Memorial to Urvashi Vaid

Photo © Dixie Sheridan 1999, NYC

The American LGBTQ+ Museum mourns the loss and celebrates the life of Urvashi Vaid

Urvashi was our friend, colleague, and founding board member. She died on May 14, 2022 surrounded by family and friends.

Throughout her life, Urvashi championed issues related to equity and social justice and was an inspirational, creative, and steadfast role model and leader in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. She brought her passion to her work as an author and in a variety of leadership roles in philanthropic, advocacy, community, and academic organizations.

In 2014 Urvashi told the Huffington Post that she hoped to see the LGBTQ+ liberation movement “take care of the parts of our community that are less powerful… low-income LGBT people, transgender people, and our community’s women, whose rights are getting the crap kicked out of them.” She urged the movement “to use its political power and access to create a more just society for all.”

Richard Burns, chair of the Museum’s board, recalled his lifelong close friend and colleague, “Urvashi had a vision for what our world and our lives should be – free, proud and full of joy and love. She wasn’t afraid to demand the change that is required and she has inspired generations of rising activists to lead with generosity and integrity.“

We are deeply saddened by Urvashi’s untimely death. Our hearts go out to her friends and family—and especially her partner, Kate Clinton.

Remembering Urvashi Vaid:

 

 

My dear friend Urvashi Vaid died on May 14. She was 63. We met 42 years ago, on our first day of law school in 1980 at Northeastern University in Boston. I spotted her in the student lounge reading a copy of Gay Community News, where I’d been the managing editor until just the day before. I approached her to introduce myself and she said, “Haven’t I seen you around at some demonstrations?”

We quickly became friends and co-conspirators at both Northeastern and Gay Community News, the national queer liberation newsweekly where so many of us figured out who we were. As I came to know Urv, I learned that she believed in radical change and in breaking some dishes. But she also believed in the necessity of building social infrastructure and of working both in our community and within institutions.

Urv’s impact was vast—from her many inspirational speeches, including at the 1993 March on Washington, her books, including Virtual Equality, and her leadership roles as executive director of the National Gay Task Force and co-founder of the Creating Change conference, which has trained tens of thousands of young activists. She played key roles at the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and three of the largest funders of LGBTQ equality in the world: the Ford Foundation, the Arcus Foundation, and the Gill Foundation. These few examples only scratch the surface of a lifetime dedicated to something we now call intersectionality, but Urv was already championing this over three decades ago.

Urv was one of the five incorporators of our American LGBTQ+ Museum and was a member of our founding board of directors.

She was generous, tough, and kind. Even when she was the only woman or person of color in the room, Urv learned that she could push for change, open minds, and at the same time establish lifelong friendships. She could be quick to anger and quick to forgive (sometimes). She was bossy and really hated it when I was bossy. Her ability to challenge us all was so imbued with compassion and love and charm that we could take it.

She’s the person who taught me how to say “I love you” without the world crashing down. I know that I will think about her every day. And I know that I—and that all of us—will keep on fighting, with integrity, with anger, with joy, and laughter, and love. Urvashi would insist.

 

Richard Burns,

Chair

American LGBTQ+ Museum