12.23.21 Editor’s Desk

The end of the year has always been my favorite time, starting with Thanksgiving. As a child it was one of the few occasions my extended family all came together under one roof.

In my youngest years that was at my grandmother’s, then and now in memoriam the light of my life. I’m thankful every day to have reconnected with my sister in college, but as my mother’s only child that’s how I was raised – which meant that as a kid my cousins became stand-in siblings and more in my eyes.

I idolized them, especially as the baby of the family for most of my childhood. The holiday season let us reconnect and find even more folks to love as our family grew.

There was still a little room for being selfish, even with so much to be thankful for. Thanksgiving gave me the perfect opportunity to remind every family member I could that my birthday fell between then and Christmas, our next rendezvous. It isn’t easy being a December baby.

These days I rarely make the trek to Ohio for the holidays, but I still carry those years of joy with me here in Florida. They taught me a lot about what I wanted from life as an adult, preparing me for one of my most meaningful years to date.

It was always going to be amazing compared to the year prior, but I had a lot be thankful for in 2021. For starters, it began with the inauguration of competent and compassionate U.S. leadership after four very long years. To this day just typing “President Joe Biden” brings me comfort.

Having an LGBTQ ally in the White House again greatly benefited our community. Biden immediately issued the most significant LGBTQ-focused executive order in U.S. history, directing agencies nationwide to enforce federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

It’s easy to forget what a big deal that was – but by February, the Florida Commission on Human Relations announced it would explicitly protect LGBTQ Floridians for the first time since 1969. It was a victory for us all.

Before long, the administration also made science great again. With a long overdue national strategy to combat COVID-19, my husband and I were fully vaccinated by April and ready to avoid Zoom socially for the rest of our lives.

We were also fortunate enough to buy our first house that month and in November, mark five years of marriage. In another of the best decisions I’ve ever made, this month I also celebrated three years smoke free.

If you’ve been contemplating quitting, I can’t recommend it enough. In my case three years means I’ve skipped nearly 25,000 cigarettes and saved more than $6,000. Of course I use “saved” sparingly, since every penny and more has gone into being a new homeowner.

I’m thankful for the year I’ve had but try not to take it for granted, especially because so many members of the LGBTQ community aren’t here to mark the end of it. 2021 has been the deadliest year on record for our transgender and gender nonconforming siblings, with at least 50 known murders. It’s a national epidemic and every one of us should treat as such.

Tyianna Alexander was 28. Samuel Edmund Damián Valentín, 21. Bianca “Muffin” Bankz and Dominique Jackson, 30. Fifty Bandz, 21. Alexus Braxton, 45. Chyna Carrillo, 25. Siblings Jeffrey “JJ” Bright and Jasmine Cannady were 16 and 22.

Jenna Franks was 34. Diamond Kyree Sanders, 23. Rayanna Pardo, 26. Jaida Peterson, 29. Dominique Lucious, 26. Remy Fennell, 28. Tiara Banks was 24, as was Natalia Smut. Iris Santos was 22 and Tiffany Thomas, 38.

Keri Washington was 49. Jahaira DeAlto, 42. Whispering Wind Bear Spirit, 41. Sophie Vasquez, 36. Danika “Danny” Henson, 31. Serenity Hollis was 24 and Oliver “Ollie” Taylor, 17.

Thomas Hardin was 35. Poe Black, 21. EJ Boykin, 23. Aidelen Evans, 24. Taya Ashton, 20. Shai Vanderpump, 23. Tierramarie Lewis, 36. Miss CoCo, 44, Pooh Johnson, 25 and Disaya Monaee was 32.

Briana Hamilton was 25. Kiér Laprí Kartier, 21. Mel Groves, 25. Royal Poetical Starz, 26. Zoella “Zoey” Rose Martinez, 20. Jo Acker, 26. Jessi Hart, 42, Rikkey Outumuro, 39 and Marquiisha Lawrence was 28.

Jenny De Leon was 25. Angel Naira, 36. Danyale Thompson, 35. Cris Blehar, 65 and Nikai David was 33. Every one of them mattered. May we each work to build safer communities for those within and outside of our own in 2022.

In this issue we reflect on the tragedies and triumphs which defined 2021. We examine the local, statewide and national headlines that captivated our community and feature a look at the best in LGBTQ pop culture this year.

Watermark strives to bring you a variety of stories, your stories. Please stay safe, stay informed, enjoy this latest issue and have a Happy New Year.

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