It’s hard to believe the end of the year is here. It’s cliche to say, but when you live your life in two week cycles across two metropolitan areas—time flies. 2018 zoomed by in the blink of an eye.

Watermark did well in 2018. We saw an increase in sales, so thank you to the businesses and organizations that support us and help us to continue bringing the latest in LGBTQ news to our readers—and congratulations to Senior Account Manager Sam Callahan who had a stellar year. We also saw an increase in distributions sites and are now available at over 600 locations in Central Florida, Tampa Bay and surrounding areas.

This year brought about a new product for Watermark, our Sarasota Living with Pride magazine. This was the first in a series of lifestyle and destination magazines produced by the LGBTQ community for the LGBTQ community.

Perhaps the biggest advancement for Watermark in 2018 was the opening of our St. Petersburg office in the Grand Central District. It’s not the first time Watermark has had a Tampa Bay office, but it is the first to host a staff of five employees. The excitement of our growth is palpable.

Our staff also had an active year on a personal level. Business Manager Kathleen Sadler tied the knot. Art Director Jake Stevens was able to spend an extended amount of time with his New Hampshire family. He is so good at what he does; you may not have noticed he was abroad. Bureau Chief’s Ryan Williams-Jent and Jeremy Williams began journeys to healthier lives—let’s wish them luck and encourage their success! I became a bi-city resident of both Orlando and St. Pete, found someone to help me believe in love again and added the cutest puggle ever, Amber Atkins, to my family.

2018 was not all good news. What year ever is? We continue to see atrocities committed against our transgender community with a high number of unsolved murders here in our home state. Biased rhetoric and lies seem to trickle down from the highest levels of national leadership encouraging extreme polarization and outright hatred.

Although for the first time since 2016, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We have incredible local leadership headed to Tallahassee to represent all of us. We have great local community leaders like Jennifer Foster, Jim Nixon, Nadine Smith and George Wallace who are working hard to elevate our community to thrive. Good people are doing good work to make 2019 our best year yet.

As much as I would like to, I can’t predict the future. I can’t say for certain 2019 will be successful, but here are some things I would like to see happen.

First, let’s actually drain the swamp. It’s time to expose the truth and remove bad leadership from office, whether it’s as local as the organization next door or the Commander in Chief. We deserve great leadership and we should always fight to have it on every level. In order to do this we have to value truth again. So, let’s start there.

I’d like to see an end to the all or nothing culture. Republican, Democrat, conservative, liberal and compromise are not bad words. We should stop pretending they are. I understand it’s tough if someone does not believe in the concept of basic human rights and equality, but I think that’s a great place to start the conversation. On the same token, can we stop calling people stupid and idiots for their opinions on things that are completely subjective?

I’d like to see 2019 bring about real change to the alphabet soup of LGBTQ/LGBT+/LGBTQIIA+, etc. The pitfall of being inclusive is that you have to include everyone and including everyone individually will get problematic. I have no idea what one word would sum us up, but one word that is all inclusive is necessary. I would still be a gay man, but part of the “Insert Word Here” community. My roommate could say she is an ally and a member of said community. Let’s start that conversation.

I want to see the first weekend in June become the biggest LGBTQ community inclusive event in the world. You created this event, Central Florida. It’s time to make it about the community and shine. Invite the world to join you!

Finally—and this is to the Academy—can we make sure Lady Gaga wins Best Actress for her role in “A Star Is Born?” Thank you!

This is Watermark’s annual Year in Review Issue. We recap local and national news with the headlines that defined us in 2018.

We strive to bring you a variety of stories, your stories. I hope you enjoy this latest issue.

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