Fritzie Estimond is the events coordinator extraordinaire for the Key West Business Guild and LGBTQ Visitor Center. She and the guild’s other devoted team members provide invaluable services for visitors and are integral in producing Key West’s premier LGBTQ events — including the renowned Womenfest.
During her free time, Fritzie enjoys spending days at Fort Zachary Taylor, taking a boat ride to a sandbar or a bike ride around town, or sampling the island’s wonderful eateries. She also loves theater and recently began working part-time at the Waterfront Playhouse.
Not long ago, Fritzie took the time to share some insights about Key West’s lifestyle.
Keys Voices: How long have you lived in Key West?
Fritzie Estimond: I will be celebrating my 12th year in Key West. It took me about two years to become accustomed to the small community feel, which is a major reason most people move here. I did not really know how to trust that concept as being something true and genuine. But as I now like to say, the island has a way of choosing its people — and here I am.
KV: During this upcoming Thanksgiving holiday season, what are you thankful for?
FE: This year has provided so much for me. I truly am thankful for clarity, unconditional love and life. And in these still vulnerable times, I am truly thankful for my health.
KV: What are some aspects of Key West’s LGBTQ community that you appreciate?
FE: I appreciate that small community feel. Also, that our community’s diversity is celebrated, supported and we can ALWAYS be our authentic selves.
KV: What inspired you to join the Key West Business Guild?
FE: As a black, cis lesbian, I wanted to be in an organization that represents people like me and has a mission of drawing those same people to Key West. It is necessary that those visiting or thinking about visiting know that they are welcomed and safe here.
KV: What are some of your favorite local LGBTQ organizations, and why?
FE: My favorite LGBTQ organization is (of course!) the Key West Business Guild. Also, the G.S.A. (Gay-Straight Alliance) is a favorite of mine. Although so much has changed regarding the acceptance of our sexuality and genders in our society, we still have a long way to go. Organizations like the G.S.A. are necessary to feel loved, accepted and understood during these pivotal years. A more recently introduced organization is Queer Keys, a drop-in group for queer youth ages 12-18.
KV: Why do you think the LGBTQ visitor center remains so popular with Key West visitors, even as the gay community has become more mainstream nationwide?
FE: Our mission is to let our LGBTQ visitors know that they are all welcome here — whether they’re gay, straight, trans, bi-sexual or whatever. We’ve created a space in which we can all co-exist. When visitors step into the center, we want to create the best experience possible for them while visiting Key West.
Some people who travel from places that aren’t as accepting are still shocked at how open Key West genuinely is. They’re so happy that these spaces exist, which reminds me that we are still necessary — “mainstream” or not.
KV: What do you like best about living in Key West?
FE: I love the “weird.” I love being part of an island of misfits, fitting in. I love the concept that I can simply be myself. I love the support we have for one another, whether faced with a hurricane or something as challenging as a pandemic. Key West is a way of life, and that is to live as One Human Family.
KV: What is life here like as an “out” lesbian? And what are some of the most popular events for women?
FE: As an “out” lesbian in Key West, I feel accepted. I never feel the need to hide that part of me. One of the most popular events is our annual Womenfest, which celebrates ALL women annually in the first week of September.
Producing Womenfest has been an incredible four-year journey for me, and I’ve so enjoyed watching it blossom. Having women-only spaces has proven to be so vital for our community and nationwide. I recently learned that there are only 21 lesbian bars left in the nation. It’s essential that we continue to preserve those spaces that are left.
There’s also a gathering of women each month and during special events at the Poké in the Rear restaurant. This draws a diverse group of women — I’ve met so many fresh faces there.
KV: What activities do you recommend for first-time LGBTQ visitors?
FE: Go out on the water and enjoy our amazing weather. Take an eco-tour to learn about Key West’s unique subtropical ecosystem and conservation efforts. Discover our sandbars, do some snorkeling or enjoy a sunset sail.
Immerse yourself in the best places to eat. Learn about the island’s rich history at our museums or by taking a walking tour. Visit our galleries, watch a great drag or cabaret show, and check out our local gay bars for nightlife. Get lost, eat Key lime pie and enjoy a margarita — it’s all part of island living.
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