In 2018, Gallup estimated that between 2012 and 2017, Hispanics and Asians in the United States saw the greatest increase in individuals that identify as LGBTQ. Despite these climbing numbers, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) is the only national LGBTQ organization dedicated to Asian American, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander communities.
Founded in 2005, NQAPIA works with 65 LGBTQ API organizations in 15 states and two territories. “Our goal is to improve the lives of queer and trans API Americans,” says Kenrick Ross, NQAPIA’s new executive director, who began in February. “We do that through capacity building and resource building for a federation of small, mostly volunteer-run, queer and trans API groups around the country.”
NQAPIA also spends a great deal of time doing advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ API community. Much of their policy work revolves around immigration. “One-third of LGBTQ immigrants are API, undocumented and documented,” Ross explains.
Currently, NQAPIA is pushing for immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship and the reunification of families. Ending the deportation and detentions of immigrants is also an important goal for the organization.
“In small refugee-descended communities…it has been traumatic that people who were here for their entire lives have been put on planes,” says Ross. “It wasn’t because they did something particularly [wrong] in that moment. The Trump administration just decided, ‘Why not?’”
NQAPIA is also committed to extending its advocacy to those who are affected by the Muslim ban. “During [the Trump administration], there were many people who were locked out of the United States who had legitimate rights to emigrate and be reunited with their families, and there is no recourse for that right now,” says Ross. “Something has to be done for those four years of people who are now in limbo.”
Other issue areas NQAPIA is currently working on include the Equality Act, voting rights, transgender rights in schools, racial justice, healthcare access, fair housing, workers’ rights, and the visibility of API folks in the media.
“We represent more than half of the world’s population, and to do our work well, we have to…normalize the fact that API communities are extraordinarily diverse,” says Ross.
In addition to their policy and advocacy work, NQAPIA hosts trainings and events, including the largest LGBTQ API conference in the United States. On May 25, the organization will be partnering with the National LGBTQ Task Force and San Diego Pride for a virtual event: The State of the LGBTQ API Movement. The event will focus on legislative issues including the Equality Act, voting rights, and anti-Asian hate crimes. The virtual event will feature Georgia State Rep. Sam Park, as well as policy leaders from the Task Force, the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, and the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance.
As NQAPIA’s newest leader, Ross hopes to build on the work the organization has been doing since 2005 and expand the federation to 85 members in the next two years. Beyond that, Ross says he feels encouraged by the Biden administration. “While we think there is an opening on many policy fronts with the new administration, [we’re also excited by the] new levels of engagement coming out of the summer protests last year, [as they] mobilized communities across the BIPOC spectrum, including API communities.”