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

By : Holly Kapherr Alejos
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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.

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The 2018 Amendment Guide

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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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.

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2018 Midterm election LGBTQ Voters’ Guide

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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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.

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Who was Most Remarkable in 2018?

By : Watermark Staff
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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.

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

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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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.

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The Last Page with Nathan Bruemmer

By : Rick Claggett
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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.

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GLSEN Tampa Bay announces third annual fundraiser

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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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.”

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Mama Bearings: Why I am here

By : Sylvie Griffiths
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“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.

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Tampa’s All Hallows’ Masquerade Ball spooks with 42nd annual theme

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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The haunting not-for-profit All Hallows’ Masquerade Ball, billed as one of Tampa’s longest-standing traditions, has revealed the theme for its 42nd annual gathering. Guests will kick off Halloween Oct. 27 with “Scary Movie Night.”

“Cinematic themes of terror and fright / Cast yourself as that bump in the night,” the freshly-mailed invitations read. “Roles to consider, an excess for audition / Classic or current, witch, ghost or mortician. / Go campy or grotesque, any scene in between / It’s SCARY MOVIE NIGHT, the prequel to Halloween!”

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USF announces second annual Pride Night

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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University of South Florida (USF) football will hold the second annual USF Pride Night Sept. 1.

The Bulls will face competitor Elon at Raymond James Stadium at 6 p.m. for the outing, with Pride Night seats on the 50 yard line. “It’s critically important right now, especially in the political arena that we’re in, that we do all we can to support all of our communities,” Director of Internal Operations for the Bulls Club Todd St. John-Fulton says. “I feel like our community is coming under attack constantly, so it’s incredibly important to raise visibility.”

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Come OUT St. Pete’s second year to feature daytime Grand Central parade

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Come OUT St. Pete’s inaugural parade, the first daytime pride parade in St. Petersburg’s Grand Central District since 2013, will include a city block-length rainbow flag.

ST. PETERSBURG | Come OUT St. Pete (COSP) announced its second year will include a daytime LGBTQ parade in the city’s Grand Central District Oct. 6.

COSP, which began last year as a committee of the Grand Central District Association, has now applied for its own 501(c)(3) designation and exists as its own Florida nonprofit corporation. Its mission is to inspire those in the LGBTQ community to live genuinely, raise awareness of LGBTQ issues and encourage public support from community allies.

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Out singer/songwriter Calum Scott talks his new album, Tinder and first U.S. tour

By : Aaron Drake
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You might know him by his heartbreaking version of “Dancing on My Own,” but “Britain’s Got Talent” golden boy Calum Scott has much more up his sleeve.

The out singer and songwriter just released his debut album “Only Human” on Capitol Records, and he’s wasting no time in getting it out on tour. It’s his first major tour through the U.S., and many of his LGBTQ fans are eager to see him live. He will be performing with well-known a capella group Pentatonix at his upcoming show in Tampa at the MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheater Aug. 9.

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