This past year, Central Florida suffered an immense tragedy in the June 12 shooting at Pulse on Orlando’s Orange Avenue. Most of us had been to Pulse at least once, and many of us knew at least one person who died in the senseless shooting. The days, weeks and months after the tragedy saw the Orlando community come together to support each other. All of us in Central Florida finished the year closer than ever before, and as we move into 2017, we continue the long healing process. We’ll survive. We’re “Orlando strong.”

Here is a sampling of stories involving LGBT people, LGBT allies, and the LGBT rights movement, that impacted Central Florida in 2016.


January 17 – Alexis Mateo wins the Miss Tampa Pride pageant, held at The Honey Pot.
January 22 – Quench Lounge in Largo celebrates its third anniversary in business with a winter wonderland-themed party.
February 20 – Ed Lally is given the Voice for Equality Award at the Equality Florida Tampa Gala at TPepin’s Hospitality Centre.
February 24 – Lorraine Langlois and Russell Rhodes are honored at the Tampa Pride grand marshal gala, held at Cristino’s Coal Oven Pizza. Joe Redner is also given the LGBT Community Supporter award.
March 4-5 – Bradley’s on 7th in Tampa celebrates its fifth anniversary, with two nights of special performances featuring former Miss Florida F.I. Tiffany Arieagus.
March 16 – Governor Rick Scott endorses Donald Trump in the November presidential election, two days after Attorney General Pam Bondi did the same.


March 19 – St. Pete Pride’s fundraiser Taste of Pride is held at the Dali Museum in downtown St. Petersburg.
March 26 – The second annual Tampa Pride is held in Ybor City, welcoming large crowds for the festival and parade. Russell Rhodes and Lorraine Langlois serve as grand marshals, with photographer Mike Ruiz participating as “celebrity grand marshal.”
March 26 – BarCodes in Orlando celebrates its seventh anniversary.
April 16 – The 21st annual AIDS Walk Orlando is held at Lake Eola, benefiting the Hope and Help Center of Central Florida.
April 16 – Liquid Tampa celebrates its fourth anniversary with special performances by TP Lords and WildChild.
April 23 – The LGBT-friendly fundraiser Pride & Passion is presented at the Tampa Museum of Art.
April 28 – Dining Out for Life, a day in which restaurants and bars donate proceeds to HIV/AIDS service organizations, takes place in North Florida, benefiting NFAN. Tampa Bay (with ASAP/Empath Health as beneficiary) observes Dining Out for Life on May 19.
May 7 – Mayor Rick Kriseman, Christopher Rudisill and Ashley Brundage are honored at the Equality Florida St. Petersburg Gala, held at the Mahaffey Theater.
May 7 – Enigma in St. Petersburg celebrates two years in business with a glow party.
May 13 – Alan Grayson, Central Florida representative in Congress, uses the word “cisgender” for the first time on the House floor, disapproving of the “cisgender bigots” in North Carolina who support the divisive House Bill 2.
May 31-June 5 – The 26th annual Gay Disney Week welcomes over 200,000 people to Orlando. Singer Erika Jayne and comedienne Sandra Bernhard perform at Parliament House.
June 3-5 – One Magical Weekend’s events are held at the B Resort and Spa and at Walt Disney World theme parks. During the main event on June 4, singer Kesha pulls Joseph Negrelli on-stage, where he proposes to his longtime boyfriend Naveed.
June 12 – 49 people die and 53 people are injured after a lone shooter, Omar Mateen, storms Pulse nightclub in Orlando and spends hours inside the bar, shooting anyone who crosses his path. Mateen is killed by police officers three hours after entering Pulse. As news continues to reach the area and the world into the morning, thousands of people line up at Orlando blood banks to donate blood. Both President Obama and Hillary Clinton speak to the nation and give messages of support to the Orlando LGBT community. The President orders flags to be flown at half-staff. Stonewall Inn in New York City hosts a vigil for the victims.
June 13 – Anderson Cooper, reporting live from Orlando, pays tribute to the 49 people who died at Pulse, reading their names during his program’s telecast. He would go on to grill Attorney General Pam Bondi in the next episode of his telecast, bringing up her anti-LGBT record while in state office.
June 13 – At a vigil at the Dr. Phillips Center, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer announces the creation of the OneOrlando Fund, which would raise money for Pulse shooting victims and their families.
June 15-19 – Polk County celebrates their annual pride festivities with various events in and around Lakeland.
June 16 – President Obama visits the Pulse memorial and the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida, taking the time to speak to families of the victims.
June 17 – The FBI becomes “increasingly skeptical” that the Pulse shooter, Omar Mateen, was gay or closeted and moves to rule out such a possible motive.
June 18 – Orlando City SC, Central Florida’s major league soccer team, takes the field for the first time since the Pulse shooting to the tune of The Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love”, all the while wearing specially-made shirts to honor the victims.
June 18 – Southern Nights Tampa celebrates its first anniversary.
June 19 – Over 50,000 people attend a Pulse memorial vigil at Lake Eola in downtown Orlando.
June 20 – Dozens of Broadway stars release a benefit single, “What the World Needs Now is Love”, with proceeds going to the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida.


