Coming out of the Closet

Exploring LGBT Issues in Strategic Communication with Theory and Research

by Natalie T.J. Tindall (Volume editor) Richard D. Waters (Volume editor)
©2013 Monographs IX, 280 Pages


Despite representing significant portions of the advertising, marketing, and public relations work force, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) community has largely been ignored by scholarly research in strategic communications. With the exception of case studies that document strategies that can be used to secure the LGBT consumer dollar, little has been done to understand the LGBT community’s experiences with strategic communications efforts. This edited volume fills this gap by sharing research on the impact and interaction of campaigns and programming from advertising, marketing, and public relations on internal (e.g., practitioners and employees) and external (e.g., consumers, activists) stakeholders from the LGBT community. Several chapters in this volume highlight a significant change in the focus of strategic communications that recognizes the long-term benefits of having legitimate partnerships; others, however, counter this optimistic trend by discussing the continued struggles of practitioners working in strategic communication and the LGBT community at large.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Editor’s
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Dedication
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Coming Out of the Closet to Address Challenges With LGBT Research
  • Genesis of This Project
  • Components of This Book
  • Part 1: Understanding LGBT Strategic Communication Practitioners
  • Chapter 1: Harassment in the Workplace: Violence, Ambivalence, and Derision Experienced by LGBT Strategic Communicators
  • Literature Review
  • The Causes of Workplace Harassment
  • Applying the LGBT Perspective to Workplace Harassment
  • Method
  • Results
  • Factor A: The Watchful Eye
  • Factor B: The Socially Excluded
  • Factor C: The Workplace Challenger
  • Factor D: The Attacked
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 2: Invisible in a Visible Profession: The Social Construction of Workplace Identity and Roles Among Lesbian and Bisexual Public Relations Professionals
  • Review of Relevant Literature
  • Social Construction of Public Relations Roles
  • Intersection Between Work and Personal Identities
  • Heterosexism in Organizations
  • Consequences of Discrimination on Organizational Members
  • Stigma
  • Identity Management and Disclosure in the Workplace
  • Research Questions
  • Method
  • Findings
  • Sexism and the Glass Ceiling
  • Lavender Ceiling
  • Lesbians as a Rarity in Public Relations
  • Diversity-friendly Policies
  • Disclosure
  • Discussion
  • Sexism and the Glass Ceiling
  • Discrimination
  • Disclosure
  • Chapter 3: Invisible and Visible Identities and Sexualities in Public Relations
  • Popular Perceptions of Public Relations
  • Gender Trouble in PR? The Regulatory Matrix and Performativity
  • Building the Matrix: Heteronormativity in Scholarship
  • Writing LGBT Perspectives Into Research
  • Part 2: Understanding Industry Approaches Toward the LGBT Community
  • Chapter 4: One Agenda, Multiple Platforms: How 21st-Century LGBT Advocacy Organizations Navigate a Shifting Media Landscape to Communicate Messages of Equality
  • Literature Review
  • Legitimacy and the Media
  • Public Relations and Agenda Building
  • Method
  • Findings
  • Start Local: Print News Media
  • Today’s Challenges in Print and Broadcast Media
  • Engage Allies: Independent and LGBT-specific Media
  • Build Networks: New/Social Media
  • Conclusion and Discussion
  • Chapter 5: Sexual Minorities as Advertising Gatekeepers: Inside an Industry
  • Literature Review
  • A Brief (Academic) History of LGBT Advertising
  • Gatekeeping Theory
  • Method
  • Findings
  • Multiple Points of Consumer Contact and Multiple LGBT Media Platforms
  • Subtle Messaging Does Not Sell
  • Research on Gay and Lesbian Consumers Is No Longer Guesswork
  • Agency Organizations Are a Battleground
  • Good Politics Means Great Business
  • Discussion and Conclusion
  • Chapter 6: Mis(sed) Representations: LGBT Imagery in Mainstream Advertising
  • Literature Review
  • The Gay Market
  • Recognizing and Attending to the LGBT Market
  • Peering Through the Gay Window
  • Bold, Yet Cautious
  • outRAGEOUS
  • Trading Closets for Living Rooms
  • Trading the Closet, for the Gridiron
