Dedicated to the LGBTIQ human rights movement
Outright International was founded in 1990 by activist Julie Dorf, with considerable involvement from other activists, like Russian author, journalist and activist Masha Gessen. Initially called the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, the organization aimed to eradicate the persecution, inequality and violence lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) people face around the world. Through the years, the geographic focus of the organization shifted to working to promote the human rights of LGBTIQ people worldwide.
Our Journey to Make An Impact
U.S. activist Julie Dorf launched what was then known as the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC). In the early years, the organization focused on Russia, campaigning to decriminalize same-sex relations and end the psychiatric hospitalization of LGBTIQ people. IGLHRC also worked to bring anti-retroviral medication and condoms into the country where access to HIV/AIDS preventive measures and treatment was non-existent.
IGLHRC campaigned to ensure that Amnesty International changed its mandate to include abuses against LGBT people.
With Congressman Barney Frank, IGLHRC met with Russian officials to advocate for the repeal of the country’s sodomy law. That same year, the organization helped secure an Argentinian gay man’s asylum to Canada.
After documenting over 1,200 murders of LGBT people in Brazil for over a decade, IGLHRC supported the first successful sexual orientation asylum case in the U.S. The organization also persuaded the U.S. State Department to include the persecution of LGBT people in their annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices report.
IGLHRC launched the Felipa de Souza Award, which is named after a Brazilian woman who endured torture and exile after proudly declaring her love for another woman in the 16th century.
At the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, IGLHRC ensured that sexual rights were included in official discussions, giving lesbian issues unprecedented visibility.
IGLHRC began intensive regional work in Africa and the Middle East. The organization also produced its first-ever resource guide on asylum based on sexual orientation.
In South Asia, IGLHRC worked with activists to orchestrate the first meeting between LGBT community leaders and the Dalai Lama.
Through IGLHRC’s advocacy and diplomacy, the President of Romania agreed to pardon gay men and lesbians imprisoned under the country’s sodomy law. IGLHRC also conducted intensive training for activists based in Argentina, Hong Kong, Hungary, Nicaragua, South Africa, Turkey, and Zimbabwe.
In South Africa, IGLHRC established a network of pro bono attorneys to work on LGBTIQ issues. Meanwhile, the organization increased its collaboration with activists in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines. IGLHRC also launched a campaign with other U.S. activists to persuade the World Trade Organization to provide life-saving AIDS drugs to those who need them.
As part of the Pink Triangle Coalition, IGLHRC convened a conference in Berlin on the Nazi persecution of “homosexuals.” At a U.N. event marking the fifth anniversary of the Beijing conference, IGLHRC published a report on how sexuality is used to attack women’s organizing efforts.
In India, IGLHRC mobilized an emergency response network to help win the release of four HIV-prevention workers after their five week-imprisonment.
During a productive year of training, IGLHRC conducted workshops with human rights activists in India, Mexico, Paraguay, Puerto Rico and South Africa. The organization led a workshop on harm reduction with AIDS activists in Thailand.
IGLHRC released a report on the consequences of state-sponsored homophobia in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
In collaboration with Nepal’s Blue Diamond Society, IGLHRC worked to win the release of 39 HIV workers while also fighting attempts to revoke the organization’s legal status. In support of the Brazilian resolution on human rights and sexual orientation, IGLHRC helped bring dozens of activists to engage with the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
IGLHRC launched its first Latin American Human Rights Advocacy Institute. In El Salvador, the organization’s documentation on transgender abuse helped win a temporary reprieve in a U.S. asylum case from that country.
In Cameroon, IGLHRC helped gain the release of 11 gay men who were imprisoned. IGLHRC published “Voices of Nigeria,” which documented the experiences of Nigerian LGBTIQ citizens after the government attempted to pass the “Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act.”
With a focus on Central American lesbian and bisexual women and Spanish-speaking Caribbean movement leaders, IGLHRC held its second Latin American Human Rights Advocacy Institute. The organization helped bring the first-ever delegation of LGBTIQ activists to the African Commission on Human Rights and People’s Rights in Africa.
With the launch of its OutSpoken Award, IGLHRC recognized Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s leadership as a global ally of the LGBTIQ community. It was the first direct address by the theologian, human rights activist to a major LGBTIQ gathering in the U.S., in which he apologized on behalf of the faith community for the marginalization of gay people.
