I moved back to Orlando in 2008. It was my first time living in Central Florida as an adult. I was born in Colorado and, as a kid, the family moved to Florida where we lived up and down I-4—settling in Orlando then St. Petersburg and eventually Plant City where I attended high school. Sometime after graduation, life led the family to southern Georgia and from there I joined the Air Force and traveled all over the world.
I tell you that quick trek through my past because in my 40 years I have lived in many places, but no place has ever felt more like home to me than living in Orlando right now, and a good part of that feeling is due to Watermark.
When I moved back nearly 11 years ago, it felt a bit overwhelming. I was living in a small country town in Georgia and prior to that I was serving in the military under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy with George W. Bush at the helm as my commander-in-chief. This was the first time in my life that I was going to be able to spread my wings and be as gay as I wanted to be.
My first night in a new town, I met a guy on MySpace. Yes, MySpace. It was still cool back in 2008. We went out for a drink to his favorite gay bar in town, Savoy, and as we sat down there was a newspaper sitting on the edge of the bar. It was the latest issue of Watermark.
I asked the guy what Watermark was and he told me “a gay magazine in Orlando.” As he chatted with friends and tried to make small talk, I kept thumbing through it. Where I was from we didn’t have publications dedicated to news and information for the LGBTQ community.
As I read it in the dim lights of Savoy, the guy looked over at me, laughed and said “Do you want to drink or do you want to read?” My response to him was “This thing is amazing. I’m gonna work for them someday.”
A year later I was enrolled at Valencia College, determined to rekindle the journalism flame I had in high school. My first day in the Valencia newsroom, there was a variety of newspapers brought in for the students to read. Local papers and national ones but I didn’t see Watermark, so I started bringing it in.
Watermark became part of the fiber of the Valencia newsroom and people started talking more about local LGBTQ issues. What happened in that newsroom is what has happened in Central Florida and Tampa Bay for 25 years now. The stories in the pages of Watermark that make up this community not only serve to inform that community but also open the hearts and minds of those who may not have given the LGBTQ people another thought.
I am so proud to be a part of this Watermark family and to help continue the tradition of telling my community’s stories.
Congratulations to the entire staff of Watermark, both current and past, for the hard work and dedication over the past quarter century in bringing the community’s stories to the world.