June 23-26 – Over 150,000 people come out to St. Petersburg’s Central Avenue to participate in the 14th annual St. Pete Pride festivities.
June 30 – Hotspots introduces its newest venture, a monthly magazine dedicated to Central Florida called Hotspots Central.
June 30 – Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen present a special night of conversation at the Dr. Phillips Center, with the proceeds benefiting the OneOrlando Fund.
July 2 – Singers Nick Jonas and Demi Lovato surprise the staff of Pulse with tickets to their Orlando show, and also hosted a meet-and-greet backstage afterwards.
July 3 – Orlando Weekly and Hamburger Mary’s Orlando present a Pulse fundraiser called United Orlando, which takes place at Cheyenne Saloon in Church Street Station. Half of the proceeds go to the OneOrlando Fund and half go to the Pulse employee recovery fund.
July 9 – Parliament House Orlando hosts a community-wide benefit concert for Pulse victims and their families, featuring Frenchie Davis, Mýa, Jonny McGovern, Ultra Naté, and more.
July 11 – GLAAD and Interscope Records announce the benefit single “Hands”, sung by 25 different artists including Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani, Meghan Trainor, Jennifer Lopez, and Florida native Jason Derulo.
July 18-24 – Parliament House Orlando celebrates its 41st anniversary with a week of events, culminating in a performance by Ginger Minj and an appearance by Lance Bass.
July 22 – Hillary Clinton makes an impromptu trip to Orlando and visits the Pulse memorial.
August 1 – The TV show Killer Instinct with Chris Hansen profiles the 2013 murder of Anthony Lee, better known as “South Beach Wanda.”
August 5 – Stonewall Bar Orlando hosts a grand re-opening party to reveal the product of 18 months of renovations.
August 6 – Balance Tampa Bay’s second annual Masquerade Ball takes place at District 3 in downtown Tampa.
August 8 – Orlando performer Shantell D’Marco is crowned Miss Florida F.I. at the Deauville Beach Resort in Miami Beach.
August 12-14 – SAVOY Orlando celebrates its 12th anniversary with a weekend of events..
August 15 – MTV’s True Life airs an episode called “We Are Orlando”, documenting the lives of some of the Pulse shooting survivors.
August 18-20 – Southern Nights Orlando celebrates its second anniversary with a weekend of promotions and events.
August 19 – MBA Orlando hosts their annual Pride in Business Awards Gala at the Sheraton Orlando North in Maitland.
September 6 – The last survivor of the Pulse shooting is released from Orlando Regional Medical Center.
September 10 – The fourth annual Metro Wellness and Community Centers gala, this year titled the “Homecoming Gala”, is presented at the Morean Center for Clay in St. Petersburg.
September 17 – The 27th annual Headdress Ball, benefiting the Hope and Help Center of Central Florida, is held at Marriott Orlando World Center.


September 27 – It is announced that OneOrlando Fund will give $350,000 each to the families of the Pulse shooting victims.
September 29 – The Tampa Pride 2017 launch party is held at Southern Nights Tampa. The theme for 2017 is revealed to be “Superheroes”.
September 30-October 8 – The 27th annual Tampa Bay International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival screens dozens of films in Tampa and St. Petersburg.
October 1 – Ybor City Barbering Company and Bar in Tampa celebrates one year in business.
October 3 – Hamburger Mary’s St. Petersburg celebrates its official grand opening.
October 7 – Due to Hurricane Matthew, Orlando Pride’s festival and parade, scheduled for October 8, is postponed.
October 18 – Orlando and St. Petersburg are two of the sixty municipalities nationwide that scored a perfect 100 on the latest Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index.
October 20-23 – The 26th annual Bear Bust is held at Parliament House, featuring special guests like the cast of the Internet series “Where the Bears Are”.
October 26 – A banner printed with the names of the Pulse nightclub shooting victims and “49,” the number of people who died in the shooting, is unveiled at Orlando’s Amway Center.
November 4 – The Orlando community, Orlando Health, and Orlando’s LGBT and Latino “second responders” are honored at the Equality Florida Orlando Gala at the Orlando Museum of Art.
November 5 – The sixth annual Amazing Race Orlando sees teams scurry through downtown Orlando, performing tasks along the way, all the while raising money for The Center.
November 8 – Statewide elections: The initiative legalizing medical marijuana passes a public vote. Marco Rubio defeats Patrick Murphy to win another term in the Senate. David Richardson wins another term to the Florida House of Representatives; he will be joined by a new openly gay legislator, Carlos Guillermo Smith.
November 8 – The City of Orlando announces its intention to buy the Pulse nightclub and site for $2.25 million.
November 11-13 – City Side in Tampa celebrates its 26th anniversary with a “royal court” show featuring past Miss City Side titleholders, as well as a turnabout show.
November 12 – A record crowd turns out for the Orlando Pride Festival and Parade at Lake Eola. The parade, the longest ever, takes participants and floats into Downtown Orlando proper for the first time and clocks in at nearly three hours.
November 20 – Rev. Elder Dr. Nancy L. Wilson is honored with a Voice for Equality Award at the Equality Florida Suncoast Celebration, held at Michael’s on East restaurant in Sarasota.
November 26 – Country music legend Dolly Parton performs at Amalie Arena in Tampa. It is her first American arena tour in 25 years. Parton grants an interview to Hotspots Central’s Mike Halterman in the run-up to the concert dates.
November 30 – Gay icon Barbra Streisand embarks on a limited tour of Florida, in which she performs her greatest hits and songs from her album “ENCORE: Movie Partners Sing Broadway”. She performs at Amalie Arena in Tampa, one of three concert dates in the Sunshine State.
December 2 – Central Florida performer and former Miss Gay USofA and Miss National titleholder Natasha Richards passes away at the age of 44.
December 3 – The annual Red & Green Party fundraiser for St. Pete Pride is held at Sunken Gardens.
December 5 – Pulse owner Barbara Poma pulls out of a possible deal which would have sold Pulse nightclub to the City of Orlando.
December 10 – The 13th annual AIDS Walk Tampa Bay and 5K Run, benefiting the AIDS Service Association of Pinellas (ASAP), is held in and around Vinoy Park in downtown St. Petersburg.
December 15-18 – Punky’s Bar and Grill in St. Petersburg celebrates its first full year in business with a weekend of special events and the unveiling of a mural on its roof.