LGBTQ&A: Kay Martinez

Meet the new Mazzoni employee who is addressing diversity at the LGBTQ nonprofit in a critical way.

Kay Martinez is Mazzoni Center’s first Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). We chat with the queer Afro-latinx nonprofit leader on their Boston roots, racial inequity, and overcoming ongoing controversy at Mazzoni Center.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m Afro-latinx, Queer, GNC. My parents emigrated from Ecuador to the Boston in the ’70s. I grew up there with an idealized notion of America as the land of opportunity and possibility. All that changed when I moved to New Orleans for undergrad and Hurricane Katrina hit. Katrina and its aftermath made the anti-blackness deeply rooted in our nation visible to me. Seeing America through the intersections of race, class, and the environment made me question the American dream rhetoric in new ways. I was also growing into my Queerness in undergrad at a Predominantly White Institution where I didn’t have mentors who looked like me in the professoriate or administration. I’ve been leading diversity and inclusion initiatives at PWIs over the last decade to change this academic experience for future generations. Throughout my career, I’ve centered Queer and Trans students of color and been a mentor to them because I know how hard it can be. Most recently I was the director of the Women’s Center at Tufts University and the associate director of the Diversity and First Generation office at Stanford University.

You’re new to the city. What is something uniquely different about Philly’s LGBTQ scene compared to the other cities you’ve lived in?
I moved here from Boston, and I’ve been blessed to live in New Orleans and Oakland as well. So far, Philly has been welcoming and healing for me. Boston is a hostile place — the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team recently wrote a series on racism in the city. In Philly, I’m able to be around more racially diverse people and be in community.

I feel like Philly’s LGBTQ scene has a unique energy for racial justice. I read the PCHR report on racism in the Gayborhood before moving here. Racism exists in all LGBT communities, but who is researching it and addressing it like Philly right now? I think the Philly pride flag also reflects how this city is actively centering Black and Brown LGBT folks.

You’ve been Mazzoni Center’s first-ever Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for two months, unbeknownst to the community. How has that experience been since the controversy surrounding the nonprofit’s new executive director?
After a highly competitive national search, I was selected to be Mazzoni Center’s first Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). My position is a game-changer in the field and demonstrates how Mazzoni Center continues to be an innovative LGBT health care industry leader, and I hope others follow our example. I’m also the first Queer Trans person of color reporting to the CEO at Mazzoni Center. Whether it’s higher ed or LGBT nonprofits, Queer and Trans Black and Brown people are not often reflected in senior leadership positions. The controversy, as you say, has brought up necessary and timely questions about identity and representation which impact my work. I will be working on a DEI strategic plan for the organization with measurable results so the community and our agency can see that we are about action. That’s what matters most to me. We know we have work to do and people are looking to us for results.

You have a background in activism, participating in local Black Lives Matter movement work in your previous town. What are some changes you are trying to incorporate within Mazzoni under their current climate around inclusion?
My experiences with BLM have profoundly impacted who I am as a person and how I show up in this role. Now that I’m leading DEI efforts for Mazzoni Center, the largest LGBT health center in Philadelphia, I take what I’ve learned and experienced from activism and apply it to my work. While we are assessing our internal and client demography, I will ask us to look at who we are serving and centering with particular attention to Black Queer and Trans people among historically marginalized communities. Philly is a predominantly Black city, and I hope community activists, especially Black LGBT people, are utilizing our health and wellbeing services. As an agency, we’ll be looking at our relationship with this community and others. Our next steps involve creating agency-wide and department-specific DEI plans and assessing agency-wide practices and policies to ensure equity. I’ll also be developing trainings to regularly engage our agency in discussions about anti-blackness, racial justice, and intersectionality rooted in Black feminist scholarship.