Mourning the loss of Alain Dang

Alain Dang photo Summer 2013

Post by Jason Cianciotto, MPA Director, Public Policy, GMHC

Our movement for LGBT equality has lost a fierce and dedicated advocate. Alain Dang, a former Policy Analyst at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute and a fierce leader in the Asian and Pacific-Islander (API) community, has passed away at age 37.

After earning his Masters Degree in Urban Planning from UCLA, Alain joined the team at National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute as a Policy Analyst from  2003 to 2007. His commitment to equality and social justice contributed to the production of historic and groundbreaking research and policy analysis.

With Vaid Fellow Somjen Fraser, Alain coauthored the first-ever analysis of Census data on Black same-sex couple families. Released in October, 2004, the study quantitatively demonstrated how anti-LGBT policies disproportionately affect Black people in same-sex couples and their children. In addition to a national report, Alain coauthored fact sheets that described these couples in cities with large Black populations across the US, including Chicago, DC, Detroit, Atlanta Houston, and many others.

This study was critical to countering the strategy of anti-LGBT organizations, which used anti-gay sentiment in the Black church to divide traditionally progressive populations and support anti-marriage state constitutional amendments across the country. Because of Alain’s work, activists and political leaders could show that same-sex marriage, nondiscrimination, and family protections for LGBT people were not just “White” issues that harmed the civil rights of people of color. They are in fact extremely important to the health and well-being of Black people and their families across the country.

You can read Alain and Somjen’s historic report here: Same-sex Couple Households in the United States: A Report from the 2000 Census.

In addition to his work advocating for LGBT equality overall, Alain was a leading advocate for the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) LGBT community. In 2004, with Vaid Fellow Mandy Hu, he co-authored a report based on a pilot study of API LGBT people that assessed their experience of discrimination in general and within LGBT communities. Based on those preliminary data, he developed and led an historic, nationwide study.

Living in the margins: A national survey of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Asian and Pacific Islander Americans was released in May 2007, based on a survey of nearly 900 LGBT API people across the country. In addition to English, the survey instrument, along with the executive summary of the full report, was available in Chinese, Hindi, Korean, and Vietnamese, just one example of Alain’s commitment to inclusion. Alain also authored fact sheets based on the report, in Chinese and English, for states with large API populations, including California, Washington, and New York.

Co-authored with Vaid Fellow Cabrini Vianney, Alain’s report found alarmingly high rates of discrimination and/or harassment based on race/ethnicity and sexual orientation. Among the key findings: despite the fact that less than half of respondents spoke English as their native language the overwhelming majority of information, advocacy, and support materials produced for LGBT people is only produced in English. Alain’s advocacy on behalf of the LGBT API community quantitatively demonstrated the need for all LGBT support and advocacy organizations to ensure that they are welcoming and accessible to the growing API population in the US.
In addition to the research and analysis he directly led at the Task Force, Alain’s expertise influenced the work of the Policy Institute during the most prolific time in its history and was a respected friend and colleague to Task Force staff around the country. He also inspired and influenced the lives of dozens of Vaid Fellows, who have since gone one to become leaders in their fields across the country and around the world. He shared his work and commitment to social justice at conferences across the country, including through the numerous workshops he led and participated in at Creating Change conferences over several years.

Alain also brought his leadership and vision to the Board of Directors of National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) when the organization was in its start-up phase.

Today we join our collective movements for equality and social justice to mourn the loss of Alain, but even more importantly, to carry forward his historic contributions.

Statement by Sean Cahill, Director of Health Policy Research at The Fenway Institute:

Alain was a brilliant policy analyst committed especially to documenting the experiences and priorities of LGBT people of color. His analysis of the demographics of Black same-sex couple households from the 2000 Census showed that Black same-sex couple families, and especially Black lesbian couples, had the most to gain from family recognition and the most to lose from anti-gay marriage laws. The ground-breaking survey of Asian Pacific Islander LGBT people that Alain led for the Task Force documented the experiences and priorities of API LGBT communities who had been largely marginalized by the mostly White LGBT community and the mostly straight API community. Alain’s hard work and vision made the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force’s commitment to anti-racist, intersection work real, and improved our understanding of LGBT Black and Asian communities. This is a huge loss for the LGBT community.