I’m not certain who is or who isn’t aware of my past journalistic ridiculousness in Central Florida, because the wind blows and the rain falls and we all have our own lives to pin ourselves to. I am aware, however, that if you are reading this, we have a common purpose: love.
In this issue you will find references and photos that swirl around what was a fantastic St. Pete Pride celebration. You’ll also find voices echoing around the politics and the “next scene” that we’ll all be witnessing in the coming months and years. These are figurative flags we’ll likely drape ourselves in for eternity.But for now, we’re exhaling and grabbing a much-deserved drink (not really drinking, though, because it’s daytime). We are smiling because we know that we are right. We are caring because we always have. There are rainbows, because part of the storm is over.
My name is Billy Manes, and I am here to recruit you. No, I’m not trying to steal a phrase from Harvey Milk, but yes, I do stand in the shadow of an icon named Harvey Milk (we share a birthday, statistics fans). We all do. Whether you are familiar with LGBT legacies or histories or fights or fires doesn’t necessarily matter right now, because the rainbows are blinding and our minds are alight. The Supreme Court ruling from June 26 changed the playing field, and now all states within our union are obliged to recognize our lives and our loves, bigots be damned.
This is where I come in. This is the beginning of a new Watermark, a new era, a new life. Please pardon the dust. We are moving forward.
In “Sympathy for the Devil” fashion (hoo-hoo), please allow me to introduce myself. I moved to Orlando in 1997 after editing an alternative weekly called Break in Tallahassee. For the last 18 years I have been employed by Orlando Weekly in one fashion or another. At first, I trolled the entertainment landscape for a Peggy Fleming or a Carrot Top, but that promotional vacuum grew old. Then I followed crackheads and swingers for a column. That, too, was exhausting.
In 2005, I ran for mayor of Orlando in an interim race that was never really going to happen. What did happen, however, was that my head went fully into the sand of municipal governance, ostrich-style. But that’s not why I’m here. The reasons that I’m at the helm of Watermark Media as editor, the reasons that I’m alive right now, are laughter and justice. Smarter minds than mine have told me through the years that my particular spoons full of sugar have helped the medicine go down.
And I’ve had my share of medicine. In 2012, I went through an incredible terror that involved the death of my partner and the thieving family moments that come thereafter (probate is fun!). In 2015, I married my best friend, Tony. I’ve seen both sides of these LGBT rights, and I intend to hold those rights as high as possible. If there is ever any egregious issue that is a concern to you, I encourage you to reach out to me, or to your community, or to the law. Advocacy is important to me. Advocacy is still important.
“I have tasted freedom,” Milk once said. “I will not give up that which I have tasted.”
And I, the honored editor-in-chief of one of Florida’s most respected LGBTQ media outlets, won’t give up, either. We saw balloons and tickertape, beads and kisses, a White House colored in rainbows, a history changed. That was just last week. Let’s see workplace and residential rules evolve. Let’s make equality happen all the way. Let’s make this moment matter more than any moment in our lives.
Thank you for having me. Thank you for hearing me. Thank you for reading us. The fight continues along with the smiles and rainbows.