Christine Cariño: Consciously Thriving as a Queer, Nonbinary Filipino
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. I hope you’ll join me in signing the AAPI Visibility Pledge to support Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.After launching my second podcast, Companies That Care, I’ve started alternating each week. This week I interview Christine Cariño, a queer nonbinary immigrant from the Philippines. Her grit and resilience story led to her life’s work with underrepresented groups and communities as a transformation coach and consultant. Born and raised in the Philippines, Christine had to navigate a religious, patriarchal society. Christine became aware of her place as a woman at an early age, having to always give way to her brothers. She remembers having her first girl crush in fourth grade. “I was attracted to my best friend at that time, and I didn't know what it was because no one explained it to me. There was no representation on TV."Any curiosity or exploration of this same-sex attraction was shut down, and the comment that made the biggest impact was when a family member told her, “Please do not tell me that you're gay.”After that, Christine did everything in her power to present femme, or more feminine, trying to make herself straight until she fell in love in college. She was outed by her conservative Christian aunt and uncle, who sent her to conversion therapy. She felt more shame and guilt about her identity. “I was very spiritual growing up. I've always believed in a higher power that was taking care of me…so hearing that this higher being doesn't love me because of who I am was painful…why would a God that speaks of love be unable to accept someone like me?”Soon after the conversion therapy and she had graduated from college, Christine moved to New York with her mom and brother. “Moving here as an immigrant and starting from scratch was definitely an experience.”Moving to the United States felt like starting over. She had only $100 to her name when she moved to New York. I interviewed Christine before the Atlanta shootings that targeted Asian-Americans, but Asian-American hate crimes were still on the rise. I asked her about what it’s like being a Filipino immigrant. She admits it’s been difficult, but she also has had to unlearn anti-Blackness and colorism that she learned as a child.“I'm darker skinned, and I was always compared to my sister who was lighter skinned…she's considered the prettier one.”Christine didn’t understand how systemic colorism was until she came to the United States. She realizes that as an Asian-American, she has certain privileges compared to her Black counterparts. “There are challenges and struggles, but I can acknowledge that there's deeper and more violent struggles and challenges towards the black community.”I asked Christine about being nonbinary. It is how she transcends beyond gender social constructs. “I don't want to follow any rules...Masculine roles need to look vulnerable, loving, kind, compassionate, and female roles can look courageous and assertive and be fierce and powerful.”Christine uses the pronouns she, her, and siya (pronounced sha), a gender-neutral pronoun in Tagalog.As a transformation coach with Conscious Thrive, Christine helps underrepresented executives and leaders to reconnect with their authentic selves so they can live and lead consciously and create impact on their own terms. Next week I interview Ozzie Gonzalez on the Companies That Care podcast. I used to work with Ozzie at CH2M HILL. Last year he was Portland’s first Latino candidate for mayor. We talked about what he’s doing now, Portland, Mexico, and sustainability.