02.20.2020 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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I’m not a SWIFTIE. That’s to say I’m not a fan of Taylor Swift’s music. In fact, I had to ask Google what her fans are called because I know so little about her. No offense to her or to her fans, it’s just not my bag and simply subjective. Also, consider the source: my favorite music is Air Supply.

Having said all of that, I can’t keep Taylor Swift out of my mind lately. “You need to calm down” has become the voice inside my head. This usually happens while I’m driving, and I drive a lot. I’ll be heading down I-4 at a nice 79 mph pace when a car driving at least 100 mph swerves around me. Suddenly I find myself snapping my fingers and singing, “You need to calm down! You’re driving too loud!” Sometimes Swift’s lyrics come to mind when my dog is yelling at me or when I’m overwhelmed with work vs. volunteering, but mostly I think “You need to calm down!” when I’m on Facebook reading political opinions.

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Mama Bearings: New Year, New Name

By : Sylvie Griffiths
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It’s hard to believe that we’ve already entered the second month of 2020. Last year was full of big changes and a lot of learning for my family and me, and I’m constantly reflecting on that as we move forward.

I personally learned a lot from being single for the first full year in my adult life. My second marriage was over long before we separated at the end of 2018, but the end of any deep relationship hurts – and in my case, that relationship couldn’t be fully severed because we share children.

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02.05.20 Tampa Bay Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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I’ve never had a particular affinity for cars. I’ve always been grateful to own the ones I have, of course – from my first, a 1991 Ford Thunderbird to my current, a 2009 Chevrolet Cobalt – I’ve just never been one to covet the latest make or model to move about town.

That likely began with my Thunderbird, graciously gifted to me by my parents in the early 2000s. It was far from new, though its James Bond-esque keycode entry was clearly ahead of its time, but I was thrilled to have it. All it needed were regular oil changes and a cassette tape adapter for my portable CD player.

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02.05.20 Central Florida Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Jeremy Williams
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It’s the beginning of February and that means it’s time for Hollywood’s biggest night and one of my favorite times of the year — it’s the Oscars!

I’ve written in this space before why I love The Academy Awards, so I won’t go into the 30-year love affair Oscar and I have had, but before the stars walk the red carpet Feb. 9, I wanted to take on the ceremony’s biggest award — Best Picture — and let you know how I would rank the nine nominees since that is how the voting members of The Academy do it.

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Picking Berry: All My World was a Stage

By : Beneva Fruitville
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I love musicals. In fact, musical theater has been my hobby and lifelong career, a path I chose after I saw the musical “A Chorus Line” at 13 years old. In that one evening of music, dance, comedy and drama, I learned that performing was not only a viable career – but one that I, Berry Ayers, absolutely had to have.

I grew up in church and sang my first solo at the age of four with dreams of becoming the next Sandy Patti. That “Chorus Line” performance still hung in my memory like the first time I saw Dorothy step out into the colorful world of Oz, however; there were people on that stage talking about abuse, sex, hurt, anger, power and ultimately, love.

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The Tender Activist: Tips for surviving the political season

By : Scottie Campbell
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I’ll admit it. There are still people who I look at to this day and have a flashback to the 2016 election cycle and have to talk myself through not thinking of them as an idiot. Maybe you can relate: the choice seemed quite clear to me and I was repeatedly flummoxed by my friends and family not being able to see it. And here we are and it’s thanks to these idiots. Alright, they’re not idiots, but I have to talk myself through it.

I’ve shared in these pages how I cautiously approached this election, because the tender in my column’s name is no joke. I’m a fighter, don’t get me wrong, but my heart usually wins in the postmortem: Was that worth it? I truly am not sure. I tried last time around to engage and share and discuss. I worked harder to promote my candidate than ever before; I believed strongly. My behavior wasn’t always the best, I remember one inglorious exchange that ended with me telling the person to go fuck themselves. I’m not sure if they actually took my advice because they don’t talk to me anymore. As my marketing and public relations colleagues would say: It wasn’t a good look.

