04.28.22 Editor’s Desk

I don’t publicly share many personal thoughts about the stories I write at Watermark. We work diligently to keep opinions out of our news coverage and it’s a mission I don’t want to distract from.

It’s a self-imposed rule that can get pretty tricky with social media, which despite its shortcomings I still value. I tend to break it the most during election season, and in columns like this one where I’m going to talk about Ron DeSantis.

I’ve found myself writing a lot about the governor lately, whose attacks on the LGBTQ community have taken on new life as he eyes the White House. I’m not sure if he’ll run in 2024 or 2028, but he’s already started an infuriatingly brisk jog.

DeSantis is one of the many reasons that, pre- and certainly post-Donald Trump, I’ve come to see the modern Republican Party as a danger to the LGBTQ community and this country. I say that not as a proud Democrat, but as an American who watched the Jan. 6 insurrection and a gay man who grew up without the resources many people take for granted.

I never lacked in love as a child, and I can say with certainty that I never understood the full weight of the world resting on my mother’s shoulders at the time, but before the age of seven I dealt with food insecurity, homelessness and more. I realized long before I came out that not everyone in this country is treated equally, especially by those in power who are convinced they have something to lose.

As an Ohio native and Florida resident, I’ve watched friends and family vote against their own interests for years, and certainly mine. Even worse I’ve watched them not vote at all.
I haven’t always understood their choices, and as I’ve gotten older it’s a concept for which I’ve grown increasingly impatient. Especially after 2016.

Florida’s 2018 race for governor was another difficult election year. I supported Andrew Gillum early on, and while he’s struggled in the years since I still believe he’d have done a better job.

After a recount, DeSantis walked away with 49.6% of the vote to best his 49.2%. According to the Florida Division of Elections, he won by less than 33,000 votes in a year with a 63% voter turnout.

It’s easy to daydream about what could have been if 33,000 more progressive voters had shown up to the polls. The LGBTQ community and its allies aren’t legion, and there are certainly those of us who didn’t or wouldn’t have supported the Democratic candidate, but it’s very possible we’d be a different state today if more of us had.

If DeSantis weren’t in office, Florida’s governor wouldn’t have supported the so-called Fairness in Women’s Sports Act targeting LGBTQ youth. It certainly wouldn’t have been signed into law on the first day of Pride Month last year, prohibiting transgender youth from playing sports that align with their gender identity.

If DeSantis weren’t in office, Florida’s governor wouldn’t have taken the time to demean Pennsylvania athlete Lia Thomas, the first transgender swimmer to win a national championship for her hard work. Or issued guidance through the Department of Health that life-saving treatments of gender dysphoria are discouraged in Florida.

Our governor certainly wouldn’t have supported this year’s Parental Rights in Education if DeSantis weren’t in office, legislation he signed targeting every LGBTQ Floridian. Widely known as the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” bill, it will limit classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade, and possibly beyond, starting in July.

That’s to say nothing about DeSantis’ legislative attack on Disney World for their LGBTQ support or more dangerously, Florida’s new congressional map. DeSantis proposed it himself and has signed it into law, disenfranchising minorities and giving Republicans an advantage in the majority of the state’s districts.

It’s going to take more than 63% of voters to make sure DeSantis doesn’t win a second term this year. Please do everything you can to help make a difference, starting with checking your voter registration at Vote.gov.

Equality Florida will detail their own fight for LGBTQ Floridians at their St. Petersburg Gala May 7, which celebrates their 25th anniversary. We preview their event in Tampa Bay news and examine the Suncoast Softball League, which is having an election of its own after a former leader shared anti-LGBTQ content online.

In arts and entertainment, we highlight 31 LGBTQ shows coming to Central Florida’s 31st Orlando Fringe Festival. We also detail the Fabulous Arts Foundation’s first Pride | Be Fabulous festival in Sarasota.

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

More in Editor's Desk

See More