PFLAG Tampa paves the way for love in Ybor

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
Comments: 0

Watermark’s Most Remarkable People John and Nancy Desmond – community activists known for their work with Tampa Pride, PFLAG and more – have long shared their support for the LGBTQ community throughout Tampa Bay.

On most weekends, the duo can be seen on 7th Ave. in Ybor City proclaiming that support and love, pro-LGBTQ signs in hand across from religious protesters. Now, even if they can’t make it, the protesters will be greeted from below with a paver reading “I love my gay son, PFLAG.”

Continue Reading >>

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

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
Comments: 0

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.

Continue Reading >>

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

By : Aaron Drake
Comments: 0

“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.

Continue Reading >>

EPIC seeks to raise awareness, rehome couture creations

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
Comments: 0

TAMPA | Empath Partners in Care (EPIC) is seeking a permanent home for a collection of five dresses made from condoms and other materials to raise awareness about the nonprofit’s work with HIV and AIDS throughout Tampa Bay.

The creations were featured at Balance Tampa Bay’s fourth annual masquerade ball Aug. 4, which raised $16,000 for EPIC. Conceptualized by artist and event chair Ryan Young, each design represents emotions an individual receiving HIV or AIDS care might feel while working with the organization.

Continue Reading >>

Two inspiring individuals prove leaving the corporate world can really pay off

By : Holly Kapherr Alejos
Comments: 0

When I called Victor Bokas for an interview, he was in the middle of working on a five-foot-square commissioned painting for an art collector in Spain. “I could have never done this had I stayed in the corporate world,” he said to me with an incredulous half-laugh. Since being let go from his position as a senior graphic designer at Tupperware Brands in 2015, he has devoted his full energy to his craft, and it’s made all the difference.

Mandy Keyes, owner of Community Cafe in the Grand Central District of St. Petersburg, also left her corporate position as an interior designer to open a storefront on Central Avenue, the area’s main thoroughfare. When I walked into the cafe for our interview, she was in the thick of taking orders, clearing tables, fielding questions – all the things you’d expect from a small-business owner – popping up at intervals during our conversation to tend to her customers. At 10:30 a.m. on a Saturday, the place was packed. It’s working.

Continue Reading >>

The 2018 Amendment Guide

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
Comments: 0

This year’s ballot lists 12 potential amendments to the Florida Constitution. Only two of those were proposed by Florida’s citizens, including Amendment 4. It is the only amendment Equality Florida has taken a stance on, advising that the eligibility to vote is fundamental to democracy and that voting yes “is the first step in helping LGBTQ people with former convictions.”

For more information about 2018’s proposed amendments, read on below.

Continue Reading >>

2018 Midterm election LGBTQ Voters’ Guide

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
Comments: 0

Electing ally candidates is critical. That’s why Watermark reached out to 154 men and women running for political office across Central Florida and Tampa Bay to ask five questions focusing on LGBTQ equality.

You’ll find the abbreviated answers of 33 respondents below: 24 Democrats, one Republican, one Libertarian and seven without a party affiliation. While the first question was open-ended, the subsequent four were yes or no and some candidates opted to elaborate.

To read Watermark’s full coverage about the equality-focused organizations, candidates and voters hoping to turn the tide Nov. 6, click here.

Continue Reading >>

Who was Most Remarkable in 2018?

By : Watermark Staff
Comments: 4

Toward the end of each year, Watermark highlights local, unsung heroes who have gone above and beyond to show with action just how remarkable they are.

We want our readers to help decide who deserves recognition for their inspiration, contribution or achievement in the 2018 calendar year. In honor of the year, we are looking for the 18 — 9 from Central Florida and 9 from Tampa Bay — Most Remarkable People of 2018.

Continue Reading >>

HRC gives a perfect score to Orlando, Tampa, St. Petersburg in annual ratings

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
Comments: 0

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) announced Oct. 8 that Orlando, St. Petersburg and Tampa each received a perfect score of 100 in the organization’s seventh annual Municipal Equality Index (MEI).

The report examines how inclusive municipal laws, policies and services are for LGBTQ people who live and work in each city rated by the organization. The score is based on non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and the city leadership’s public position on equality.

Continue Reading >>

The Last Page with Nathan Bruemmer

By : Rick Claggett
Comments: 0

Share this story:

What kind of writing do you do for Watermark?

Right now I’m focusing on issues for LGBTQ+ youth, detailing their perspectives and the issues they face.

Continue Reading >>

GLSEN Tampa Bay announces third annual fundraiser

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
Comments: 0

Education network GLSEN Tampa Bay has announced that “Breaking the Silence,” its third annual fundraiser for Tampa Bay youth, will be held at Jackson’s Bistro in Downtown Tampa Sept. 29.

“GLSEN Tampa Bay’s mission is to create safe and affirming schools in Hillsborough County as every student, in every school, should be valued and treated with respect,” the organization’s announcement reads. “GLSEN believes that all students deserve a safe and affirming school environment where they can learn and grow.”

Continue Reading >>

Mama Bearings: Why I am here

By : Sylvie Griffiths
Comments: 0

Share this story:

“Why are you guys even here?” This was the very direct and rude question my husband was asked in March during this year’s Tampa Pride. We were sitting at a crowded table shared with friends, old and new, at Hamburger Mary’s Ybor. Our eight-year-old son Jake was with us.

My husband, being the kind and patient human being he is, answered in great detail. He explained to his interrogator that we were attending Tampa Pride in support of our youngest child, who identifies as transgender. Jake was even on a float and gave out beads in the parade. It was an important and magical day for us as parents seeing our little dude being himself. Celebrating diversity is one of my fondest memories with Jake so far.

Continue Reading >>