A conversation with Urvashi Vaid

Director, Engaging Tradition Project, Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, Columbia University, and author, Irresistible Revolution: Race, Class, and the LGBT Imagination.

Urvashi Vaid is a community organizer, writer and attorney who has been a leader in the LGBT and social justice movements for nearly three decades.

She is Director of the Engaging Tradition Project at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School. The Projects seeks to understand how the idea of tradition is used by and used against movements for gender and sexual justice; and to explore how tradition-based practices inform, enable and/or limit the work of these movements.

Vaid is author of Virtual Equality: The Mainstreaming of Gay & Lesbian Liberation (Anchor, 1996), a political analysis of the U.S. LGBT movement. She is co-editor, with Dr. John D’Emilio and Dr. William Turner, of an anthology on public policy history titled Creating Change: Public Policy, Sexuality and Civil Rights (St. Martin’s Press, 2000).   Her forthcoming book, Irresistible Revolution:  Race, Class and the LGBT Imagination will be published in 2012 by Magnus Books.  Vaid is a former columnist for The Advocate, the U.S. national gay and lesbian newsmagazine, and has contributed chapters to a number of books. She lectures extensively on the issues of social justice, civil and human rights and LGBT equality.

Vaid serves on the Board of Directors of the Gill Foundation, which is dedicated to achieving equal opportunity for all, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.  She is founder of The Vaid Group, a consulting practice that advises individuals and organizations working to achieve social justice in a wide range of fields.

During the 2010-2011 academic year, Vaid was a Visiting Senior Fellow with the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center’s Department of Sociology. From 2005-2010, she served as Executive Director of the Arcus Foundation and the Arcus Operating Foundation, global grant making foundations that support social justice and conservation organizations.  From January 2001- August 2005, Vaid was deputy director of the Governance and Civil Society Unit of the Ford Foundation where she directed a national grant making program to strengthen the nonprofit and social justice infrastructure of US civil society.

For more than 10 years, Vaid worked in various capacities at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF), the oldest national LGBT civil rights organization;  first as its media director (7/86-7/89), then as executive director (8/89-12/92), and as director of its Policy Institute Think-tank  (1/97-1/01). From 1983-1986, Vaid was staff attorney at the National Prison Project of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where she initiated the organization’s work on HIV/AIDS in prisons.

Vaid is the recipient of an Honorary Degree from City University of New York, Queens College of Law, as well as awards from SAGE, the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) at CUNY, the National Lesbian and Gay Law Association, American Foundation for AIDS Research (AMFAR), American Immigration Law Foundation, Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), Asian American Legal Defense Fund, the Paul Anderson Prize Foundation, and Lambda Legal.

Vaid is a graduate of Vassar College, and Northeastern University School of Law.