Remembering Urvashi Vaid, Activist Who Fought For Decades To Improve LGBTQ Rights Across USA

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Remembering Urvashi Vaid, Activist Who Fought For Decades To Improve LGBTQ Rights Across USA

The Indian-American activist is famous for leading the USA’s oldest LGBTQ advocacy organisation during the height of the AIDS crisis and fought for fundamental reforms long before same-sex marriage and other basic rights were won.

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Urvashi Vaid, an Indian-American social justice activist, attorney, author and a leading figure in the fight for LGBTQ equality, passed away in Manhattan on May 14 after battling cancer.

Her sisters, Rachna Vaid and Jyotsna Vaid, said the cause was breast cancer.

The 63-year-old is famous for leading the USA's oldest LGBTQ advocacy organisation during the height of the AIDS crisis and fought for fundamental reforms long before same-sex marriage and other basic rights were won, Los Angeles Times reported.

Fought For Social Causes Since Childhood

Born on October 8, 1958, in New Delhi, Vaid moved to Potsdam, New York at the age of eight with her family, after her father took up a university teaching position. She participated in the anti-Vietnam movement when she was just 11-years-old and continued to remain active in various political and social causes during her college days.

In 1983, she received a Juris Doctor degree from Northeastern University School of Law in Boston. She founded the Boston Lesbian/Gay Political Alliance, a non-partisan political organisation interviewing and endorsing candidates for political office and advocates for Boston's gay community.

Leading National LGBTQ Task Force

In the late 1980s and early '90s, when the AIDS crisis was at its peak, Vaid led the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (present National LGBTQ Task Force). The platform made her one of the most vocal and visible figures in the push for AIDS funding and against federally enshrined anti-LGBTQ discrimination, The New York Times reported.

She was the rare activist who was as comfortable within the confines of pragmatic electoral politics as she was marching in the streets. In 1990, she was ejected from a speech on gay rights by President George Bush for holding a sign that read, "Talk Is Cheap, AIDS Funding Is Not."

She was not invited back to the White House, but the stunt had its desired effect as funding for AIDS research slowly began to swell.

According to Wikipedia, Vaid believed that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) equality will occur only when the larger institutions of family and the society are transformed to be more inclusive of racial, gender, and economic difference. Her book Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay and Lesbian Liberation (1995) won a Stonewall Book Award in 1996.

Founder Of 1st Lesbian Super PAC

Vaid was the founder of LPAC, the first lesbian Super PAC launched in July 2012. As of 2020 has invested millions of dollars in candidates committed to legislation promoting social justice. She was the founder of The Vaid Group, a social innovation consultancy that advises individuals and organisations working to advance equity, justice and inclusion globally and domestically.

In April 2009, Out magazine named her one of the 50 most influential LGBTQ people in the United States.

Vaid hoped that the future of LGBTQ communities would accomplish two things. "One is to take care of the parts of our community that are less powerful, which means low-income LGBTQ people, transgender people and community's women, whose rights are getting kicked out of them, parts of community across the board—kids, old gay people" and "The second thing I would love to see happen is for the LGBTQ community to use its political power and access to create a more just society for all."

Also Read: Setting Example For Inclusivity: Madurai City Corporation Sets Up Restrooms For Third Gender

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