A Blog On Orlando: As a Gay-Owned Business…

Last night, on my way home from work — at a gay-owned business — I told my wife, “Maybe I ought to write a blog on Orlando, you know, ‘as a gay-owned business …’”

I am cofounder of EnviroMedia, a communications firm that focuses on environment and public health, and my last blog post was on water infrastructure. This morning, I’m writing about the murder of 49 LGBT people and their friends in a business that provides sanctuary to the LGBT community.

Breathe.

As a gay-owned business, EnviroMedia and its staffers are committed to the following:

-We stand with Orlando — the 49 murdered; 44 injured (and counting) and the people saving their lives; their families and friends; Pulse nightclub; and the LGBT and Orlando communities in general.

-We are more proud than I ever could have imagined of our recent certification by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) as an LGBT Business Enterprise.

-We stand with MBA Orlando (the NGLCC Orlando affiliate chamber) and our colleagues here at home at the Austin Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

-We stand with companies like Fare, JetBlue, Aetna, and, yes, even Chick-fil-A (I never thought I’d ever, ever be typing those words), that have been helping victims, families and friends, and blood donors in Orlando.

-When EnviroMedia received its NGLCC certification last month, I never dreamed our first public mention of it would be in a blog that includes the word “murdered.”

On Sunday morning, when I heard the news from Orlando of another mass shooting, my stomach turned. Our house guest from Boulder relayed the news over breakfast, and it wasn’t until we were taking her to the airport that we learned the murders happened at a gay nightclub. My stomach twisted even more. The murderer hates LGBT people, including me, my wife, and my friend.

After all that sank in — that there’s another mass shooting, but this time aimed at people like me and my wife of 21 years — I started to wonder, what do we do now, as a gay-owned business?

On Sunday, the day of the murders, I wanted to tweet something from EnviroMedia, but I second-guessed myself. I sent this text to our PR manager (straight, married mom) at 4:50 p.m.: “Sorry to bug you on Sunday. As gay-owned biz that is newly certified by national gay/l chamber of commerce, should EnviroMedia tweet something today? Later? I’m heartsick and don’t want to come close to appearing opportunistic. Just being silent doesn’t seem right either.” I missed a call-back from her, and moments later found her voice mail message. She could barely get her recommendations in because she was crying. But what great recommendations she had.

We sent this Tweet first thing Monday morning: EnviroMedia stands with our @NGLCC colleagues and friends in #Orlando during this tragic time.

Then we had our weekly Monday morning staff meeting. Before we went into business as usual, I asked the staff, “Considering what happened over the weekend in Orlando, what do we do as a gay-owned business?” Our staff (aka: “EnviroMedians”) were heartsick and angry. It is from my fellow EnviroMedians that I got the recommendation to use the word “murderer” and not “shooter” or “terrorist.”

I also asked my staff, “As a business that focuses on public health, what do we do?” So Tuesday morning we Tweeted this: Is #gun violence a public #health issue? Absolutely. #WeStandWithYouOrlando #OrlandoShooting #Orlando #AR15

It’s worth mentioning that EnviroMedia is a new marketing vendor for CDC, and has been working with the Texas Department of State Health Services since 2000. We have yet to see a campaign related to the public health implications of gun violence. We’ve worked on traffic safety (distracted driving, motorcycle safety, seat belt protection for children and teens, impaired driving), hurricane preparedness, West Nile Virus, immunizations, tobacco prevention, flu prevention, obesity prevention. But never gun violence prevention.

On Monday, at about 2 p.m., I got a call from our clients at Fare, a rideshare service quickly expanding from Phoenix to Austin and beyond. The call was from one of the Fare cofounders. He and his cofounder wanted to donate $1 for every ride in Austin to the families of Orlando victims to help with their funeral expenses. More tears kept us from being able to articulate what work needed to be done. We pulled ourselves together and EnviroMedians and Fare pulled together a fundraising campaign.

Proceeds will go to Equality Florida’s GoFundMe campaign to support victims of the Pulse shootings (murders). Since Sunday, Equality Florida has raised $4.2 million toward its $5 million goal. It will be reached no doubt. So thank you Fare for joining businesses like JetBlue, Aetna, Chick-fil-A and others to do what you can and #StandWithOrlando.

When launching EnviroMedia in 1997, we became certified with the State of Texas as a “Historically Underutilized Business” because we are woman-owned. I always cringed a bit with words like “underutilized” and even “woman owned.” After all, aren’t I just a business owner? But now, for the first time, a woman has become the presumptive presidential nominee of a major political party (can’t we just say “first female presidential nominee” already?). So, I’m starting to wear the “woman-owned business” designation more proudly. I want to inspire other women and girls to become business owners, and to see a day when we aren’t under the “underutilized” umbrella.

In 2007, I was asked to be featured in an LGBT magazine. Though I was “out” to coworkers, family and friends, I have to admit my stomach twisted (our stomachs twist a lot). But I thought about my young, gay cousin and other LGBT people one and two generations behind me and I knew I could not and would not hide by saying “no thank you” to the LGBT magazine. So, I’m super proud of EnviroMedia’s new NGLCC certification and of my fellow EnviroMedians who chose to work for our gay-owned company. I’m proud of our clients at Fare.

At the end of the day, we’re not just gay, women, business owners. We are all just people. #WeAllStandWithOrlando