News & Features » News

Members of the local LGBT community on what they’re most proud of, and what they think the next battle should be in the fight for LGBT rights

by

Kaleb Quast, student and local writer (pictured above)

What are you most proud of, when it comes to Orlando's LGBT community?

I think the thing I'm happiest about with the LGBT community in Orlando is the immediate access people have to services, through places like the Center and the Zebra Coalition. You can get assistance you need, if you need it. And because there's so many people in the area, and so many schools, it's easy to feel like you have a community here, and feel like you belong.

Now that marriage has been legalized for gay couples, what's the next battle the LGBT community needs to tackle?

I think my main struggle is with healthcare, making that more inclusive and overall better. Because sometimes it's just really difficult to maintain, to get insurance to cover your medical necessities. For some reason, you have to keep saying you are genetically female to get some things covered. And having more open-minded doctors – it's a very small market. In Orlando, there are, like, three doctors who can work with me, and none of them is .... None of them have ever even instructed me on how to inject myself. I mean, I'm going to inject myself with this life-changing drug, and you aren't even going to tell me what I'm doing? It's hard to find qualified doctors to work with. I once had some dude, when I went to get treatment for anxiety, ask me if I had a strap-on. I mean, that's just fucking creepy, dude.

Andie Tarkenton, student (pictured above)

What are you most proud of, when it comes to Orlando's LGBT community?

There's a good sense of community, strong community here. There's also a lot of support groups, if you are looking, and just a very supportive atmosphere for the LGBT community.

Now that marriage has been legalized for gay couples, what's the next battle the gay community needs to tackle? Well, maybe I'm a little bit biased because I'm trans, but definitely a lot of medical-related things. I can't get insurance, a job or anything to help fund my transition. Just things like that. I'm not really treated like a human most of the time when people know that I'm trans – so overall, we need more education.

screen_shot_2015-10-06_at_5.02.53_pm.png

Carlos Guillermo Smith, government affairs manager, Equality Florida and candidate for Florida House District 49

What are you most proud of, when it comes to Orlando's LGBT community?

I'm proud of how well organized we are in comparison to other parts of the state and country. Orlando has its own LGBT chamber of commerce, our own media outlets, local advocacy groups and LGBT service providers. As a community, we've always made sure that we support and care for one another ... and our pride shows.

Now that marriage has been legalized for gay couples, what's the next battle you think the LGBT community needs to tackle?

We need to stand together with our allies and demand that lawmakers pass the FL Competitive Workforce Act to finally ban anti-LGBT discrimination once and for all. It's still legal to deny someone employment, public accommodations or housing in our state simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. We can end that by electing pro-equality state leaders who are ready to move Florida forward.

The recent rash of violence and murder of transgender persons, particularly trans women of color, is an epidemic that must also be addressed by our community and our elected leaders. Education and inclusion are key to helping people understand that trans lives matter.

screen_shot_2015-10-06_at_5.07.41_pm.png

Brendan O'Connor, editor, Bungalower.com

What are you most proud of, when it comes to Orlando's LGBT community?

I'm most proud of our ability to rally around members of our community who are in need. There are fundraisers and BALLS for days, and people generally show up en force and help each other out. I love that! Like Blue Star's Barber Fund charity, which she started to help her friend who was dealing with advanced cancer, and now it's a legitimate nonprofit. Our ability to rally and affect change is something that a lot of us forget about. 

Now that marriage has been legalized for gay couples, what's the next battle the LGBT community needs to tackle?

I get worried when I hear the word "battle," because I think that treating the movement in that way generally causes our pleated-pants opposition to rally together and knee-jerk-react back in our gay faces. But I think our next big cause du jour should be gender issues. Marriage, trans-rights, equal pay ... it's all about those archaic gender roles that have forced people into thinking us vs. them. I think all of us queers have to just keep shaking those cis bushes until we get all the fruit out in the open. 

1000w_marthabrenckle1.jpg

Dr. Martha Brenckle, associate professor of rhetorical theory, University of Central Florida

What are you most proud of about Orlando's gay community?

How we've pulled together to influence laws. The Equality Florida group is wonderful: They do social as well as political events, and that involves quite a few people. I'm also proud of things that have happened, such as the Zebra Coalition. They have a house on Mills Avenue, which was a matter of raising money in the community. They recognized that LGBQT+ youth is really highly at risk. Many of them get kicked out of their homes – yes, that still happens a lot! – and have nowhere to go. Covenant House is a great group, but let's face it: It's Catholic, so it's not the most comfortable place for anyone in the gay community to go. Now we have Zebra House, and they work with homeless youth and they get them on their feet, back in school if they need to, give them a place to live, work with drug and alcohol issues, do career counseling – all kinds of different workshops. They are an incredible group.

