Caribbean Tourism is a Big Business; Billions Are Spent Each Year

This summer, Floridian ports will be jam packed with visitors from around the world eager to hit the seas and head to the Caribbean.

In this region, chock-full of beaches, outdoor adventures, luxury hotels, and bars, the LGBT community is rising up for equality.

“You can’t quantify the entire region with one brushstroke, and have to look at it country by country,” said John Tanzella, the president and CEO of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association.

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Finding Life: Local filmmaker explores local gay and lesbian adoptions

Photo courtesy Carlton Smith

A local filmmaker’s documentary of adoption in LGBT families is now available to the public.

Carlton Smith’s “Finding Life” was recently picked up by Amazon and Google Play, allowing subscribers to watch his film following the lives of eight same-sex couples and their experience with adopting their children.

“I’ve only shared it to those who have worked on the film,” Smith said. “I’m excited to get everyone’s thoughts and opinions. Ultimately, the goal is to make people take a second look at fostering, for straight couples or gay couples.”

Smith has worked in the film industry for a number of years, including the country music scene while living in Tennessee. His last film, “The Black Miami,” looked at the contributions of African Americans in the Magic City. It too, was picked up by Amazon and Google Play.

It was while he was working his full-time job that he ended up at Kids in Distress. There, he saw a little boy walk into the room and yell “Daddies!” then running into the arms of two men.

“My jaw dropped and I was like, ‘Did that kid say daddies?’”

Smith, a gay man himself, had no idea same-sex couples could adopt or foster children. As he studied up on it, he decided his second film would be about LGBT couples expanding their families. For two years from start to finish, he was welcomed into the homes of multiple couples of different races and backgrounds to share their stories, all of which vary.

At the start of the filmmaking process for “Finding Life,” gay couples were not allowed to adopt. In 2010, the state’s ban on gay people adopting was overturned, but couples together could not adopt. Typically, one partner would adopt and be the child’s legal parent. The second parent was legally no more than a babysitter. Finally, in 2015, couples were given the right to adopt and be legally recognized as parents in the eyes of the law.

“I just wanted to really show that it didn’t matter, gay, straight or what your race is, that everybody if they’re willing and able can foster children,” Smith said. “It’s so important to show the diversity that’s out there.”

Also, Smith hopes it’s a learning experience for the LGBT community, some who may be like he was and learn that it’s possible to have children.

“I think it’s going to touch your heart. Whether you want to be a parent, whether you want to be a  parent, whether you’re gay, whether you’re straight, it’s going to touch your heart.

Want to watch “Finding Life?” Visit FindingLifeMovie.com to watch on Amazon or Google Play.

 

Story originally published in South Florida Gay News.

THE MUSICIANS Sam Hyken & Jacomo Bairos

The co-founders and artistic directors of Nu Deco Ensemble are changing the way Miami experiences classical music.

In an era when the musical greats of classical music seem to be on the cusp of being irrelevant or forgotten, Nu Deco Ensemble is dedicated to a revival.

At the helm of the Wynwood-based Nu Deco are co-founders and artistic directors Sam Hyken, 35, and Jacomo Bairos, 40. Friends for more than a decade, they thrive off the sounds of vivacious violins and booming bass. As Bairos, the conductor, leads the orchestra in a recent rehearsal, his body moves in time with the music arranged by Hyken.

They are preparing for a trio of April concerts at The Light Box in Wynwood, followed by a collaboration with a Brooklyn hip-hop dance company on Miami’s biggest stage: The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

“We try to bring relevancy to classical music, bring more connections to the popular world,” Bairos said.

Read the rest at Miami Indulge online.

A Long Walk

Fort Lauderdale continues to experience rapid, sustained population growth. The question isn’t whether the city will continue changing into a more urban, crowded place – it will. The question is what we do about it.

If you want to show a visitor where Las Olas Boulevard is, simply point to the construction crane.

From the glass windows on the 11th floor of the 101 Building in downtown, you can spin in a circle and count the cranes hovering over scaffolding. On Las Olas, neighboring the historic Stranahan House, the Icon building is shooting out of the ground with 272 units to be filled. Nearby, the soon-to-be-finished Las Olas Place will bring a dozen more businesses and the visitors that come with them. A short walk to the north, new apartments and condos continue to go up in Flagler Village. The city is booming, and with it comes more people and more cars.

Driving through Fort Lauderdale, likelihood is high that you’ll be stuck in traffic or circling through city blocks in search of a parking spot. However, there’s not much of a chance that you’ll find yourself stopping to allow pedestrians to cross the street. Sure, there’s a few lawyers clad in ties and suits running to the courthouse or perhaps coworkers picking up coffee during their lunch break, but Fort Lauderdale — or South Florida as a whole, for that matter — is not known for being a place that’s easily navigable on foot.

“Fort Lauderdale definitely has a walkable downtown, but what are you walking to? Where are you going? Right now, the environment is very one-dimensional,” says city councilor and vice-mayor Dean Trantalis. “The idea now is to fill in the blank spaces, fill it in with the needs, fulfilling the needs of the people who will live and work downtown.”

