James Williams, Gay Activist in India, Dies at 35


James Williams was a homosexual man who grew up in a conservative and non secular milieu in Alabama, the place homophobia was rampant. But over time, he noticed the United States transfer towards better tolerance, which he attributed partly to nonthreatening tv reveals like “Will & Grace,” the long-running sitcom with an brazenly homosexual lead character.

While on trip in India in 2017, he met Ayush Thakur and moved to India to stay with him. Gay intercourse had been decriminalized there solely in 2018, and Williams noticed that persecution persevered. He thought that if Indian tv reveals had been modeled on “Will & Grace,” they may carry homosexual folks into Indian dwelling rooms and assist change hearts and minds.

So he spent his days assembly with producers and others attempting to get such reveals off the bottom.

Then, final yr, the coronavirus pandemic hit and halted his efforts. In latest weeks an explosion of instances has put India underneath siege, sapping medical methods, overwhelming crematories and leaving some folks to die in strains exterior hospitals.

Williams examined optimistic for COVID-19 on April 24 and joined the determined scramble for a hospital mattress and oxygen. He ultimately discovered each, his brother, John, stated, however to no avail: He died April 28 in a hospital within the Delhi area. He was 35.

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James Robert Williams was born June 30, 1985, in Florence, in northwest Alabama, and grew up in close by St. Florian. His mom, Kay (Carter) Williams, was a schoolteacher. His father, Paul Kenneth Williams, a former Marine who served within the Vietnam War, was an IRS agent.

James’ mom died in a automotive accident in 1992, and his father dedicated suicide in 1995. Jim, 9, and John, 11, went to stay with their father’s sister, Sharon Alexander, a volunteer for nonprofits, and her husband, Bill Alexander, a monetary government, in East Amherst, New York, close to Buffalo.

In addition to his brother and Thakur, Williams is survived by the Alexanders and their two daughters, Christie and Jessica Alexander, and their son, Doug.

Williams majored in English at Columbia University. “He was a campus character, a big, tall, funny guy who always had a good story to tell,” Laura Kleinbaum, a former classmate and shut good friend, stated in a cellphone interview. A gifted author, he beloved composing observational essays and particularly admired Joan Didion.

After he graduated in 2008, he grew to become a private assistant to author Daphne Merkin and started touring the world.

“He was really into getting airline points, and he would make random trips to random cities to get them,” Kleinbaum stated. “You’d be texting with him, and he’d be, like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m in Shanghai.’ ”

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Eager to know his boyhood and his mother and father, Williams had begun an oral historical past undertaking by interviewing his mother and father’ associates in Alabama. In these interviews, John Williams stated, James was characteristically blunt, usually beginning by saying, “You know I’m gay, right?”

In latest months James was attempting to get a visa for Thakur, who was by then his fiancé, in order that they might be married within the United States. They had hoped to settle in Los Angeles and work within the leisure trade.

John stated that his brother had “really believed in the power of the media to change the way people thought about certain disfavored populations.”

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