Southern Pride: A Guide to Tampa’s LGBTQ Scene
"We are not ever, ever going to discriminate against anybody for any reason."
Southern Pride is our monthly column exploring and celebrating LGBTQ culture in Southern cities. This month we're heading to the Sunshine State to check out the scene in Tampa.
Tampa’s beautiful year-round weather, sunny beaches and a thriving job market are all huge draws for anyone who's looking for a fresh start. Now, with a recent perfect MEI score from the Human Rights Campaign, Tampa is also becoming a hotspot for LGBTQ folks who want the benefits that come with living in the sunshine state — along with a culture of acceptance and inclusion.
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The city’s MEI score of 100 is well earned. Tampa’s outgoing mayor Bob Buckhorn has dedicated both time and effort to championing diversity and the LGBTQ community. He says, “I would be hard pressed to imagine that you would find a city in America that is any more inclusive than we are — and proud of it.” He admits to using his pulpit to drive home the message, “In our diversity, we are stronger.”
The following are five factors that make LGBTQ visitors and residents feel welcomed, supported and accepted in Tampa.
1. A Historic Gayborhood
That’s right: Tampa has a dedicated gayborhood that’s brimming with cool shops, restaurants, bars, and arts and culture establishments. The historic Ybor City is a neighborhood in Tampa that is fondly referred to as Gaybor City. Founded in the 1880s by Vicente Martinez-Ybor and other cigar manufacturers, it was originally inhabited by a rainbow of migrant families, which created a diverse community that evolved to become inclusive to all — including the LGBT community.
Ybor City is a vibrant neighborhood with streets that buzz with activity night and day, year-round (including wild chickens descended from backyard birds kept by the area's earliest residents!). Affordable living options are available with a growing number of new residential units. Another much loved gay-friendly neighborhood worth checking out is Seminole Heights.
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2. Festivals & Events
Tampa doesn’t fall short when it comes to LGBTQ festivals and events. Tampa PRIDE takes place in Ybor City and features parade floats, booths and a variety of unique celebrations and entertainment. Tampa’s International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival is one of the country’s largest and longest running events of its kind. The nine-day juried festival showcases a selection of films by, for and about LGBTQ communities.
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Two additional annual events worth noting are the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce's annual conference and Tampa Museum of Art’s Pride & Passion — a signature fundraising event to support the museum, reduce barriers to admission and create safe places for people to experience the art.
3. Nightlife Galore
There’s never a dull moment in Tampa, especially when it comes to the LGBT nightlife. If you are in the mood to dance, you’ll want to check out Bradley’s on 7th or Southern Nights. Enjoy a cocktail at City Side lounge or sample great wine at Ybor City Wine bar. If you are into exploring dive bars, Reservoir Bar is a hip hole-in-the-wall establishment. And if you are looking for a leather bar, Cristoph’s offers drag shows and dance. There’s a little something for everyone.
4. The Local Government & Community
Members of the LGBTQ community don’t have to worry about feeling alone or isolated in Tampa. “Our LGBT friends and neighbors that are here know first and foremost that I’ve got their backs and that we are a community that is tolerant and inclusive,” says Buckhorn. Acceptance is intentionally infused throughout Tampa. The local government takes inclusivity seriously. “For our LGBT friends, what we have done institutionally is put a lot of things in place to make sure they know that they are welcome … and that their value is inherently honored. We are not ever, ever going to discriminate against anybody for any reason.”
The much celebrated MIE score proves that the mayor means what he says. If you want to live somewhere where the local leaders aren’t afraid to make promises to the LGBTQ community, then take a close look at Tampa.
5. LGBT Support Resources
With numerous LGBTQ resources in place, finding support is easy. Whether you are looking for assistance with business, your family’s health or trying to figure out where to make social connections and find support, there’s an organization waiting to help you.
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Some of Tampa’s resources include:
Equality Florida: The largest civil rights organization in Florida, Equality Florida is dedicated to securing full equality for the LGBTQ community. They host events for members around Florida and welcome those interested in taking action to volunteer.
Metro Wellness: Inclusive and supportive health and wellness services are provided for the LGBTQ community at seven locations throughout the Tampa Bay Metro area.
Balance Tampa Bay: This cool organization helps individuals find their tribe and connect to the local LGBT community. They offer socials, activates and public service events designed to bring people together.
Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber of Commerce: Offering support for business owners and local organizations, the Chamber helps build an alternative, inclusive professional community.