven Reigns made quite the name for himself in the Tampa Bay area before heading to the west coast to expand his craft and activism. A product of the University of South Florida, Reigns was not only a well-known poet and artist, he was also a leading activist. He was the Literary Director for the GLBT Center of Tampa for two years, headed up an outreach program in Pinellas County offering up HIV testing and education for minorities in the inner city and was even named as “Someone to Watch” by the Advocate. Reigns didn’t slow down once he took up residence in Los Angeles as he is one of the nominees for West Hollywood’s Lesbian and Gay Advisory Board’s awards in recognizing those who have made a significant contribution to our community. Well done!

Raising the bar
If you didn’t make it to the 2016 Tampa Gala at the TPepin’s Hospitality Center, then you missed out on an amazing evening with 600 of your closest friends. I mean, they had artwork as a part of the silent auction that featured a painting of Ted Cruz almost as terrifying as the real thing and an array of penis portraits of varying shapes and sizes that would have sparked hours of conversation at any Republican debate. Aside from the art, guests heard from two of Tampa Bay’s most inspiring and motivating leaders: Voice for Equality award winner Ed Lally and EQFL’s Executive Director Nadine Smith. The best news, though, is that of the numbers EQFL’s Mark Puskarich announced that the Tampa Gala brought in $355,000, a gala record. Now that would buy a lot of penis portraits!

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Sordid Lives creator Del Shores wants the dating world to know that it is hard out there for a “minor gay celebrity” in his 50s

By : Jeremy Williams
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Few filmmakers write LGBT stories with equal parts humor and heart and even fewer are able to take that story to cult status, but one who seems to do it with ease is Del Shores, writer/director of the successful 2000 cult film Sordid Lives. Shores is heading to The Cuban Club in Ybor with his one man show, SINgularly SORDID, where he talks about politics, religion and returning to the dating world after getting divorced in his 50s. Tinder and Grindr and Scruff, oh my! Shores was gracious enough to speak with Watermark ahead of his Tampa Bay show about Oscar diversity, election coverage and a much talked about sequel in the Sordid franchise.

SINgularlySORDID is your one man show that you are bringing to Tampa. What can we expect to see from you?
I always consider myself a storyteller or a humorist: I observe, I sometimes steal from my own life and other people’s lives and talk about it on stage. This piece has become very personal, because I have gone through a divorce in my 50s and getting back into the dating scene has been crazy, so a lot of that is the SINgularly Sordid part of this. I just tell tales about Leslie Jordan and Dolly Parton and people I have had encounters with, good and bad. I love politics and controversy. My dad was a Southern Baptist preacher, so we’ll cover religion.

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You are invited: 2016 WAVE Award parties

By : Jamie Hyman
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Watermark is celebrating the 2016 WAVE Award winners with two great events, and YOU are invited!

Find out the details after the jump: 

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Key Florida races for LGBTs to watch in 2016

By : Jamie Hyman, Billy Manes and Jeremy Williams
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Yes, the presidential primary is imminent, but there are other down-ticket races we’ll be following through the August primary and the November general election. We talked to some people; we learned some things.

Read about our races to watch (and the candidates vying for those seats):

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Will Gulfport elect an openly gay mayor or a straight, gay-friendly mayor?

By : Greg Stemm
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In an election year fraught with unusual circumstances and candidates, one local Tampa Bay area election has put a difficult decision to the voters of Gulfport on whom to elect as their new mayor. One candidate, the incumbent, is a well-liked progressive straight mayor with undeniably strong support for LGBT issues and the challenger who is an openly gay woman and a respected business owner in the community.

According to the latest census about a third of the residents of this small Tampa Bay area city of about 12,500 residents identify themselves as LGBT. Gulfport has long prided itself in taking lead roles in the fight for LGBT rights and equality. It was the fourth and smallest city in the state to pass a Human Rights Ordinance, the first in Pinellas County to do so, and it is to date the most comprehensive in the state. It was the first city in Pinellas County to pass a domestic partner registry and it has taken strong official positions in support of marriage equality and ending workplace discrimination. The city’s library hosts the state’s only publically supported LGBT resource center. Many Gulfport residents take pride in being a role model to other communities on how gays and straights can work effectively and even joyfully together.

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Overheard in Tampa Bay: Tampa Pride’s celebrity

By : Anonymous
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Tampa Pride snags its celebrity
With about a month to go, details for Tampa Pride are starting to come in and get finalized. After last year’s huge success when 40,000+ attendees filled the streets in Ybor the pressure is on to try and be bigger and better. Tampa Pride held there Miss Tampa Pride pageant and selected their queen. The grand marshals have been plunked from the community – Fox 13 News morning anchor Russell Rhodes and CEO of Metro Wellness & Community Centers Lorraine Langlois – and now we have our celebrity grand marshal, photographer and designer Mike Ruiz. You might remember Ruiz from Logo’s reality series The A-List, or his appearances on Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, America’s Next Top Model and RuPaul’s Drag Race. Ruiz has also been recognized and praised for working to help LGBT homeless youth.

There be Mormons outside this theater
One of Broadway’s biggest hits, the Book of Mormon, paid a visit to the bay area and had a sold out run Feb. 16-21 at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater. If you were lucky enough to get a chance to see the show, you probably noticed something charming occurring right outside the theater. A group of well mannered, clean cut, real life Mormons! That’s right, the light hearted Latter Day Saints were parked outside saying “Hello!” to guests as they entered the show. Unlike many conservative, religious groups who would set up camp with picket signs and yell out ignorant chants, these young lads hung out Two by Two with a sign that read, “have your picture taken with the real thing.” They smiled, they shook hands and they talked with anyone about anything without pushing any agenda, only talking about the All-American Prophet and handing out the Bible Part 3, if you so wanted to. They even hung out after the show, asked theater goers if they had a good time and enjoyed themselves and never once condemned anyone to a Spooky Mormon Hell Dream. Well done boys.

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Should you marry? Watermark’s primer will answer many of your questions.

By : Tom Dyer
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Cliff and Dan fell in love three years ago. They were introduced by friends and had lots in common. Both were in their mid-50s and had previously been married to women; one was divorced, the other a widower. Both had supportive adult children. Both had successful careers and substantial assets, including separate homes. When they came to see me a few months before their wedding date, their playful banter was infectious. We laughed a lot.

Zoe and Kim also consulted with me before their nuptials. Zoe had a daughter, born during a previous relationship that ended badly. Kim was single and settled in a nice suburban home. A year after they met, Kim invited Zoe and her daughter to move in. The three of them were now a family, and their love and happiness were on full display at my office.

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