In honor of Pride Month, we sat down with Trustee Catherine Pino, co-founder of D&P Creative Strategies and one of our newest board members. Along with her wife Ingrid, Catherine has dedicated her life and her work to advocating for change in LGBTQ+ communities across the nation. As a Latina, she’s especially passionate about building bridges between Latino and LGBTQ+ communities.
Read on for our in-depth conversation with Catherine on her LGBTQ+ advocacy, and why intersectionality and authentic community listening are essential for meaningful change.
Community Foundation: You’re a co-founder of D&P Creative Strategies, a DC-based strategic consulting firm focused on inclusive and equitable advocacy. What initially inspired you to co-found D&P?
Catherine Pino: I have to say that it was really our love and desire to change the world. [My wife] Ingrid and I wanted to build a bridge between the Latino and LGBTQ+ communities. We knew there was a great deal of homophobia within the Latino community, and we felt compelled to try and change that narrative. We wanted to create an entity that would allow us to work on various of projects and issues. We were really adamant about being out and open about our love and who we were.
CF: In what ways have you seen these values show up in your work at D&P and beyond?
CP: Ingrid and I both have this sense of responsibility to improve conditions for marginalized [populations]. We always have the interests of the communities we represent at the forefront of our work to ensure they aren’t left behind. Our passion for what we do shows up in a variety of ways, including when we advise corporate executives on diversity, equity, and inclusion and corporate giving strategies. It also shows up in our advocacy on Capitol Hill.
It shows up in our film work, which we describe as a labor of love. We've produced six documentaries for HBO and PBS on identity. People telling their stories helps change hearts and minds.
Another way these values show up is through our political work. In 2008, Ingrid and I created PODER PAC, a political action committee dedicated to supporting Latina candidates as they run for Congress. After Hillary Clinton lost the 2008 Democratic primary, we created the PAC after traveling around the country as surrogates and meeting all these incredible Latinas who shared stories with us about how difficult it was to secure the resources they needed to run for office.
CF: You’ve done a lot of work in the LGBTQ+ space through an intersectionality lens, especially through your work on the Board of the Arcus Foundation. Can you tell us about some of the LGBTQ+ projects or initiatives you’ve spearheaded that have stuck with you? Why?
CP: One of my favorite projects of all time is Familia es Familia—Family is Family. We created a national education campaign to work on anti-bullying discrimination, family unity, and gay marriage. When we worked on this—before marriage equality—there was a lot of distrust between mainstream LGBTQ+ groups and Latinos. Many felt that Latinos and Blacks were more likely than whites to oppose same-sex marriage. Ingrid and I felt strongly that if we shared stories of LGBTQ+ Latinos, our family members and community members would be more accepting.
We were able to garner the support of over 25 national Hispanic organizations and partners, and created strong allies. We traveled across the country to various Hispanic conferences, held workshops, and talked to Latinos about our community. And we created lots of online resources, including videos of celebrity LGBTQ+ couples talking about anti-bullying and discrimination.
This campaign was highly instrumental in changing hearts and minds about acceptance of LGBTQ+ family members and, frankly, about marriage within the Latino community. It was beautiful to see how the Latino community grew and came around on many of these issues.
CF: Based on this work, how would you define “intersectionality?”
CP: Intersectionality really challenges us to look at how intersecting social identity, particularly minority identities, relates to systems and structures, inequity, and discrimination. It helps us make sense of how race, class, ethnicity, socioeconomic standing, gender, religion, and so much more can overlap and affect how others perceive you.
Take me, for instance. I’m Latina, a woman, and a lesbian raised by a single mom in a very low income, conservative Catholic family. Intersectionality is the way all of our multiple identities and dimensions intersect and, at least for me, embracing them.
CF: In what ways might we leverage this approach to create change for our LGBTQ+ neighbors in our region?
CP: Intersectionality means listening to others, examining our own privilege, and asking questions about who may be excluded or affected by our work. It means taking measurable action by intentionally including other voices and acknowledging the contributions of marginalized individuals. We must recognize that there are multiple forms of systemic discrimination or barriers to opportunity and multiple forms of prejudice that prevent LGBTQ+ people of color from being successful.
As a community foundation, the most important thing we can do is listen and respect the voices of those impacted by issues, be inclusive, and invite people into discussions to incorporate different perspectives.
CF Why did you decide to join The Community Foundation’s board?
CP: Most of my foundation experience has been at the national level, so I was genuinely excited to join an organization focused on local issues. I honestly believe that community foundations play a critical role in engaging the community, building community capacity, expanding financial capital, and educating the public about philanthropy. There isn’t always an understanding of the importance of giving, especially in minority communities. Ingrid and I try to do as much as we can to educate our communities about the importance of philanthropy. I believe that if you educate young people about philanthropy and about giving back early on, it will help become part of their world throughout their lives.
CF: Finally, what do you think lies ahead for us in terms of LGBTQ+ rights, and social justice—as a region and a nation?
CP: I still really believe we need the Equality Act. Many states don't have laws to protect people who are vulnerable to discrimination in key areas of life. I'm also really concerned about the anti-trans legislation popping up and in various states across the country. It’s been a record-breaking year for anti-trans legislation.
We need to be fierce advocates for trans and LGBTQ+ rights, especially for young youth of color. The Trevor Project recently published their annual survey on LGBTQ+ youth mental health, and 52% of all transgender and nonbinary young people reported seriously contemplating suicide in 2020. We’re just losing too many of our LGBTQ+ young people, and it breaks my heart. It’s really critical to provide mentorship and leadership for future generations.