Florida doesn’t suck. At least not as much as some would have you believe. Its laws suck, no doubt. You can add its governor and a large part of the state legislature to that list.
I’m not trying to minimize the hurt inflicted on our community during the last Florida legislative session. It is devastating when elected officials target you and your community to criminalize your life with seemingly zero understanding of what it means for you to exist as you are. This is what drives every part of my political self. Until we can stop legislating the lives of queer people simply because they are queer, I will be a one issue voter. My life is my vote.
The light at the end of the tunnel is that we have the overwhelming support of the larger community. Allies are out in full force to show their active support more now than I have ever seen.
June is LGBTQ+ Pride Month and it has been an extremely busy one. As I write this column we are barely half way through the month with many more events to go. June kicked off with Gay Day at the Magic Kingdom and the events that surround it. For me this was a litmus test for how Florida’s new laws would affect overall support for LGBTQ+ events and how those outside of our community would react to these events.
There were some setbacks. As a history enthusiast I often get nostalgic about the good ole days, so to see some of the changes in the traditions of Gay Day at Magic Kingdom brings out the Eeyore in me. For example, gathering in front of the castle at 3 p.m. is no longer a focal point of the day. I understand though, it’s hot in that sun so people disperse along the shady side of Frontier Land. The three o’clock parade is also not as much a focus as it has been in the past, which is a Disney decision.
I did run into a lesbian couple from Ohio that seemed petrified to venture outside of Disney property. I assured them that despite the national portrayal of Florida as a whole, there were very welcoming pockets in our cities that were safe to visit.
As the day progressed I got to meet many people from out of state that were at the park specifically to show their support for Florida’s LGBTQ+ community. There was also a noticeable increase in ally families all wearing red shirts of support: parents, kids and grandparents. As someone who has been going to Gay Day since the beginning, it was uplifting to see such visible support in the face of diminishing legal rights. Ally support was not so visible in the 1990s and early 2000s.
The following weekend was a new event for me, although this was its fourth year in operation, Sebring Pride. These are the kind of Prides I love to see. A small community celebrating their authenticity in an otherwise conservative surrounding. I overheard a story where a trans youth was able to meet another trans person for the first time. Someone who had felt alone their whole life now had a sense of community and pride. Kudos to the pioneers who organize that event and change lives.
The next weekend was a Pride that remains in my top five Pride events every year, Polk Pride. It always rains, but the energy of the crowd and appreciation of the attendees is right up there with the massive Pride events. It’s always nice to go there and meet with people who are eager for LGBTQ+ news.
There are plenty of Pride events still to come, culminating in the massive St Pete Pride celebration. I have deemed this Pride as the hottest day of the year in Florida, but it is matched with full city support and so much pride that it spills onto the streets. I’m looking forward to enjoying this weekend of fun.
It’s hard to imagine that one can find so much love and understanding in a place that legislates hate and the erasure of entire communities, but it exists all around us. Twenty years ago it was not so easy to find. So, Florida doesn’t suck.
In this issue of Watermark we will talk about what does suck, the latest Florida laws and how they affect our community. Our arts and entertainment section touches base with Idina Menzel who will be performing at St Pete Pride.
We strive to bring you a variety of stories, your stories. I hope you enjoy this latest issue.