  • Constructing a New Closet
  • Mis(sed) Representations
  • Misrepresentations
  • Guinness’s “Man Hug”
  • Klondike’s “2 Biker Dudes vs. A Moment of Intimacy”
  • Missed Representation
  • Sealy Mattress’ “After Glow”
  • Should They, or Shouldn’t They? Assessing the Literature
  • Finding Ourselves in Ads
  • The Processes
  • Gaystreaming as Practice
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 7: Symbolic Interactions in Sexual Scripts: Improvisation and Male Consumer Responses to Gay-Vague Advertising
  • Literature Review
  • Sexual Scripts
  • Gay-themed, Gay-friendly, and Gay-vague Advertising
  • Method
  • Findings and Discussion
  • Simon and Gagnon’s Levels
  • Focus: Three Sets of Scripting Strategies
  • Branding
  • Conclusions
  • Chapter 8: Neither Cold Nor Hot: Assessing Christian World Wide Web Sites That Target LGBT Publics
  • Literature Review
  • The Christian Religious Experience
  • The Online Experience
  • Christianity, LGBT Issues, and Apostasy
  • Research Design
  • Results
  • Mission Statements
  • Visual Site Enhancements
  • Operational Site Enhancements
  • Informational Site Enhancements
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 9: Gaffes, Glitches, and Gays: How Organizations Respond to LGBT Crises
  • Literature That Informs the Study
  • Crisis Management
  • Apologia
  • Deviance and the “Other”
  • Research Questions
  • Method
  • Case Studies
  • Manchester Grand Hyatt
  • Tim Hortons
  • Amazon
  • McDonald’s
  • Mars Foods
  • Results Summary
  • Discussion
  • Part 3: Understanding LGBT-Targeted Campaigns
  • Chapter 10: Absolut Vodka: Defining, Challenging, or Reinforcing Gay Identity?
  • Background
  • Literature Review
  • Market Segmentation as Social Phenomenon
  • Public Relations and LGBT Audiences
  • Method
  • Findings
  • Diverse and Plural
  • Urban Elite
  • Party Boy
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 11: Who We Were Is Who We Are: Uses of History in Philadelphia’s LGBT Tourism Marketing
  • Philadelphia, a City for the LGBT Community
  • LGBT History as Part of Progress
  • Imagining “History,ᾠRemembering Community
  • Mapping It Out: Physically Tracing a Journey in Time
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 12: Politicizing Gay Advertising: A Consumer Response Study
  • Literature Review
  • Gay Window Advertising
  • Out-of-closet Advertising
  • Methodology
  • Interpretive Findings
  • The Gay Spender Myth and Market-mediated Interpretive Subjectivity
  • The Minority Consciousness
  • Out-of-closet Advertising as Official Sanction from Corporate America
  • Consumerist Activism: The Power of Gay Dollars
  • “We are just like everyone else”: The assimilating role of gay advertising.
  • Conclusion
  • Note
  • Chapter 13: Strategically Framing Same-Sex Marriage: Lessons From California’s 2008 “Proposition 8” Campaign
  • Theoretical Foundations
  • Same-Sex Marriage Ads: Don’t Mention It
  • Method
  • Results and Discussion
  • Strategically Framing Arguments for and Against Same-Sex Marriage
  • Yes on Proposition 8 Rhetorical Findings
  • No on Proposition 8 Rhetorical Findings
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 14: Advocacy in the Digital Age: Participatory Media and the Empowerment of an LGBT Public
  • Literature Review
  • Activism and the Internet
  • Relationship Building
  • Dialogue, Social Media, and Public Relations
  • Participatory Media
  • The Platform: YouTube
  • LGBT Organizations and Participatory Media
  • LGBT Youth Outreach
  • The Marriage Movement
  • Remembering the T: Trans Movements
  • Moving Forward
  • LGBT Communities of Color and Transnational Digital Communities
  • Evaluation of Efforts
  • Changing the Landscape
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 15: From Unspeakable to Homosexual to Gay to LGBT: The Evolution of Research on Marketing’s Most Controversial Market Segment
  • Method
  • Results
  • Qualitative Research
  • Textual and Discourse Analyses
  • Interviews
  • Focus Groups
  • Ethnographies
  • The Undefined, Contextual Cultural, and Personalist Methodologies
  • Historical Research
  • Quantitative Research
  • Experiments
  • Surveys
  • Content Analysis
  • Scholarly Essays
  • Discussion
  • Future Research
  • Epilogue: Looking Back, Moving Forward: New Directions in LGBT Research
  • Looking Back at Common Themes
  • Moving Forward With Future Research
  • Bibliography
  • Contributors
  • Index


