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Coming out of the Closet

Exploring LGBT Issues in Strategic Communication with Theory and Research

Edited By 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 3: Invisible and Visible Identities and Sexualities in Public Relations

Extract

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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