Right across the street is the Center. What I like is that, yes, they do rapid health testing for HIV, and they deal with all kinds of health issues and political concerns in the community, but the other thing I like about it is that they have an art gallery where people who identify as queer can display and sell their art. I think that's really important. Everything that happens in our lives isn't political, and I think it's important to celebrate those sides of ourselves.

Now that marriage has been legalized for gay couples, what's the next battle you think the LGBT community needs to tackle?

I think we're going to feel some backlash from gay marriage. There's already talk about how this isn't a democracy, how the Supreme Court just decided to do that when they didn't have the right – of course that isn't true, yes they did have the right to do that. What I try to explain to people is that democracy is limited. If everything is majority votes, majority perspective, minorities never get their rights. We need a justice system that recognizes that, that does take care of minority votes.

We need more workplace protections, so you can't be fired just for being gay. I would like to see everywhere that it's possible to get all the rights that are due to you.

1000w_dsc_0011.jpg

Blue Star, performer and owner of performance space the Venue

What are you most proud of, when it comes to Orlando's LGBT community?

I think I'm just really proud of the way that Orlando has accepted the community and the constant growth of it. I've been here for 15 years, and watching the community grow and become more of a community of service rather than a, "hey we're gay, accept us" kind of thing has become a natural progression of good people doing good things and finally becoming recognized for the good things that they do, instead of being recognized for being gay.

Now that marriage has been legalized for gay couples, what's the next battle the gay community needs to tackle?

I think it's very apparent that the transgender community needs to catch up next and is on its way, hopefully, to move at a swifter pace than everything else has. With the way things have been lined up with gay marriage being accepted and the gay community becoming one of service, I think transgender is definitely on the radar and is the next "normal." I would definitely like to see transgender individuals accepted and have a place of comfort in the community.

screen_shot_2015-10-06_at_5.12.06_pm.png

Randy Ross, candidate for City Council, District 4

What are you most proud of when it comes to Orlando's LGBT community?

I think what I'm most proud of is that we have found a way to be a voice and have a seat at the table. I didn't come out until I was 36 years old in 2002, and when I look at the differences between back then and now, there's been a huge transformation. We don't have to fight quite as hard as we used to. There's still battles, especially with the transgender community and such, to be fought, but we've already had some huge accomplishments, especially with the marriage equality issue. ... I think we're finally getting to a place where people are taking us seriously.

Now that marriage has been legalized for gay couples, what's the next battle the gay community needs to tackle?

I think there are three things that are critical. I have been a victim of domestic abuse, and a lot of people think it's normal for a man to be hitting a man or a woman to be pulling another woman's hair. It's a huge issue in the LGBT community, and it doesn't know gender or sexual orientation. Sometimes, there isn't a place to go if you've been a victim, and so many people are caught in the middle. Also critical is the rising number of HIV cases. I think the LGBT community is already tackling the battle for the third issue, which is understanding the transgender community. Our job as gay people is to help in that education and understanding.

screen_shot_2015-10-06_at_5.12.52_pm.png

Unique Mark Michael, UCF pre-med student

What are you most proud of when it comes to Orlando's LGBT community?

As a student and professional who has attended various universities, I have found that Orlando has become more accepting of the LGBT community; UCF specifically has a specific area called Pride Commons where LGBT students and allies can interact in a safe environment. I study and hang out there all of the time.

Now that marriage has been legalized for gay couples, what's the next battle the gay community needs to tackle?

Even though [gay marriage] has been legalized, the upcoming election will have a massive effect on the LGBT community. If we elect someone who is for equality, there's a higher chance we will have more democrats in senate but the opposite can be said if a republican who is anti-LGBT is elected. I'm trying to get a lot of my friends to register to vote, but a lot of them don't see the impact they can make.

screen_shot_2015-10-06_at_5.13.34_pm.png

Audrey Bergquist, Orlando Weekly contributor, cosmetology student

What are you most proud of when it comes to Orlando's LGBT community? 

That our community includes people like Gina Duncan, who helped make "gender identity" a protected category under the city's human rights ordinances. I'm very proud that Orlando added that, but at the same it didn't prevent trans men from being discriminated against and roughed up at Wally's, nor did it prevent a trans woman from being detained by the TSA because they considered her body to have "an anomaly."

Now that marriage has been legalized for gay couples, what's the next battle the gay community needs to tackle?

I think the gay community as a whole should tackle its own issues with intersectionality next. While marriage is a very important issue, it is not the only issue in the community. More than 20 trans women were murdered this year in the U.S. That is more than any other year on record, and there's nearly a whole quarter left. The majority of them were women of color. As much as LGBTQ issues and #BlackLivesMatter have dominated headlines this year, there has been very little mention of the trans women who were slain in the national dialogue.

