Change scares a lot of people. You get so comfortable with the way things are—whether they are ideal for you or not—and you figure why change it up? What if you make things worse? What if the payout isn’t what you thought it would be in the end?
I have always been a fan of change. I’ve rarely lived in the same place more than a few years, opting to pack up and change homes, roommates and, in some cases, entire states for a change of scenery. It’s why I always fit well in the military lifestyle, a lifestyle I would most likely still be a part of if not for that pesky “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” thing. No, I wasn’t discharged because I was gay but the hardship of hiding who I was and having to come up with inventive, new ways to explain to my commander why my “roommate” accompanied me to all work functions, family gatherings and annual vacations was more work than I wanted to put into a lie.
Watermark is about to go through some big changes. If you don’t already know, our art director of more than 12 years, Jake Stevens, is moving on to be the lead designer for the Tampa Bay Business Journal and this is the final issue he is designing. Jake came on board at Watermark long before I started here but I have heard the tales of his impact and understand that the look and design of Watermark, its website and branding is all thanks to Jake’s artistic talent. His will be huge shoes to fill and witnessing firsthand his abilities and humor in the office on a daily basis will be missed.
While losing all that sounds terrifying, there is also an excitement in the idea of not knowing what is next. When I became a member of Watermark’s editorial department in 2015, I had a team of seasoned veterans who knew their shit. Along with designer extraordinaire Jake, I had the brilliant journalistic mind of Jamie Hyman to guide me through writing, both in print and digitally. We also had the excellent leadership of Steve Blanchard, our editor-in-chief. I leaned heavily on all three when I got here, never having to worry that if I screwed something up I wouldn’t have this talented team to fix it.
One-by-one they moved on, but not before letting me know as they left that I shouldn’t worry because I’ve got this. Since my first day, Watermark has had amazingly talented people come and go and each one of them have helped me through fantastic highs and crushing lows in our community and I am just as proud and confident in the team we have now as I was of the team when I first started.
Jake, I wish you all the luck in the world. Thank you for your years of dedication to this publication that I know we both love so much and thank you for the (sometimes long) days and nights creating a newspaper I couldn’t be prouder of. The Tampa Bay Business Journal is lucky to have your talent, and don’t worry about this amazing product you helped to build and grow. We got this.
Speaking of change, our in-depth feature this issue is all about the changes coming to Orlando’s Big Gay Weekend. When GayDayS announced last year that it was moving its events to mid-August, the question of what would happen to the first weekend of June entered everyone’s mind. What happened was the creation of a new name for the weekend, Red Shirt Pride Days, and the creation of the KindRED Pride Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the history of the first weekend in June. In this issue, we talk to some of the key players involved and get the full scoop on what you can expect at this year’s events.
In arts and entertainment, Orlando artist Nick Smith has a creative way of expressing his love for his favorite books, sheet music and comics, and will be bringing his latest artistic work to an exhibit at Southern Craft. Also, Tampa Bay’s Rob Sanders, the author behind the children’s book “Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag,” debuts his new picture book, “Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution.”
In Central Florida news, the Zebra Coalition is hosting its first ever LGBTQ youth prom during Pride month and four local transgender leaders announced their new web series “Unapologetically Trans,” premiering this fall.
In Tampa Bay news, the Gulfport Library is being nationally recognized as one of 10 libraries to receive the National Medal for Museum and Library Service and Jane Castor is sworn in as Tampa’s first openly gay mayor.
By the time I write my next column we will already be into June and on the other side of Red Shirt Pride Days, so be safe, have fun and Happy Pride Month y’all!