We would like to thank everyone involved in this project, especially the authors who shared our vision and allowed us to use their work in this groundbreaking volume, and the practitioners who participated in this research. Without practitioners sharing their industry experiences, the research presented in these chapters would not have been possible. ← xi | x → ← x | xi →


Coming Out of the Closet to Address Challenges With LGBT Research

Natalie T. J. Tindall

As Ferguson (1984) concluded, public relations as well as other strategic communication fields is a paradigmatic community that is “defined by the models that tell the members of the scientific community what is an admissible problem to research or what is a legitimate problem solution” (p. 4). Many scholars would argue that public relations has never had a paradigmatic shift from the managerial, functionalist perspectives that have dominated the research trends. As Vasquez and Taylor (2000) and Sallot, Lyon, Acosta-Alzuru, and Jones (2003) revealed in their bibliographic analyses, public relations research has flourished in several areas while completely withering or nascent in others. One of those nascent areas is diversity. Diversity is most often conceptualized along gender and racial lines, and the LGBT community has largely been ignored by strategic communication scholars. This book extends the discussion of diversity beyond race and gender, and aims to include new perspectives and audiences and stakeholders.

This volume fills a large void by sharing research on the impact and interaction of advertising, marketing, and public relations campaigns and programming on internal (e.g., practitioners and employees) and external stakeholders (e.g., consumers, activists) from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. The chapters address an array of topics, from workplace experiences to identity construction and stereotyping. The research represents a range of strategic communications issues that can expand theory-driven scholarly conversations about LGBT issues while touching on professional practice, such as crisis communication and campaign development.

Genesis of This Project

This book started in the same fashion that most things start in academic circles—at a conference, and in the attempt to fill a void in the research. At the ← 1 | 2 → 2008 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference in Washington, DC, Richard D. Waters and I (Natalie) presented two separate papers in a session sponsored by the GLBT interest group. I finished my dissertation research, which examined power in the public relations function through the prism of difference; to my surprise, I had rich insight on the experiences and roles of lesbians and gay men in the profession. Richard’s research emerged from a class project. Because of our common interest in this topic, we decided to write a paper jointly on the experiences of gay men in the profession.

That paper was submitted to journals, and we received multiple declinations. Finally, when we did find a home for the journal, we were asked to do revisions. After making those revisions, we waited and waited until we were told that we would have to resubmit the article. A year later, we resubmitted the article, starting the entire submission process again. The hesitancy of reviewers forced the paper into a mottled shape and form. In our own eyes, the research project was becoming a grotesque invention where we were assembling discarded parts and pieces to fit what the reviewers required and demanded. The project was our Golem, something that started as a good idea but then decided to devour our time, energy, and enthusiasm for the project.

