Sakhi Honors the Legacy of Urvashi Vaid, Fierce Advocate for Gender Justice and LGBTQ+ Rights


Urvashi Vaid in 1990 protesting a speech by President George H.W. Bush.

Urvashi Vaid in 1990 protesting a speech by President George H.W. Bush. Dennis Cook/AP

Sakhi mourns the loss of trailblazing lawyer, activist and author Urvashi Vaid.

Vaid was a visionary organizer whose intersectional approach to addressing the root causes of harm was decades ahead of its time and transformed the gender justice movement as we know it today. Vaid is known for her brave and pioneering pursuit of social justice–including her courageous leadership as the National LGBTQ+ Task Force’s Executive Director during the height of America’s AIDS epidemic.

As a queer South Asian woman organizing during a time in which social and institutional barriers sought to render her identity invisible, Vaid worked tirelessly toward a future that would be inclusive for all. Her efforts spanning decades–to unapologetically push back against mainstream politics and speak truth to power–are not only a core aspect of her profound legacy, but a source of learning and reflection for us all.

Her niece and long-time Sakhi supporter Kaveri Vaid shared with us: “Urvash Masi lived the beauty of an unbowed, unbossed queer gender nonconforming brown woman. And in making that beauty undeniable, she made the world safer, warmer, and freer. To be held accountable by Urvash Masi is to experience a ferocious, relentless act of love. She gave that gift to all of us in her orbit. May we all work every day to earn it.“

Mallika Dutt, Sakhi co-founder and a friend of Vaid reflected: “Urvashi was a potent force for love, for transformation, and for justice. She combined razor-sharp brilliance with a rare generosity and humility. Urvashi always listened with her full presence. I still remember calling her when I was thinking about creating Sakhi and benefiting from her smarts and wisdom. You could call her with a small hurt or a big dream and she would give you her full attention, interlaced with the unique humor that was Urv. Thousands and thousands of us stand on her shoulders and her magic and legacy will live on across our many movements. Go in power and peace, my beloved friend. We are all richer for you.”

As a 33-year-old gender justice organization, we at Sakhi know that this movement is one that spans generations. We are indebted to Vaid for her lasting contributions and hope to carry her spirit with us as we continue to proudly advocate for justice and dignity for our community.