12.31.15 Editor’s Desk

By : Billy Manes
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Billy Manes

Billy Manes

“And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack. And you may find yourself in another part of the world. And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile. And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife. And you may ask yourself, “Well … How did I get here?” the Talking Heads once rattled over a thumping bassline. “Once in a Lifetime,” indeed.

2015 was certainly a big year for the LGBT community, seemingly allowing decency to coast atop the terrible notions of people like Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi into a panacea of hopefulness. In our coverage area, so much change happened: new leadership, new businesses, a new outlook, and, gasp, a new editor.

For me, though, 2015 was a year of immense growth. There’s no need to dredge up the old wounds of the old story of my life – all of these lines upon my face tell you the story of who I am – but there is a need for some gratitude delivered by paper and internet to this community. When I started this job on June 22, things had already improved in my life. I spent a month in the mountains of California crafting a memoir, Yesterday is Dead, which will likely never be published, and that’s fine, because I DID IT. I left my position as senior staff writer at Orlando Weekly after 18 years of contributing to that institution. I married my best friend Tony in the wake of both the Jan. 6 marriage decision and the evolution of my own grief on losing my previous partner of 11 years, Alan Jordan. I found peace.

Peace isn’t necessarily the twig that we’re finding in our current sociopolitical quilt, though, and that concerns me. With any luck, the conservative backlash against marriage equality will crawl right back up the leg from which it was delivered, we will move forward, we will be brave and strong. But hearing the news that six of the comers for the Republican title have already promised to roll back our rights in the first 100 days of their executive service should make all of us turn an ear, buck up and be loud.

This issue is an intentional statement to a community that continues to hold its backbone straight and its weaknesses at bay. When I first started at Watermark as the gay editor-in-chief this summer, I wasn’t certain of the transition, the activism, my ability to make a difference or my chance to get along with this incredible staff. I was accustomed to being the gay guy at the straight paper, the anomaly. But as the year progressed, I fell in love with my coworkers – you know them: Jake, Jeremy, Jamie, Rick, Sam, Danny, Deanndra, Kathleen, Rick, Rick and Rick, Tom and Ed – because love is what Watermark is all about.

As you read through our year in review, I hope that you’ll consider your year, too. Yes, we’ve all had bad times, but there’s something about 2015 that sparkles with of hope, at least for me. You can keep your Kim Davis, your Mat Staver, your John Stemberger and Pam Bondi all to yourself. This was the year that good trumped (cough) bad, and I, for one, couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome. The Tampa Bay area has expanded its resources widely for our LGBT brothers and sisters. The Orlando area is shifting like plates in an earthquake. We are going through changes, but we aren’t changing what’s at the core: love.

Next year, expect expanded political coverage in a presidential year, a broader swath of the pop-cultural gems you know and love, new fonts, faces and names; next year expect Watermark to be exactly what it has always been: your go-to guide to LGBT life all the way across Central Florida.

But for this year, I can only say thank you. Thank you for reading, thank you for being there for us, thank you (and you know who you are) for being there for me, and thank you for your continued support. We’ve cut through some crap, but there is oh so much more crap for the cutting. Let’s make 2016 even better. Let’s make it our (other) year.

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