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Coming out of the Closet

Exploring LGBT Issues in Strategic Communication with Theory and Research

Natalie T.J. Tindall and Richard D. Waters

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.
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Chapter 2: Invisible in a Visible Profession: The Social Construction of Workplace Identity and Roles Among Lesbian and Bisexual Public Relations Professionals


Natalie T. J. Tindall

Although many U.S. workplaces have incorporated inclusionary policies, such as domestic partner benefits, employee-affinity groups, and nondiscrimination policies, much still remains to be done. Because federal civil rights laws, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, do not include fair employment practices for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, discrimination against LGBT employees continues to exist in the workplace (Beatty & Kirby, 2006). For example, 39% of LGBT employees reported some workplace harassment, and nearly 20% of LGBT employees reported encountering the “lavender ceiling,” barriers for promotion because of their sexual orientation (Lambda Legal & Deloitte Financial Advisory Services, 2006).

Public relations may attract LGBT professionals who may encounter racial discrimination, heterosexism, and sexism. Not knowing their experiences, barriers, and opportunities in organizational life limits the field and hinders theory development, because sexual orientation is a dimension of nonobservable diversity and performance. Yet, little is known about how lesbian and bisexual women navigate their professional, workplace, and personal identities as public relations practitioners. The paucity of material on LGBT public relations practitioners is challenging to scholars wishing to study this area. Thus, this research is a starting point for others desiring to know how practitioners’ lived experiences inform their work experiences. This study addresses the call for more research on practitioners of diverse backgrounds (see, for example, B.-L. Sha & Ford, 2007), and fills a void in public relations scholarship about the intersection of multiple socially...

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