Exploring LGBT Issues in Strategic Communication with Theory and Research
Chapter 3: Invisible and Visible Identities and Sexualities in Public Relations
Lee Edwards and Jacquie L’Etang
Public relations is central to processes of identification and cultural dynamics that intersect public and private communication spaces. Reflecting a range of issues and implications arising from a consideration of sexualities within public relations, public relations discourse falls into what Judith Butler (1990) has called a heterosexual matrix grounded in heteronormative assumptions about clients, audiences, and practitioners. This may be regarded as one form of symbolically violent cultural intermediation that minimizes the risk to the occupation and its clients of any association that does not conform to the heteronormative world.
In public relations scholarship, work that takes an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) perspective, or adopts queer theory to examine the industry is scarce. This chapter starts by reflecting on why it appears difficult to engage in such an approach. Our challenge comes from personal experiences and perceptions that sexuality may be both mobile and transient, subject to variable projections and multiple readings in different contexts. Sexuality is a fluid aspect inherent to one’s identity, constructed through life experiences. One’s fundamental commitment is to autonomy and authenticity, whereby identity and sexuality can be articulated and pursued freely without prejudice.
The emergence of queer theory has challenged taken-for-granted categories of identity; its engagement with social constructionism, and poststructuralism means that it is largely “a deconstructive enterprise, taking apart the view of a self defined by something at its core, be it sexual desire, race, gender, nation, or class” (Gamson, 2000,...
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