It’s 2018. Equal marriage is legal in all 50 states. “Will & Grace” is back on the air. Ellen DeGeneres is a cultural and pop icon. Society is finally beginning to acknowledge the existence (if not always the value and worth) of bisexual and transgender people.
A casual observer might think that LGBTQ people today enjoy both equal opportunity and equal treatment.
If you’re LGBTQ, it’s legal in 28 states for you to be married on Saturday and fired on Monday. Examples of gay bashing, or worse, in cities nationwide are becoming more common. According to GLAAD, 15 transgender people have been killed in the first six months of 2018 simply for being who they are (and that’s just the people we know about: the actual number may be higher).
To put an even finer point on all of this, a recent study released by the Human Rights Campaign found that 50% of LGBTQ people are not out at work. In 2018.
Yes, we’ve come a long way. But we still have a long way to go.
For LGBT people and indeed for all marginalized communities, a sense of community can be a precious thing. Knowing you’re not alone can be the difference between hope and despair. And that’s true in our professional lives as much as anywhere else. We need community. We need connections. We need friends and allies who understand the challenges we face in building a career when we’re not necessarily like the other folks in our workplace or the other candidates applying for the same jobs.
I know this reality first hand. I’m a gay man and communications professional who has worked on the Hill, served in the Clinton Administration and worked for five PR firms before starting my own in 2015.
I want to help, so I’ve borrowed an idea from Jim Brams and Drew Plant in Atlanta and formed DC Family Communicators, a professional networking group for LGBTQ communicators in Washington, D.C. Our mission is to “foster networking opportunities for LGBTQ communications professionals in DC.” We do that by sharing job leads, highlighting job promotions and new jobs and linking the diverse, disparate LGBTQ communications community in DC together via email and Facebook to help form connections and yes, community.
We launched in May and now have more than 80 members. Membership is free and requires only that an applicant be: 1) LGBTQ; 2) in DC; and 3) working in communications (or planning to do so).
The DC group is new, but the idea is not. In fact, Jim and Drew started Atlanta Family Communicators in 2001. That group now has nearly 300 members and regularly hosts social gatherings and other events to help bring the LGBTQ communications community in Atlanta together.
It made sense to me to start a similar group in DC when I realized that no such group existed. We have several LGBTQ organizations and several communications organizations in DC, but no groups that blend these three communities together. Now more than ever, we need to stand together and help each other to advance and thrive in the workplace. Given my experience in communications in DC, that was a logical place for me to start.
Communicators help shape the narrative and drive the national dialogue. If they aren’t diverse, then neither is the conversation. And that’s a problem for all of us, whether or not we all acknowledge it. Our diversity makes us stronger, but only if it has the necessary opportunity and support.
DC Family Communicators may “just” be a professional networking group. We’re not going to solve the world’s problems and we won’t singlehandedly reduce the challenges that LGBTQ people face every day. But we will create a sense of community and connection to help make dealing with those issues less of a challenge and to help advance the diversity and importance of our profession
Ben Finzel is president of RENEWPR, a DC-based communications fir,, and co-founder of FH Out Front, the first LGBTQ practice at a global PR firm. To join DC Family Communicators or to share a job listing, write to Finzel at email@example.com.