Honoring the Life of Dana Finnegan
A NALGAP Founder
Dear Friends, we received word in November of the passing of our CO-Founder Dana Finnegan. This special e-newsletter has been prepared to honor the life of Dana and to offer our condolences and support to her wife Emily.
NALGAP began in 1979, when co-founders Dana Finnegan and Emily McNally "came out" to faculty and fellow students at the Rutgers' Summer School of Alcohol Studies and, along with thirteen other gay men and lesbians we had our humble beginning. This group of individuals began the first national organization to address LGBTQ alcohol and addiction issues. My personal interaction with Dana began in 1980 soon after NALGAP began. I was a part of the new wave of gay activists and was responsible to organize community education presentations for our local Lesbian & Gay group. I called the NALGAP phone number, which I think was in Dana and Emily’s home, and invited her to speak about this newly formed association. To be honest I was in my own active addiction and only made the call based on the strong recommendations of others, who heard her speak at the first New Jersey Lesbian and Gay Coalition conference. Dana explained to me about NALGAP, and her role as an alcoholism counselor. She suggested instead of coming to speak about NALGAP, she would invite a lesbian and gay man, both recovering from alcoholism to come share their personal stories. It was not what I wanted, but Dana in her wisdom knew what we needed. I still remember the impact the two speakers Patricia C. and Rick Y. had on our group meeting and me personally. It was a couple of years later before I started to honestly address my own alcohol and drug use. In 1987 Dana and Emily had just published the groundbreaking book DUAL IDENTITIES: Counseling Chemically Dependent Gay Men and Lesbians. I had the pleasure of taking a course with Dana that year at the Rutgers Summer School of Alcohol Studies. Emily was working on her dissertation at the time so it was a little later before I met her in-person. That was the beginning of a lifelong relationship that continued over 36 years as educator, collaborator, mentor and friends with both Dana and Emily.
Dana shared her thoughts with us in 2017 in the issue of the NALGAP Reporter. I wish to share a segment with you. For Dana, the written word was especially important as an author, collaborator, and educator. She began by writing.
“I look back with fondness at the early days of the movement. We went to speak at numerous addiction conferences and often had to face having only one or two people (if we were lucky) attend our presentations. Our workshops often stirred up not-so-hidden homophobia, and it was scary to consider that at times there were people in our audiences that were homophobic and hostile.”
In closing she so beautifully summarized her experience.
“When I consider Emily’s and my journey together, I am deeply grateful for her--brave, smart, funny, compassionate, and my personal inspiration and cheerleader. Looking back, I feel great satisfaction and pleasure about our and many, many others’ courage, and dedication, about what has occurred, and what NALGAP has contributed I also know there is much more to do. But, happily, NALGAP has a Board and members across the country that can and will do the work!”
With dedication to the life and memory of our Co-founder Dana Finnegan we share these collections of words and pictures. May it serve as a reminder to all, those of us who knew Dana personally and the many others who knew her from her work, of the legacy she leaves behind. Dana spent a lifetime supporting the mission of NALGAP because it was what she believed in. When Dana and Emily wrote in the 2008 NALGAP Reporter they spoke of the changes we needed to make.
In a long-needed and long-awaited action, the NALGAP Board voted to change its name from the National Association of Lesbian and Gay Addiction Professionals to NALGAP The Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Addiction Professionals & Their Allies. This change accomplishes four things: 1) it allows us to keep the name recognition of the NALGAP acronym; 2) it makes room for not just national but also international members; 3) it now makes our association name all inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender addiction professionals; and 4) the name now includes and acknowledges our valuable allies. Changing our name is an important step that indicates NALGAP’s willingness and eagerness to meet the challenges of the coming years. Our new name truly represents our reality as the one national (and international) voice of conscience advocating for good prevention and treatment for LGBT substance abusers. In addition, our new name reflects the broad scope of our membership—not just national but international members; not just LGBT addiction professionals but our allies as well. We are grateful that in a homophobic society, our straight friends and allies bring their strength and heart to our cause.
So many other LGBTQ associations and groups have folded over the years. Some, with highly skilled paid directors, legal advisors and even major financial contributors have not been able to survive over the years. And NALGAP is still here, since 1979 doing what needs to be done.
In honor of Dana we hope you will share this e-news with others. As Dana wrote we need to bring our strength and heart to our cause. We are again bearing witness to attacks on our very existence. LGBTQ books being banned, teachers being censored, programs saying they provide services in their marketing materials to LGBTQ clients with no accountability as to what those services actually include. Actions are being executed to undue the legal progress we have made. Trans, Gender Non-Conforming, Two-Spirit, Queer, People of Color are increasingly being assaulted and murdered. Mass shooting and attacks occurring in places where LGBTQ people socialize and typically meet to feel safe. We encourage you to invite friends and colleagues to join us as a NALGAP member. As a reminder we offer individual, organizations, and student memberships. The NALGAP board would like to create a scholarship fund to help individuals newly in our field facing financial hardships to join us at one of our National Events. If you would like to make a donation to this endeavor, please let us know. Donations and gift memberships can be paid on our website. Our dues are very reasonable, and remember we are totally a volunteer board of directors. Our strength come from the support we give each other, and the legacy created by Dana and Emily will continue.
Dana Finnegan was a pioneer in LGBTQ addiction, with her wife and partner, Emily McNally. Together they have made a critical contribution to our understanding of how stigma, shame, isolation and discrimination impact LGBTQ health and lives and charted pathways to recovery. Through helping to found NALGAP, writing the first resources on LGBTQ addiction and treatment, providing clinical services for LGBTQ people and supporting our work in helping to organize the early LGBTQ health movement, they have given us a lasting legacy.
Dana’s insight and deep commitment to support our community were laced with humanity and humor. She had that quick Irish humor that knew struggle, empathy and resilience. I’m grateful to have known and worked with her.
Caitlin Ryan, PhD, ACSW
Director, Family Acceptance Project and organizer, LGBTQ health movement
It is with a heavy heart that I write this. The LGBTQ community and the world as a whole has a great void with the passing of Dana, an amazing pioneer and incredible person,
I had the honor and privilege of meeting both Dana and Emily in the early 2000’s at a conference in Orlando, Florida. I had the opportunity to share with them both how their groundbreaking book “Dual Identities” was the major resource for my Master’s thesis. I shared with them I received my Masters in 1991 and at the time their book was the only resource that I found that spoke directly to the issue of treating gay and lesbians with substance abuse disorders.
Over that weekend I was able to chat with them both together and individually. I shared with them how their book not only was the main resource for my thesis, but also spoke to a lot of what I experienced in my own life as a gay woman in recovery. Dana said to me “I am so happy you found our book helpful, keep up the wonderful work you do”.
On the last day of the conference, I was able to once again express my gratitude for their work, being the pioneers that they are and making this memorable experience.
I have stayed in touch over the years with Emily and she has kept be updated on their lives and continued work. My sincerest condolences to Emily, on the passing of the love of your life.
Peg Lord, PsyD
A true pioneer in LGBTQ+ rights has left us! Dana was co-founder with her partner, Emily B. McNally, of NALGAP: The Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Addiction Professionals and Their Allies. I referred to her as the "grandmother of LGBTQ+ addiction issues". We will truly miss her.
NALGAP Board of Directors