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01.23.2020 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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I went to a small, Southern Baptist college in Mars Hill, North Carolina. It was definitely a culture shock. I considered myself a religion-wary, big city boy from Central Florida. Is that even an accurate statement for Orlando in 1993? There were still orange groves everywhere I walked and the East-West Expressway was just two lanes each way, with 25 cent tolls. Although, we had Blockbuster which was more than Mars Hill could boast. Mars Hill was a two-stoplight kind of town.

I didn’t hate it though, in retrospect I loved it. College is where I gained my passion for musical theater. I had the opportunity to stage manage a musical called “American Beauty.” It was a spoof on beauty pageants, but it made my sappy, young, gay heart melt.

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Trans of Thought: Good riddance 2019

By : Maia Monet
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I almost killed myself two or three times in 2019. I know that sounds dramatic, but it is also true. I’m not saying this to garner sympathy, or even worse, elicit advice. Rest assured, I am taking the steps necessary to improve my state of mind. It is just that being trans can often feel like existing in a vat of acid eating away at your dignity and integrity. It is the rare trans person who hasn’t contemplated escaping the pain through drastic means. If you don’t believe me, find a trans person in your life you happen to be close to and ask them if they’ve ever created a suicide plan. Don’t be surprised if they have a ready answer.

Perhaps my first column of the year should be about looking forward with a sense of optimism, but that doesn’t reflect my life as part of the trans community. I sometimes wonder if cisgender people appreciate how difficult it is to be transgender in today’s world. They might be able to quote the suicide rate for trans people, but I suspect they are detached from the reality of our everyday lives. They don’t actually experience the emotional stress of hearing about yet another government policy meant to incrementally erase the legal status of trans people. They can’t comprehend the blinding fear of coming out as a trans woman to a cisgender heterosexual man who might decide violence is the appropriate response.

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High Fidelity: The Journey of Fitness

By : Miguel Fuller
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When I learned that the first issue of Watermark this year would focus on fitness, I could already feel my fingers banging on the keyboard. I have A LOT to say about fitness, especially as a gay man. Where do I begin?

Fitness for me equals journey. I’m still walking down this long, fun, frustrating road that I call my fitness journey. I can’t remember when I started calling myself fat. Maybe it was late in high school, maybe it was college, but at some point while growing up I started this vicious cycle of going to food for comfort.

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01.09.20 Tampa Bay Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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In “Star Trek: First Contact,” the finest film in the popular franchise’s more than 50-year history, the eternal Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard beams into theaters to lead the U.S.S. Enterprise into battle against the sci-fi staple’s deadliest threat. No, not reboots – the Borg.

The Borg are chilling, cybernetic aliens linked to a hive mind known as “The Collective.” They forcibly transform individuals into zombie-like drones through the process of assimilation, linking their victims to a collective consciousness and erasing all traces of their individuality in the process.

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01.09.20 Central Florida Bureau Chief’s Desk

By : Jeremy Williams
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I’m finding it very difficult to write this issue’s Central Florida Bureau Chief’s Desk. I’m having trouble putting words together which, for anyone who knows me, is not something I normally have trouble with. They might not be the smartest words, or even the correct words many times, but lack of words is usually not a problem.

As this is my first column of the most futuristic sounding year since 2000, I had planned to write all about my goals for 2020. To borrow the frequently mocked “Karen mantra,” it was going to be one of those “New Year, New Me” columns. I planned to climb into my comfy chair, legs tucked under my bum, wrapped in an infinity scarf and holding my latte close to my chest to talk about how 2020 is going to be a year of optimism and rebirth, but as I prepared to do this social media alerts started to ping on my phone about how we were about to enter into World War 3. Groovy.

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The Wonderful World of Wanzie: Wanzie wishes you an Eartha Kitt Christmas

By : Michael Wanzie
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If you were Voguing in the early 90s you likely associate “Santa Baby,” the iconic song of Christmas greed, with Madonna’s 1987 version. Those a bit younger might be more familiar with the more recent version by Kylie Minogue or Gwen Stefani.

No matter how enjoyable any of the enumerable covers may be, none holds a Christmas candle to the original 1953 debut so slowly and provocatively sung by that raspy-voiced enigma that was the late, great Eartha Kitt.

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