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Orlando Mourns Loss of Watermark Editor Billy Manes

Orlando Mourns Loss of Watermark Editor Billy Manes

Billy Manes

Manes covered the shooting and helped his community mourn after the Pulse shooting.

Orlando mourned again this week, this time for the passing of Billy Manes, a prominent voice of the LGBT community whose stature only grew in the wake of the deadly Pulse attack last year. Manes, 45, died Friday from complications of pneumonia, his husband Tony Mauss revealed in a statement.

A long-time activist and one-time mayoral candidate in Orlando, Manes made his most indelible mark on the city in ink, first as a columnist for Orlando Weekly and more recently as editor-in-chief of Watermark, an LGBT publication serving Florida.

"Billy Manes was a walking fucking miracle, a man who fought ferociously to create a world where justice, equality and respect were the cornerstones of his community," Mauss said in a statement. "He loved Orlando. He knew what was possible here in this sprawling mass of ex-pats, misfits, introverts, seekers, party people, bookworms, performers, makers, artists and friends. His driving force was love. He loved you, Orlando, and he knew of your love for him. He fed off it; it sustained him. He would have fought proudly for each and every one of you forever. Unfortunately, his body had other plans."

Manes took over as editor-in-chief of Watermark in June 2015 and previously wrote regularly for local publication Orlando Weekly, often bringing to light LGBT issues framed in the challenges of his own experience. In perhaps his seminal work, Maned in 2013 wrote a cover story titled "'Til Death Do Us Part" about the suicide of his longtime partner and about the challenges same-sex couples endured before marriage equality became law in Florida.

He revisited the death in his last Editor's Note in Watermark, while also discussing the mental impact of ex-gay therapy on LGBT mental health, referencing his own attempted suicide.

Manes led Watermark's coverage of the Pulse shooting in June 2016, after a gunman entered the Orlando club on Latin Night and launched a shooting that resulted in 49 people being fatally wounded before the shooter was killed by police. He would end up emceeing a benefit concert at Hard Rock Live during the aftermath of the attack.

Upon the one-year anniversary of the attack, Manes wrote of how the event affected the community. "For a city that seems to look down at sidewalks as it passes its fellow residents by, a city often distracted by the mundane machinations of commutes and financial concerns, Orlando has achieved the remarkable feat of pulling those seeming seams into a pastiche of kindness," he wrote.

Manes announced on July 16, days before his death, that he'd been "effectively let go" at Watermark and wished new leadership luck.

Media figures and political leaders mourned Manes' death, including NPR's Ari Shapiro on All Things Considered celebrating his contributions after Pulse and the B-52's Cindy Wilson promising to dedicate a show this week in Manes' memory. State Rep Carlos Guillermo Smith would post on Facebook the message "Rest In Power Billy Manes."

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