11.27.19 Tampa Bay Bureau Chief’s Desk

My husband and I recently marked three years of marriage, which is as strange to type as it was to celebrate. Not because I didn’t think we’d make it, I looked forward to our decades to come long before our wedding day, but because I’ve lost my perception of time.

A number of factors have contributed to my inability to understand the calendar year, Tampa Bay Bureau Chief among them operating in Watermark’s two-week press cycle, but I mostly attribute it to living in Florida. Even though I moved here more than a decade ago, I have yet to adjust to the lack of proper seasons; time flies when you’re having sun.

My birthday is a prime example. I’ll celebrate my 35th within this particular press cycle on Dec. 3, another sentence that’s strange to type. As an Ohio native, bundled-up birthdays in the thick of winter with central heating always marked the end of each year. Now I wear shorts, pine for air conditioning and have no idea what decade it is.

In my defense, “Dumbo,” “Aladdin,” and “The Lion King” hit theaters, new seasons of “90210” and “Will & Grace” aired on television and Cher toured the nation singing ABBA this year. Does anyone know what decade it is?

We celebrated our anniversary at Disney World, our annual tradition, reflecting on “three ears” of happily ever after at the happiest place on Earth. The day was magical, and while I’m always happy to revisit our big day, it also means reflecting on 2016.

My husband and I were wed in the infancy of marriage equality, just over a year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that same-sex couples had the right to marry. That long overdue ruling, as it remains today, is a fragile one. We fully grasped that as we said “I Do” just four days after the most divisive U.S. election in our lifetimes.

The contrast between candidates had never been clearer; very little had prepared me for Hillary Clinton not to win the presidency. It’s a sentiment that I imagine the almost three million more people who voted for her over the White House’s current occupant might agree with. I still believe she’s the most qualified nominee for president that I’ve ever seen, certainly that I’ve voted for, and I’m With Her even now.

That’s not to say I think she should run again, nor do I think she will. It’s my view that no one who ran in 2016 should seek the presidency next year, Donald Trump most of all. He’s been a disaster for this country and for the LGBTQ community in particular.

Which brings me back to our wedding. I didn’t take his election very well and in my grief, uninvited family members and friends who’d voted for him from the ceremony. It wasn’t a good look.

These were people I love and that I know love us, who graciously came to the wedding after I remedied my misstep. I’ll never condone or understand their votes, and I certainly hope they don’t repeat them in the future, but they each had their reasons for casting the ballots that they did.

As of late, as the LGBTQ community debates the merits of chicken sandwiches, advocates like Ellen DeGeneres and the latest presidential candidates entering the race, I’ve decided to try and channel the love from our wedding. It was the clearest example I’ve seen that we have more that unites us than divides. We’re stronger together, as they say, and I plan on holding tight to that fact in 2020.

We turn to another fact in this issue: that U = U, or Undetectable = Untransmittable. The scientifically-backed informational campaign seeks to raise awareness about the effectiveness of medication in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV. We discuss what it means for you with agencies in Tampa Bay and Central Florida.

In Tampa Bay news, the scores are in and St. Petersburg and Tampa win big. The Human Rights Campaign has revealed that each of the cities received perfect scores of 100 in the organization’s annual Municipal Equality Index. We also honor the late Tampa philanthropist David Straz.

In Central Florida news, the onePULSE Foundation releases details about its 49 Legacy Scholarships program and the Orange County Democrats strategize. In State News, the 16th annual SMART Ride raises a record sum for HIV/AIDS services throughout Florida.

We reflect on why those services are so critical in Arts and Entertainment, looking back to 1980s New York and the AIDS epidemic with “In the Shadow of the Bridge,” author Joseph Caldwell’s new memoir. We also get into the holiday spirit with saxophonist Dave Koz.

Watermark strives to bring you a variety of stories, your stories. I hope you enjoy this latest issue – and if you celebrate, have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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