We decided to stop the process and let the paper languish. Let us end this process and just move on to other projects. However, we attended another conference in the summer of 2010, and we had the push we needed to finish. Sitting at a table during a luncheon at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) conference, we chatted with another colleague who wrote about LGBT strategic communication issues. The more we chatted, the more we plotted to get the paper published, and the greater our desire to get the paper published. A dearth existed, and if we continued to let rejections sidetrack us, we would not be able to start the conversation.

We persevered. We finished the journal article, taking back our voice and retooling the article into something that we could be proud to call our own. With the journal debacle settled, we decided to push the discipline forward and edit a book on the topic that we had struggled with and over for the past four years. We decided that it was time to write a book that focused on the LBGT issues within strategic communication, and after reviewing the available options, we saw that no one had written a book on this topic. This book in your hands (or at your fingertips) emerged from a four-year period of frustration and excitement, energy and depletion, and acceptance and rejection. ← 2 | 3 → During this time, we were living examples of the undulating waves in a sine curve: imminent highs and crashing lows. We knew we had something, but it felt as though no one wanted what we had to give.

This volume is our conversation starter, and our intent is to push the discussion of LGBT issues in strategic communication—at the practitioner, publics, and campaigns development levels—out of the margin and into the center. Despite representing significant portions of the advertising, marketing, and public relations work force, the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community has largely been ignored by scholarly research in strategic communications. This proposed edited volume of research seeks to fill the void by sharing research on the impact and interaction of campaigns and programming from advertising, marketing, and public relations on internal (e.g., practitioners and employees) and external stakeholders (e.g., consumers, activists) from the LGBT community.

Most previously published works have focused on the manipulation and exploitation of LGBT audiences with sexual imagery and subtle puns that mock heterosexuality to secure short-term consumer dollars. Nearly half of the chapters in this book highlight a significant change in the focus of strategic communications that recognize the long-term benefits of having legitimate partnerships. However, the remaining chapters help counter the optimistic trend of being more accepting of the LGBT community by highlighting the continued struggles of practitioners working in strategic communication (e.g., stereotyping and harassment) and the LGBT community at large (e.g., being excluded from campaigns highlighting diversity and being the target of jokes for heterosexually oriented campaigns). This book helps move the strategic communication discussion of LGBT issues in ways that have rarely been done with prior research.

Components of This Book

Part 1 of this volume focuses on the experiences of strategic communication practitioners from the LGBT community. The three chapters in this section address identity management, and explore how the avowal of particular identities can stunt or elevate the career experiences of practitioners. Part 2 of this volume concentrates on LGBT audiences and publics. With the exception of case studies documenting strategies to secure the LGBT consumer dollar, ← 3 | 4 → little has been done to understand the LGBT community’s experiences with strategic communications efforts. Part 3 covers specific LGBT outreach efforts and advertising campaigns. Research regarding sexual orientation is necessary for public relations and advertising efforts to communicate effectively, responsibly, and ethically to increasingly diverse audiences. Better understanding of how campaigns segment gay audiences may offer a preliminary, but essential milestone in the advancement of communication practice. ← 4 | 5 →

Part 1

Understanding LGBT Strategic Communication Practitioners

← 5 | 6 → ← 6 | 7 →

Chapter 1

Harassment in the Workplace

Violence, Ambivalence, and Derision Experienced by LGBT Strategic Communicators

Richard D. Waters

Workplace harassment has been conceptualized as verbal and nonverbal aggression at work, designed to attack individuals personally, ostracize them socially, and cause humiliation through psychological, and possibly physical, abuse (Lutgen-Sandvik, 2003). These interactions include personal attacks, social ostracism, and other painful messages ranging from inappropriate comments to physical threats of violence. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (2011) reported that it received 32,053 claims of general workplace harassment and 11,717 claims of sexual harassment. Of these claims, investigations by the Commission found that 12,653 and 5,324, respectively, were legitimate and were subject to mediation or civic procedures.