In the same year, IGLHRC helped establish the United Nations Core Group, a group of 41 member states collaborating to advance LGBTIQ equality. Through this, the organization led the drafting and passage of the only U.N. resolution uplifting LGBTIQ rights. The team also advocated for the creation of the U.N. Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity position, which monitors the health of LGBTIQ communities and human rights abuses globally.
While continuing to provide technical assistance to the country’s young LGBTIQ movement, IGLHRC helped secure the release and pardon of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga of Malawi who were arrested, held without bail and tried for loving outside of gender norms.
IGLHRC attained consultative status with the U.N. Economic and Social Council, allowing the organization and its partners' unprecedented access to decision makers in the global body. The organization held its third Latin American Human Rights Advocacy Institute in the Americas while also inaugurating its first Institute in Asia. The team also testified before the U.S. Congress about efforts to export homophobia from the U.S., which resulted in an anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda.
In a groundbreaking achievement affirming the universality of human rights, the U.N. Human Rights Council passed the first-ever resolution on human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In Haiti, IGLHRC documented the alarming increase of anti-LGBTIQ human rights violations, violence, and discrimination in the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake.
Inter-American Court of Human Rights condemned Chile for stripping Karen Atala, a lesbian mother and judge, of custody of her three daughters on the basis of her sexual orientation. IGLHRC co-authored a brief criticizing the decision.
On Human Rights Day, the organization led a panel at the United Nations that featured Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, athletes, and LGBTIQ human rights defenders to draw attention to homophobia and transphobia ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics.
The organization convened 30 Liberian activists to develop an immediate strategy to protect LGBTIQ Liberians. In Southeast Africa, IGLHRC assisted Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) in the writing and submission of a shadow report to the U.N. that found that “lesbian, bisexual and transgender people living in Zimbabwe are confronted by systematic discrimination on a daily basis.”
After two years of joint support for humanitarian assistance to vulnerable LGBTIQI people in Iraq, IGLHRC worked with partners to raise awareness for their desperate plight by publishing two groundbreaking briefings.
In The Philippines, IGLHRC co-coordinated the Quezon City “Gender Fair Ordinance,” a pioneering non-discrimination municipal law protecting the city’s LGBTIQ citizens. This served as an important model and case study.
IGLHRC officially changed its name to OutRight Action International (OutRight). Then executive director, Jessica Stern, addressed the first-ever U.N. Security Council meeting on violence against LGBTIQ people. In her speech, she urged world governments to act immediately to protect those targeted by extremist persecution and cruel acts in Iraq and Syria.
The organization launched the first episode of a commissioned graphic novel, “Yousef and Farhad,” which talked about the struggle for acceptance by two fictional gay men in Iran. The publication kicked off its #LoveForAll digital campaign.
In partnership with CUNY Law School, OutRight debuted its first OutSummit conference. The inaugural panel focused on the historical analysis of the LGBTIQ movement over the last 25 years. OutSummit has become an annual conference that coincides with Human Rights Day.
The organization launched research on how media across the Arab world reported on LGBTIQ issues. The findings collected were used to establish a training program for LGBTIQ journalists in the region.
In support of a growing movement for LGBTIQ rights in the Caribbean, OutRight helped legally register four new organizations, including the first trans organization in Jamaica.
While using a quote from one of the organization’s reports, India’s Supreme Court decriminalized same-sex relations, impacting millions of people.
After launching the first global report on so-called conversion therapy and documenting its harmful effects, OutRight launched a campaign to end conversion practices in Africa with three regional partners.
As a consequence of the unprecedented health emergency brought upon by the pandemic, OutRight launched its COVID-19 Fund to support LGBTIQ communities and organizations on the frontlines of responding to the crisis. To date, OutRight has distributed 3.8M USD across 108 countries.
A tremendous recognition as longtime OutRight executive director Jessica Stern departed to join the Biden Administration and State Department as the U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons.
In its commitment to ensure that trans and nonbinary people are not only not left behind or forgotten, OutRight launched its global trans program with activist and movement leader, Rikki Nathanson.
In light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, OutRight created the Ukraine Emergency Fund as part of its Queering Humanitarian Response initiative. The fund has distributed 1.59M USD in grants to support LGBTIQ organizations in Ukraine and surrounding countries as they continue to require immediate and sustained financial support to meet the needs of LGBTIQ people who are turning to them for life-saving help as a result of the war.
To strengthen lesbian, bisexual and queer activism and boost their visibility, OutRight debuted its LBQ Connect Program with a focus on mentorship, grants, research and advocacy.
OutRight appointed Maria Sjödin as the new executive director.