The word “unprecedented” is being used a lot. And it should be. 
When 9/11 happened, I was working at glaad and vividly remember wondering in the aftermath when our work would be relevant again. It was, almost immediately. Whether telling the stories of LGBT heroes like Father Mykal Judge and Mark Bingham or exposing the challenges of same-sex partners who lost a loved one and had no legal recognition as family, our work was clearly relevant.
I did not hesitate this time when the COVID-19 pandemic loomed. I knew there would be immeasurable ramifications for LGBTQ organizations and issues, from the obvious to the more subtle.
The truth is we are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, as was made clear early on by the National LGBT Cancer Network. Especially in LGBTQ media but also mainstream media, the open letter signed by well over 100 national and local organizations outlined how COVID-19 may pose an increased risk to the LGBTQ+ population and laid out specific steps to minimize any disparity. It was an educational eye-opener for all of us. So many who fought in the trenches of the early years of the AIDS pandemic gave voice to what was similar – and what was not – to better inform the coverage of COVID-19 as it dominated the media.
And it was critical to help the media understand that many of our organizations need to continue not simply despite of, but because of the pandemic. From the Ali Forney Center working their best to provide for homeless LGBTQ youth to SAGE revamping their SAGE Connect program to be there for elders in isolation to a shift in focus and resources by the National LGBTQ Task Force’s high stakes “Queer the Census” campaign, we all pivoted and came up with creative solutions to continue to serve, advocate and give voice to the LGBTQ community. 
On the positive side, take Pride, for example. June is a month where LGBTQ people and issues dominate our time, resources and often the news cycle. Having worked with many Pride organizations and last year on WorldPride/Stonewall50, I immediately started thinking not only about the impact of what could happen in this surreal, frightening and isolating world we all now find ourselves. And I was not alone. Interpride (a client), along with all the other major regional Pride organizations in the U.S., Europe and Asia, announced a virtual Global Pride 2020. Now in the planning stages, many of the hundreds of now postponed or cancelled Prides will participate, in a demonstration of the extraordinary resilience of our community and recognition that Pride, at its core, is about showing every member of the LGBTQ community that they are not alone. We may well be isolated this year, but we definitely not alone. Practically speaking, this can also be done in a climate where many traditional partners and sponsors are in no position to support our organizations as much as usual. We can engage them in creative ways for this online, virtual Pride. WorldPride, indeed. 
I take great comfort in knowing that I am part of a community that has fought through another pandemic where government response lagged and brave individuals and groups confronted the status quo, from the White House to the pharmaceutical industry. We have a lot to teach the rest of the world and whether it is through advocacy, modeling community via social media or education through earned media, we should all be mindful that the LGBTQ community and the issues we care about are not only relevant, but integral, in this new paradigm we find ourselves navigating.

About the Author

Cathy Renna is a veteran in the communications industry, and currently serves as the Principal of Target Cue and the Communications Director at the National LGBTQ Task Force. Since her time at GLAAD in the 1990’s and early aughts, Cathy has executed her particular expertise in crisis and strategic communications, playing a central role in shaping nearly all major issues affecting the LGBTQ community, from the beating death of Matthew Shepard in 1998 to the fight for marriage equality and the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”. She most recently worked with the team that coordinated historic coverage for WorldPride/Stonewall 50, working with NYC Pride. After leaving her position at GLAAD as National News Media Director, Cathy joined Fenton Communications, where she served as its New York office Media Director from 2004 to 2006. She went on to found Renna Communications and co-found Target Cue that same year. In her over 25 years of media relations and activism experience, Cathy has garnered placements in every major online and broadcast outlet in the country, including The New York Times, USA Today, The Associated Press, and the Washington Post. She is a sought after spokesperson for LGBTQ issues, and has appeared on the O’Reilly Factor, CNN, MSNBC, and Good Morning America. Cathy currently resides in Montclair, New Jersey. She can be reached at or 917-722-7862.

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