Workplace harassment does not only affect the individuals involved; it also has a significant impact on businesses. The United States National Institute of Occupational Safety Health estimates that harassment results in organizational losses of $9 billion annually due to employee turnover and avoidance of work by employees. Additionally, $3 billion is lost to declining productivity by employees who are unfocused at work because of varying degrees of harassment (Douglas, 2012). Harassment is not restricted to the United States, as the Australian Productivity Commission estimates that it costs their national economy more than $15 billion annually (Berkovic, 2010), and workplace harassment costs the United Kingdom more than $6 billion pounds annually (Know Bull!, 2012).

Employers should strive to provide a hospitable working environment for everyone. While there is no moral obligation to do so, the benefit to the bottom line can strengthen their desire for creating a welcoming environment for all employees. However, research has shown that not all employees are treated equally. Workplace harassment is increasingly a subject of growing concern for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. ← 7 | 8 → Research has shown that harassment of LGBT employees exceeds national averages for all other minority groups in both the United States (Alderson, 2003) and Australia (Irwin, 1999). Alderson (2003) summarized published scholarship on workplace harassment of LGBT employees, and found that survey responses indicated that between 25% and 66% of LGBT employees experienced workplace harassment. Irwin (1999) found that 59% of LGBT employees in Australia suffered some form of harassment.

Research reveals that harassment in the workplace leads to high levels of individual stress, which impairs one’s ability to concentrate and make sound decisions; a loss of self-confidence and social isolation at work; panic attacks and depression, which can cause relationship deterioration with social networks that are not involved with the harassment; and ultimately, reduced output, performance, and work, which can result in loss of employment (Lim & Cortina, 2005). Sexual orientation–based harassment in the workplace has been linked to several physical issues, such as increased blood pressure; increased use of alcohol, cigarettes, and illegal drugs; unhealthy dietary habits; and psychological issues, such as anxiety and social distancing from family and friends (N. Smith & Ingram, 2004). In addition to its link with health indicators, this type of harassment has been linked with lower job satisfaction and greater turnover intentions (Ragins & Cornwell, 2001).

Most published research on LGBT harassment in the workplace is done from a macro-level approach discussing the frequency of occurrence in relation to greater management concerns, such as human resources-related lawsuits or productivity losses. While such topics provide an important knowledge base for understanding the impact of LGBT harassment, they fail to document the different types of harassment and abuse. This study fills that void by determining what types of harassment are most common in the public relations workplace, and whether LGBT practitioners consider harassment to be a serious issue in today’s strategic communication practice.

Literature Review

Harassment is a systematic abuse of power by perpetrators (Lines, 2008). When two or more people come together as a group, power dynamics and hierarchies based on their sociocultural and socioeconomic statuses are instinctively formed. Whether subconsciously or purposefully, an individual’s demographic profile, including sexual orientation, influences how others perceive and interact with that individual. These perceptions inherently lead ← 8 | 9 → to power imbalances, leading to domination and subordination at the highest levels of society (D. Newman, 2007).

The Causes of Workplace Harassment

Management scholars have explored the etiological explanations for workplace harassment, and find their origins mainly in dispute-related harassment (Einarsen, 1999) and predatory harassment (Lutgen-Sandvik, 2008). Dispute-related harassment begins with an interpersonal disagreement that escalates into a deeply divided conflict where “the total destruction of the opponent is seen as the ultimate goal” (Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf, & Cooper, 2003, p. 19).

Predatory harassment, on the other hand, results in three distinct types of harassment, all stemming from power, stress, and prejudices. Authoritative harassment is the abuse of power by someone in a position of management in an organization (Namie, 2007). Displaced harassment, or scapegoating, involves acting against an individual because acting out against the intended target is seen as being too dangerous. Finally, discriminatory harassment involves abusing someone based on prejudices because someone is seen as being different from the workgroup (Rayner, Hoel, & Cooper, 2002).