1000w_patty2.jpg

Patty Sheehan, Orlando City Commissioner, District 4

What are you most proud of when it comes to Orlando's LGBT community?

How far we've come from just starting out talking about non-discrimination and having a 4-3 split on City Council and having it be very, very contentious, to now – we're talking about marriage rights and basically most of the council being very supportive of the amicus brief and then having a wedding ceremony on the steps of City Hall conducted by the mayor. That was an amazing day, and for someone who's been doing this for a long time, I honestly never thought I'd see that in my lifetime. There's been a lot of things that have happened over the course of the 15 years since I've been on council, and it's just been really exciting to be a part of that.

Now that marriage has been legalized for gay couples, what's the next battle the LGBT community needs to tackle?

I think transgender rights and inclusion are an important aspect. Something that we've worked on in the city is to include transgender people in all our non-discrimination protections, so I think that's going to be the next big thing. I think with Caitlyn Jenner's advocacy and her going through the transition, it helps educate people. When you know someone and you see what they've actually been through before and after transition, it does make a huge difference in people being able to relate. But we still don't have employment protections in all the states and women still don't have equal pay, so there's still a lot to be done to promote fairness and inclusion for everyone.

screen_shot_2015-10-06_at_5.16.42_pm.png

Trina Gregory-Propst, owner of Se7en Bites Bakery

What are you most proud of when it comes to Orlando's LGBT community?

I am most proud of how we as a gay community support each other and our business endeavors, and how we really have become a tribe. Especially the women in the gay community. ... I am proud to be a supporter and sponsor for Equality Florida. And I never lose an opportunity to share with all of our customers how proud I am to be in business with my wife – something I may have felt less than safe saying two years ago when it wasn't legal and would be concerned if it would affect my business. Our pride event has really blossomed, and the foundation layers of this event are so much to be proud of. The City Beautiful is filled with beautiful people who care about what happens here.

Now that marriage has been legalized for gay couples, what's the next battle the LGBT community needs to tackle?

I have a very strong opinion on this. It's called kindness. As a whole community we need to treat each other with as much kindness and respect as we are asking from the world around us. Let's set our own example. ... Let's cheer each other on and lift each other up instead of tearing each other down. There are so many possibilities if we help one another. ... Life is not a competition. We all have something unique and special to offer. Appreciating our differences is a great place to start.

screen_shot_2015-10-06_at_5.17.18_pm.png

Akeem Woods, comedian

What are you most proud of, when it comes to Orlando's LGBT community?

I guess its diversity. I guess it's how many different types of people we have: black, white, gay, straight. And how we all come together for the most part. So I guess it would be the diversity I'm most proud of in Orlando in general. We have so many people come here because it's such a tourist place, that we have people from all over the country and different countries and all that stuff. So I think it's just cool to have that many people all interact together.

Now that marriage has been legalized for gay couples, what's the next battle you think the LGBT community needs to tackle?

I'm happy it got legalized. It's awesome. I'm not happy because now I can't blame the government for me being alone. Now I'm like "Oh no, it's my fault!" But the next big battle? I don't know. I guess I'll say less discrimination. Because even though gay marriage is legal and everything, it's still not equality, because you can't – like if two dudes are walking down the street holding hands, it's still socially weird. Most people are going to look at you weird, or they're going to say something. So I think just general acceptance. I don't think that's a legal thing, I think that's a people thing.

1000w_billy.jpg

Billy Manes, editor,Watermark

What are you most proud of, when it comes to Orlando's LGBT community?

I think that there was a sudden growth in our LGBT community that nobody really expected, and that goes for all of Florida. The fact that Florida was the first Southern state to pass marriage equality was very important, and the fact that there is a sort of a quilt of support organizations in this state and in this community that take care of LGBT-centric issues, is pretty inspiring. And that we haven't given up the fight yet just because we got marriage.

Now that marriage has been legalized for gay couples, what's the next battle the gay community needs to tackle?

There are several fronts right now. I think the most important, at least to me, are workplace fairness and housing fairness and general bills that are in the pipeline that are trying to reduce discrimination on any level. It's exciting to know that we were able to get the pomp and circumstance, but it's the circumstance that really matters right now, and the fact that you can be fired from your job for being gay. Or be refused anything for being gay. Even looking gay. It's disheartening. So I think that the fact that there are people who are fighting on that level is amazing. Those are the people that I am supporting right now. Also, the elephant in the room, then, is the trans issue, and so much of that has been spoken of, you know, in the wake of the Caitlyn Jenner outing, if you will. But there's a lot of codification that has to happen on these issues for people who are in need of living their authentic lives, and I hope to see us move forward. And I hope to be part of it.

comment