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A Sense of (Las Olas) Place

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A new building next to the Riverside Hotel promises to fulfill a need while fitting in with the city’s shopping and dining main drag.

Just east of Las Olas Boulevard’s historic Riverside Hotel, a soon-to-come, mixed-use building is the first commercial construction project on the boulevard in more than 20 years.

The first shovel went into the ground in June 2016 at what once was a quiet, empty green space between Maus & Hoffman and Gran Forno. The anticipated completion date is the fall of this year.

The building, dubbed Las Olas Place, will boast 31,500 square feet of retail and office space — the brains behind the project are tight-lipped about the exact businesses that will be moving in. A two-story building, Las Olas Place’s most exciting feature may be a 13,000-square-foot rooftop event area that can fit more than 500 people. For those planning events in Fort Lauderdale and wanting a venue outside the normal hotel ballroom, finding a space that will fit just 200 is a challenge.

“I had an opportunity to go up and it’s a really interesting view from the third floor, so it got a little more exciting to me to actually go up and stand out,” says Vann Padgett, the vice president and director of real estate for the Las Olas Company.

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The Trans Woman Behind the Right to Have Surgery in Prison

In January, a California prisoner, Shiloh Quine, made headlines when she became the first prisoner to receive sex reassignment surgery.

However, her story begins much earlier and through the journey of another transgender woman, Michelle-Lael Norsworthy.

“I am so happy that she got it,” Norsworthy said of Quine. “Anybody who disagrees with an inmate getting sex reassignment surgery is saying — and a lot of trans people are against it — … that gender dysphoria is a choice, [that the surgery] is an elective or cosmetic procedure.”

Norsworthy, 53, who is now out of prison, made waves of her own when she petitioned the state to receive the surgery while she was serving time, a surgery she and medical professionals said was a medical necessity, in Norsworthy v. Beard.

However, after being denied parole five times, the state decided she was “cured” and ready to be released from prison. While she could finally say goodbye to prison life, it meant that she would no longer be getting the surgery.

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Not Silent, Not Alone

Amy Daumit suffered in an abusive relationship for nearly 20 years. Today she works to help people find a different way.

The Forget Me Not flower is a small, unassuming blue bloom, named for the mission not to forget the suffering, the poor and the needy. This flower and its heavy meaning is embedded in a Fort Lauderdale woman’s mission to educate her community about domestic violence.

Amy Daumit, 40, works at Expresso Coffee. She’s in a happy relationship, has earned multiple degrees, and her laugh is infectious. You’d never know that eight years ago, she left an abusive relationship that lasted nearly 20 years. Because of her experience, she formed the Forget Me Not Advocacy Group for domestic violence prevention.

“Abuse still sadly hides in the shadow,” she says. “It’s easier to ignore the screaming going on next door than to intervene or help, because ‘It’s not my business.’ But people don’t realize it is your business.”

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HRC Releases Ultimate Guide to Raising Trans Children

The Human Rights Campaign teamed up with two national pediatrics groups to produce a comprehensive guide on transgender children to help family, friends, and physicians.

The 24-page guide, Supporting and Caring for Transgender Children, was produced with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians (ACOP). It goes over basic definitions of gender, the benefits of affirming a child’s gender identity, debunks myths, and provides support and tips for those who care for transgender children.

“As we’ve made more and more progress with transgender rights and our society is getting a deeper understanding of what it means to be transgender, more and more people are comfortable in coming out at younger ages,” said Sarah McBride, the national press secretary at HRC.

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The Boys of Bangladesh

In April, two men were hacked to death in Bangladesh putting a spotlight on a hidden population in the small Southwest Asian country: LGBT people.

Xulhaz Mannan, the editor of an LGBT magazine, and Mahbub Tonoy were killed in the Bangladeshi capital by six attackers, leaving a third man seriously injured.

“It’s a really painful thing for us,” said Mir Abeureyad, the acting general secretary and a volunteer at Boys of Bangladesh (BoysOfBangladesh.org). “We can’t express ourselves as an LGBT person in Bangladesh. So it’s really tough for us.”

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For Ben Brafman, Becoming A Leader In Mental Health And Addiction Meant Overcoming His Own Obstacles

It was supposed to be a normal day for one of Ben Brafman’s clients. But a simple trip to a meeting ended with the client in jail. The client, who was battling a mental illness, began acting out, which prompted a bystander to call the police. Brafman assured the officers that he just needed a few minutes to calm his client down and they would be on their way.

“They ended up arresting him for being loud and boisterous,” Brafman remembers. “As soon as they tried to handcuff him, he got aggressive, agitated.”

Brafman, 47, founder and CEO of Guardian Behavioral Health Foundation, says this incident and others aren’t uncommon in the arena of mental illness and addiction.

“We have a tendency to minimize things in society and not really put a lot of stock in it. We’re asking for trouble,” the Parkland resident says. “We need to crack some stereotypes and stigmas.”

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