Meet the Grand Marshals of St. Pete Pride

The southeast's biggest Pride festival is in its sweet 16th year.

This content was provided courtesy of St. Pete Pride.

Since 2013, the Grand Marshal selection process has been a community effort with individuals asked to select the Grand Marshals of Tampa Bay’s LGBTQ Pride Celebration. Being named a Grand Marshal of the St Pete Pride Parade is among the highest honors bestowed by the Tampa Bay LGBTQ community. Individuals and organizations nominated for Grand Marshal have made significant achievements for LGBTQ rights and have made considerable contributions to the LGBTQ community at large. All nominations were made by community members within Tampa Bay.

click to enlarge Meet the Grand Marshals of St. Pete Pride
Courtesy St. Pete Pride


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 U.S. They married in 2000 as husband and wife. SueZie spent the following years still struggling with her gender identity and Cheryl was her only confidant. 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 were something both of them felt no one should have to endure. SueZie and Cheryl decided to educate the world by going public on a grand scale, by letting 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 company public events and conferences, including a full house of 340 attendees from Atlanta’s Fortune 500 companies. Other voluntary activities include positions with Equality Florida as a Transaction Advisory Council Member, Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber Of Commerce as Board Member and Bylaws Committee Chair, and Greater Tampa Bay Out & Equal as Communications Chair.

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

click to enlarge Meet the Grand Marshals of St. Pete Pride
Courtesy St. Pete Pride


Robert “Bob” Pope is a pillar of St. Petersburg. He 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 victims of the AIDS crisis and has expanded to become a full-service medical center focused on LGBTQ+ health care, counseling and HIV prevention. 

Bob’s list of advocacy work includes being a founding member of the Gay Hotline, a board member of ASAP, and one of the founders of Metro Wellness Center. He’s 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. He also served for 11 years on the King of Peace MCC Board. He’s a graduate of Stetson University College of Law (1971), where he served as president of student government.

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

click to enlarge Meet the Grand Marshals of St. Pete Pride
Courtesy St. Pete Pride


As a proud, gay, eight-year Air Force Veteran, Matt Lassen considers it an absolute honor to serve LGBT Veterans and their families throughout the state of Florida as a federal employee of 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. He has also renewed a key focus of the LGBT SEP committee to educate and advocate for gay veterans to affirm their honorable military service. As the veteran population ages, 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.


No matter where one may be, Out of the Closet Thrift Stores play an integral part in the 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. Founded by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, 96 cents out of every dollar spent at the store go 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. 3400 26th Ave S, St. Petersburg. 727-321-1145.

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