PRESS RELEASE FROM ST. PETE PRIDE:

Last week, St. Pete Pride announced their Grand Marshals for the 16th St Pete Pride Parade, held the Saturday during the June 22-24, 2018 weekend.

Every year St Pete Pride honors individuals and groups making a difference in the LGBTQ+ community. Since 2014, the community has had the opportunity to help in this selection process. This year, for the first time, the Grand Marshal Nominating Committee held open nominations. Then, as with previous years, held an online community vote.

2018 St Pete Pride Organization Grand Marshals:

Out of the Closet – (727) 321-1145, 3400 26th Ave S, St. Petersburg, FL 33711

No matter where one may be, Out of the Closet Thrift Stores play an integral part in its community’s daily life, and the OTC in St. Pete is no exception. In addition to being a thrift store where you can donate and buy unique and fashionable pieces, OTC offers a full-service pharmacy and free HIV Testing for all who come in. Founded by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, 96 cents out of every dollar that is spent at the store goes back to treating those living with HIV/AIDS and AHF’s mission of treating anyone who walks in their doors, regardless of ability to pay. This mission is made possible in-part by the work of Out of the Closet, and OTC continues in that same tradition of always having its doors open for all who may need any of the services inside.

2018 St Pete Pride Community Grand Marshals

SueZie and Cheryl Hawkes met in 1997 and fell in love. For the love of Cheryl, SueZie gave up all she had and knew in England to be with her in the USA. They married in 2000 as husband and wife. SueZie spent the following years still struggling with her gender identity and Cheryl was her only confide. By early 2014, they couldn’t continue living in the public’s perception of husband and wife. They chose to pursue transitioning and leading a positive life. Those first steps, humiliation and psychological pain was something both of them felt no one should have to endure. SueZie and Cheryl decided to educate the world by going public in a grand scale, they let reporters document and film some of the transition including the operating room. The story of SueZie’s boldness together with Cheryl’s unwavering passion and love captured the media’s attention around the world. One news story was nominated for an EMMY. Since 2015 SueZie and Cheryl have written extensively for workplace and public LGBT publications. They have spoken at numerous different companies, public events and conferences, including a full house of 340 attendees from the Fortune 500 companies in Atlanta. Other voluntary activities include positions with Equality Florida as a Transaction Advisory Council Member, Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber Of Commerce as Board Member as the bylaws Committee Chair; Greater Tampa Bay Out & Equal as Communications Chair.

Through giving back, they have found that their love is what impacts and inspires the most. SueZie says “Everyone needs a Cheryl.”

Robert (Bob) Pope – A pillar of St. Petersburg, Robert Pope began his legal career in 1971 and has served clients in the Tampa Bay area for over 45 years. Mr. Pope is widely known as the founder of Metro Wellness, which started to support the AIDS crisis and has expanded to a full service medical center including LGBTQ+ health care, counseling and HIV prevention.Â

Bob’s list of advocacy work includes: Founding member of the Gay Hot Line; board member of ASAP; one of the Founders of Metro Wellness Center; served as President of Tampa Bay Arts, the umbrella organization for the Gay Men’s Chorus, Crescendo, the Gay Women’s Chorus, and the Tampa Bay International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival; Served for eleven years on the King of Peace MCC Board; 1971 graduate of Stetson University College of Law, where he served as President of Student Government, and has practiced law in Pinellas and Hillsborough for over 47 years.

Bob and his husband Lawrence Konrad, have been together for almost 55 years and live in St. Petersburg.

Matt Lassen – As a proud, gay, eight-year Air Force Veteran, Matt considers it an absolute honor to serve LGBT Veterans and their families throughout the state of Florida as a Federal employee for the Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office in St. Petersburg. In 2012, Matt joined the Regional Office’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Special Emphasis Program. (SEP) He works to ensure LGBT Veterans, who may not have been previously eligible for benefits, are provided an opportunity to requalify and know they will be treated equally and honorably. In September 2011, Matt developed an outreach program to educate LBGT veterans affected by the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policies on how to request “case-by-case” discharge upgrades. Matt has renewed one of the LGBT SEP committee’s focus to educate and advocate for gay veterans to affirm their honorable military service. With the aging veteran population, he works with many vets whose dream is to be buried with honor and dignity in a national cemetery. Matt and his husband, Carlos, reside in St. Petersburg, and enjoy spending quality time with their five children and two grandchildren.

###

St Pete Pride is Florida’s largest pride celebration hosting over 250,000 people during Pride Weekend, the last weekend in June. The purpose of St Pete Pride is to promote unity, visibility, self-esteem and a positive image of and among the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community of Tampa Bay and throughout the State of Florida by way of cultural and educational programs and activities. For more information, visit www.stpetepride.com.