LGBTQ pet parents showcase their furever families

Whatever their furry or feathered favorite may be, the 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey recently reported that 70% of U.S. households own at least one pet. That’s around 90.5 million families, chosen or otherwise.

It’s been conducted since 1988, when the American Pet Products Association discovered 56% of households reported the same. Their research now shows that 69 million households own dogs, 45.3 own cats, 14.7 own fish, 9.9 own birds and 6.2 own other small animals.

The data undoubtedly extends to LGBTQ Americans, a community which has long understood the benefits of owning a pet, both mental and physical. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, doing so can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels, feelings of loneliness, anxiety, PTSD and more.

It’s also just fun, which is why Watermark spoke with LGBTQ pet owners throughout Central Florida and Tampa Bay to learn more about their furever families. Here they share a little about these rewarding relationships in a special photo series, beautifully captured by designer and photographer Dylan Todd.

Felipe and Luis Sousa-Lazaballet (He/They and He/Him)
Identify As: Nonbinary, Queer and Gay
Pictured With: Cosito, “an equal opportunity cuddler who somehow splits his time perfectly between the two of us.”

“As a community, we long for belonging and love. It’s not easy to create these environments where we can simply exist. Cosito completes our pack and he helps to make our house feel like a home because of the love he so freely shares with us every day.”

Orlando Commissioner Patty Sheehan (She/Her)
Identifies As: Lesbian
Pictured With: Sienna, Nina Simone, Sally and Goldie, “they’re everything to me.”

“I believe our pets are so important to the LGBTQ+ community because they are like our children. We have the right to adopt children, but that was not always to case. I often joke that every stray’s best life is to be adopted by a gay person … It’s just an extension of our community’s expression of love.”

Christopher Gorman (He/Him)
Identifies As: Demisexual
Pictured With: Konrad, “the strongest constant in my life over the last few years.”

“My pet doesn’t care how much money I have in the bank, or how attractive I am, or pass judgment over the things that I find enjoyable, they only care about whether there is food and love available. Pets are our chosen family.”

Stephanie Morge and Misty McDevitt (She/Her)
Identify As: Lesbians
Pictured With: Emma, Max, Milo and Maple, “they are our kids, because that’s exactly how we treat them!”

“The bond for the LGBTQ community and our pets boils down to unconditional love – our pets deserve it just as much as we do, and they’re the best at giving it! They bring us such joy and remind us how important it is to enjoy the little things in life and quality time with our loved ones.”

Sabrina Ambra (She/Her)
Identifies As: Lesbian
Pictured With: Luna, Celine and Carl, “the absolute world to me.”

“No matter who you are, where you come from, where you’re going and everything that happens in between – pets are by your side (or at your feet) and genuinely, absolutely love you. The best pet breed in the entire world is called ‘rescued.’”

Tom Dyer
Identifies As: Gay
Pictured With: Seamus, “my constant companion at home, at work and when I travel.”

“Many of us grew up fearing that the love of those closest to us might be conditional. Dogs don’t judge, hold grudges or resentments. Seamus reminds me to let go and live in the present. He looks at me with eager eyes as if to say, ‘Whatever’s next, Dad, I’m up for it!’”

Prin Ocea and Finley Quinn (They/Them)
Identify As: Queer, GenderQueer, Transgender
Pictured With: Willow, who helps them “enjoy the little things” and Keith, who “provides lots of serotonin!”

“Often times family does not accept us as LGBTQ+ people, but pets will always love and accept us no matter who we are or what we come out as. They are always excited to see you and never judge your choices.”

Nicholas and Lee Acosta (He/Him)
Identify As: Gay
Pictured With: Stewie and Rosie, “the world to us.”

“Pets give us unconditional love and affection. With the unfortunate amount of discrimination and exclusion even in 2022, we can rely on them being there for us when we get home to snuggle up and love us, no matter how we identify or who we are.”

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