From Heartbreak to Advocacy: An LGBTQ+ Advocate’s Journey in Public Relations

From Heartbreak to Advocacy: An LGBTQ+ Advocate’s Journey in Public Relations

“As I write this, the memories of 49 souls lost to anti-LGBTQ violence at Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016, weigh heavily on my mind. I vividly recall sitting in my bed in Tallahassee, scrolling through Facebook late that night. A status posted on Pulse’s page at 2:09 a.m. read, “Everyone get out of Pulse and keep running.”

That message came as a shock, transporting me back to the times I had spent at Pulse during visits to Orlando. I remembered it as an exciting, yet unsuspecting, little safe space tucked along South Orange Avenue. And now, that safe space was under attack. The community—my community—that I once struggled to find my place in, was under attack. The realities that would unfold in the hours and days that followed were painful.

My journey began years earlier when I came out as gay as a freshman in high school. Coming out at such a young age, at a time that feels so long ago, came at a cost. Though my family was supportive, and a circle of close friends gave me cover, school was no longer a comforting place. I dropped out, my future now uncertain.

In 2008, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment establishing marriage as being recognized as a union between one man and one woman. By this time, I had grown emotionally and was engaged in a career in state government. The passage of Amendment 2 that year infuriated me. After the many years I spent finding myself, how could Florida take my right to marriage away from me? I was inspired to act and became active in local LGBTQ+ organizations.

In 2013, as a non-profit volunteer, I was invited by WTXL to share a live report from the Florida Capitol grounds as the United States Supreme Court agreed to end the “Defense of Marriage Act” in certain states. By the time of the Pulse event, I had established myself as a positive voice for the LGBTQ+ community in Tallahassee. I welcomed the opportunities to help rally my community in a vigil at Lake Ella and speak from the pulpit at First Presbyterian Church to a crowd of allies, community members, and heartbroken supporters. We would heal, and we would strive to overcome this, together.

Eventually, I began my college career as an adult, focusing on social and political sciences. My experiences as a young gay man guided me towards public relations and communications, fields where I saw the potential to amplify voices and drive change. As public relations professionals, we have the unique ability to craft narratives that resonate deeply with audiences, drawing from our own life experiences to infuse authenticity and emotion into our work.

For me, each story told is an opportunity to advocate for justice, equality, and understanding. My journey has taught me that impactful storytelling is not just about sharing information but about connecting with people on a human level, fostering empathy, and encouraging solidarity.

In public relations, we have the privilege and responsibility to use our platforms to highlight issues that matter, to give a voice to the marginalized, and to drive societal change. Our work can influence public opinion, shape policies, and mobilize communities. By telling stories that reflect our diverse experiences and the challenges we’ve overcome, we can build bridges of understanding and compassion.

The events at Pulse nightclub and my involvement in advocacy reinforced my belief in the transformative power of communication. Standing in front of the community at vigils, speaking from the heart about our collective grief and resilience, and rallying for change, I saw firsthand how our words can heal and unite.

Through my life’s journey, I have come to understand that as public relations professionals, we are not just communicators; we are catalysts for change. By leveraging our experiences and the stories of those we represent, we have the power to make a positive, lasting impact on society.”


Andy Janecek, CFE

Andy Janecek, CFE, is the Director of Public Relations for the Leon County Property Appraiser’s Office and serves as Treasurer of the Capital Chapter of the Florida Public Relations Association.