Arvind Kumar was born on January 1, 1956, in Varanasi, India. Growing up in a joint family in Bihar, he had a conservative Hindu grandfather who ruled the household with discipline. While his parents were loving, they were not actively involved in his upbringing, and he found support in his brothers and uncle.
In ninth grade, Arvind experienced his first gay relationship, which lasted for two years. As his boyfriend was the high school jock they had to hide their relationship publicly, although it was an open secret.
Arvind pursued his education in engineering at IIT Kanpur, India. After graduating, he moved to the United States to study Business Administration. He landed a job at Hewlett Packard in Palo Alto, California, in 1982. Although ecstatic to be living in the US, he was unhappy due to repressing his sexuality. He still felt isolated as an openly out Indian man and longed to build up a support network.
1983 was a significant year for Arvind. He attended his first Gay Pride in San Francisco and started attending a gay men’s group, which had a transformative impact on his life. This gave him the courage to come out to family members, whose responses were mixed. His brothers were very supportive but his mother was furious, although she found acceptance after some time. He then made friends with a fellow California-based gay Indian man, Suvir, whom he met through the classified ads of The Advocate.
In 1986, he met Ashok Jethanandani. Together, they founded South Asian gay and lesbian support group Trikone and published the first Trikone newsletter. Trikone was the first South Asian LGBTQ org in the world. They crafted the newsletter using photocopiers and printers from his job at HP. They then sent the newsletter to every gay publication in the US and Canada and every major newspaper in India. After a freelance reporter convinced a Bombay gossip rag called Society to run a two-page spread on the organization, Trikone received letters from readers all over India. Despite potential risks, Arvind Kumar chose to publish the newsletter without a pseudonym, thus coming out publicly and advocating for LGBTQ+ rights.
In 1987, Arvind left his job at Hewlett Packard and co-founded India Currents, a monthly nonprofit magazine about California Indian culture, serving to connect Indian Americans to each other and champion the community. Ashok – now Arvind’s partner – supported Arvind through the early years of Indian Currents. India Currents has won a multitude of awards, most recently two distinguished awards from the California News Publishers Association.
By 1996, Arvind’s mother was suggesting that he and Ashok get married because they had been together for so long. She agreed to conduct the ceremony, and Arvind and Ashok were married in Toronto, surrounded by Arvind’s family – a “happy ending” to his mother’s previous homophobia.
Arvind Kumar’s legacy includes his significant contributions to the visibility and acceptance of queer South Asians. He has shown the global South Asian LGBTQ+ community that they are not alone, and continues to be a fierce advocate for queer rights.