Research has found that psychologically there is no victim personality and that it is equally unlikely that there is an aggressor personality. However, researchers have attempted to parse out the factors that might increase the likelihood of being targeted by others or of being the aggressor (Zapf & Einarsen, 2003). Certain traits or behaviors are associated with increased risk, but the inconsistency of associated traits fails to convey a reliable picture of targets. For example, appearing too weak, submissive, unassertive, or conflict-aversive is claimed to provoke aggression in others. Conversely, communicating aggressively and overachieving in the workplace are also suggested as antecedents to being targeted (Adams & Crawford, 1992).

There appears to be no sex bias in being targeted, as men and women are equally likely to report being harassed at work (Namie, 2007). However, organizational position does impact whether one is likely to be harassed or to be a harasser. Hodson, Roscigno, and Lopez (2006) concluded that the higher an individual’s position in an organization, the lower the likelihood of being a victim of harassment. They concluded that low-status and entry-level workers are more susceptible to workplace harassment because of their lack of ties to the organization. ← 9 | 10 →

Applying the LGBT Perspective to Workplace Harassment

While research demonstrates that workplace harassment is commonplace and that specific traits cannot be found with consistency when examining aggressors and victims, career development scholarship has found one scenario consistently present when cases of harassment of LGBT employees are examined. Leymann (1990) suggested that acknowledging being different from one’s colleagues creates situations that likely target those differences. Research found that many employees felt their comfort level at work drop when they became aware of gay employees, and that this discomfort often resulted in aggressive harassment of the gay employees (Björkqvist, Østerman, & Hjelt-Back, 1994). More recently, it has been suggested that the mere perception of being a member of the LGBT community can result in harassment (Vandekerckhove & Commers, 2003).

Among the leadership of many institutions, heterosexuality is assumed, and homosexuality remains controversial (Schope, 2004). Additionally, individual success in the workplace is based as much on socialization and networking as on individual achievement. For members of the LGBT community, socialization is often stymied because of sexual orientation and identity. LGBT employees often face internal conflict over whether they should come out at work. Griffith and Hebl (2002) noted that LGBT employees have experienced personal relief after having come out to their colleagues at work; however, a majority of those that they surveyed also noted increased situations of harassment and discrimination after coming out. It has been suggested that it may be better to come out at work than to be found out or to be suspected of being gay (Friskopp & Silverstein, 1995), as it prevents colleagues from labeling the LGBT employee as one trying to others. However, coming out at work may stigmatize LGBT employees over gender roles, and may subject them to unwarranted questions about their HIV/AIDS status and to ongoing harassment (Ragins, Cornwell, & Miller, 2003).


IX, 280
ISBN (Softcover)
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2014 (December)
LGBT community Advertising Marketing Public relations research advertising marketing public relations
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2013. 280 pp.

Biographical notes

Natalie T.J. Tindall (Volume editor) Richard D. Waters (Volume editor)

Natalie T. J. Tindall (PhD, University of Maryland) is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Georgia State University. She has published many book chapters and articles online and in journals such as Journal of Public Relations Research, Public Relations Review, Public Relations Journal, Howard Journal of Communications, PRism, and the International Journal of Strategic Communication. She is a member of the Public Relations Society of America Work, Life & Gender Task Force and vice chair-elect for the Public Relations Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Richard D. Waters (PhD, University of Florida) is an assistant professor in the School of Management at the University of San Francisco. He has published more than 45 research articles on stakeholder relations in the nonprofit sector, new communication technologies, and the career experiences of gay male practitioners in public relations. He serves on the editorial boards of four research journals: Journal of Public Relations Research, PRism, Journal of Public and Nonprofit Sector Marketing, and Nonprofit Management & Leadership.


Title: Coming out of the Closet
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
book preview page numper 36
book preview page numper 37
book preview page numper 38
book preview page numper 39
book preview page numper 40
292 pages