5 questions with Rafael McDonnell
Rafael McDonnell, 43, is strategic communications and programs manager for Resource Center Dallas. A graduate of TCU and UNT, McDonnell spent 15 years as a radio news producer/reporter, and he joined RCD last May. McDonnell lives in Fort Worth.
What do you do at RCD?
I’m responsible for all of the agency’s communications messaging. That’s everything from the text on our Web site and brochures to news releases and responding to calls from the media. I’m also the semi-official staff photographer. I’m a member of our diversity education team that takes part in training at colleges, universities and businesses. Also, I help to coordinate the GLBT Job Expo the Center holds every spring.
What’s the biggest misconception that the media and the general public have about RCD?
Even though the Center has been around for 26 years, one of the things that surprises me is that there are some folks in the media and general public who think we solely provide services to people with HIV/AIDS. We’ve had a dual mission to help that community and the GLBT community practically since our inception.
Has your experience covering LGBT issues, including RCD, as a news reporter/producer helped you make the transition into your job?
My involvement in the community goes back to the early 1990s when I joined Dignity Dallas, but I often worked on stories of interest to both communities served by the Center. I interviewed the late John Thomas, the Center’s founding executive director, on issues ranging from Dallas County’s former condom distribution ban to a comment Dick Armey once made about Barney Frank. I did a five-part series on HIV/AIDS in North Texas. I also used to interview my current boss, Cece Cox, when she was president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance. These stories gave me a rich and deep background that helps me on a daily basis.
Is it true that you were once let go by a radio station in Dallas because of your sexual orientation?
Yes. Over a three-week period, I went from award-winning assistant news director to unemployed. The same thing happened to another employee a few months later. But it made me a stronger person and showed in an intensely personal way the need for GLBT job protections. I landed a new job with a station in Houston four days after I had been let go.
You’re also a member of Dallas Bears. If you were a PR person for the bear community, what would be your first campaign?
There’s been a lot of effort among some members of the community to define who is a bear. From my perspective, that misses the point. Identity isn’t something assigned to you, it’s something you embrace. That would be the core of my PR campaign, and it’s one of the reasons why I feel comfortable as a member of the Dallas Bears — the club shares that philosophy.
Soundout is a weekly column featuring people whose jobs and interests have an impact on the daily lives of members of the LGBT community. It features those who often go unnoticed by the press and community. If you’d like to recommend someone to cover in this column, firstname.lastname@example.orgÂ.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 29, 2009.