The Official Website Of Urvashi Vaid


Be Transformative, Not Transfixed!

(From The Nation.Com, June 27, 2013)  Read more: What's Next for the LGBT Movement? | The Nation The Lethe-soaked question of what comes after the marriage cases ignores the reality that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people’s lives are not yet free, equal or secure, even with the positive outcome of these Supreme Court decisions. Here’s a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of the LGBT movement in the US; and from that, a possible blueprint for the work ahead. Strengths: A compassionate and mobilized base of millions of LGBT people, their families and [...]

Hegel and Hagel

“How do we keep our balance,” asks Tevye, in the opening number from Fiddler on the Roof, “One word.  Tradition.”  The chorus reinforces it in multipart harmony:  "Tradition…Tradition!”(1) With his nomination of conservative Republican Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama resurrects the most stale of traditions to “balance” his administration – the tradition that a conservative Republican guy will do better in the defense of our country than any imaginable Democrat, and certainly better than that creature who seems anathema to the boys club that is the White House’s staff’s inner echelon – strong and independent women.  In addition, the President perpetuates [...]

Fiscally Stiffed in the New Year

Washington’s impasse on fiscal issues is a story that feels like the movie Groundhog Day. Since President Obama got elected, opposing and undermining anything he proposes has been the main objective of the GOP. We are in today’s fiscal cliff moment because the Republican right wing refuses a balanced approach to solving the fiscal challenges facing the country. The party of No (as Kate Clinton calls them) punted till after the election thinking that Mitt would win but the script did not go as planned. Darn those young people, people of color, women voters, gay voters and progressive 47%-ers. Predictably, the mainstream story being told is one about the wealthy and the powerful, about [...]

Thinking About Diversity

These informal remarks were given at  a workshop sponsored by the Center for the Critical Analysis of Social Difference at Columbia University on April 2, 2012. The Center hosts interdisciplinary conversations among scholars focusing on "keywords."  This conversation involved me, Ira Katznelson, Fred Harris and moderator Mae Ngai. Every time I sat down to think about today’s presentation, I found myself impatient, irritated, avoiding the topic.  I realized the word diversity actually annoyed me a great deal, and even infuriated me to the point that I could not focus on this exercise. They say that if it’s hysterical, it’s historical.  So I had to ask myself why this annoyed [...]

Remarkable Statement by Secretary Clinton on SOGI

The third...issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens. This is not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation. Some people still defend those practices as part of a cultural tradition. But violence toward women isn't cultural; it's criminal. Likewise with slavery, what was once justified as sanctioned by God is now properly reviled as an unconscionable violation of human rights. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's comprehensive, detailed and brave address on the importance of incorporating sexual [...]

LGBT people too powerful to qualify for Constitutional protection?

The right’s distortion of the US Constitution reached a new low last Friday (10.14.11) when lawyers representing House Speaker John Boehner and other conservative members of Congress filed a brief in San Francico District court arguing that gay people do not deserve legal rights because they are too powerful politically. The former Bush Administration Solicitor General, Paul Clement, filed this strange filing in Golinski v. OPM, one of several challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) underway in federal courts. I have not yet been able to access the text of the 31-page brief, but according to the San Francisco Chronicle (and the Associated Press), Clement argues that LGBT [...]

The IMF Guy, Violence Against Women and Rhianna’s Video

There's a fascinating juxtaposition between the reaction to the IMF guy, Dominique Strauss-Kahn's arrest for sexual assault and the outraged reaction in some (mostly conservative) circles to the new video by Rhianna in which she is shown shooting a man who had assaulted her.  The reactions to both situations show women's subordinate status and how it is enforced through violence, shaming and blaming of victims, double standards and a huge amount of male privilege. The French mainstream reaction of Strauss-Kahn's arrest was first to  be indignant about its public nature (how gauche of the US media), then to minimize it (that's just old Dominique being himself), then to hint that it [...]

Comfortable Being Queer To Myself

Joan Nestle used those words last night as she spoke at a fundraiser that Kate and I hosted for OutHistory.Org, the LGBT online history project originated by gay historian Jonathan Ned Katz, and housed at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies (CLAGS) at CUNY. (Please go to and donate and/or contribute your own archives to this project.) Also joining the event last night were Blanche Wiesen Cook, historian and expert on Eleanor Roosevelt, and many activists and students in the New York area who care about LGBT history. Jonathan’s enthusiasm for queer history is inspiring, and his commitment to making the process of documentation, research, information sharing and [...]

Support Robot-Robot Marriage

This billboard (on Christopher Street-Sheridan Square in New York City - March 2011) is one of the best I've seen in a while. It manages to poke fun at both same-sex and same-old-sex marriage. It mocks the people who oppose marriage equality while also teasing those who support it. Then it asks if you are or are not one, knowing that in this hyper-tech age, we're all part bot - just a matter of time before the chips are embedded instead of appended in our hands. And this billboard is selling vodka not metaphysics! Remarkable. This billboard resonates with me because when I was growing up, through college and throughout my adult life, this is what I thought getting married [...]

The Military’s Gender Troubles

Gay men and women can now be open in the military. I worked for this moment for more than two decades and acknowledge that I feel relieved at the outcome – literally tens of thousands of people will not need to live in fear anymore. But my sense of accomplishment is tempered by both an underlying ambivalence about the pain that military service extracts from those involved, by the sobering reality of the experience of women in the military and by the continued exclusion of transgender people. I am anti-war in almost all situations, and have felt so mixed as I’ve worked for military reform over the past several decades. But what kept me pushing for inclusion was the experience [...]

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