In Urvashi Vaid’s World, All Were Welcome

The Indian American LGBTQ activist fought for equality for all, and made queer South Asians feel seen, heard, and loved.

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Urvashi Vaid (Jurek Wajdowicz, via Urvashi Vaid)

Priya Arora


May 17, 2022


6 min

The legendary LGBTQ rights activist, organizer, and mentor Urvashi Vaid died on Saturday, May 14, 2022 in New York City after a battle with cancer. She was 63.

By trade, Vaid was an attorney, a graduate of Northeastern University and Vassar College. But her political organizing went back further — she participated in anti-Vietnam War protests at the age of 11, just three years after her family immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1966. She would go on to lead social justice and philanthropic organizations, such as the National LGBTQ Task Force, and serve on the boards of the Arcus Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the American LGBTQ+ Museum, set to open in 2025. And in 2012, she established LPAC, the first lesbian super PAC, to back political candidates who promoted social justice and LGBTQ rights.

But what made Vaid so revolutionary was her ability to be welcoming to all — and convince them through conversation, policy, advocacy, and action that her vision of an equal future was within reach. And for countless queer South Asians, she remained visible yet accessible — always only a cold email or phone call away — showing them that an openly Brown queer life was not only possible, as Alok Vaid-Menon put it, but also beautiful.

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