OutRight Board of Directors Announces Maria Sjödin as Acting Executive Director

10 September 2021

OutRight Board of Directors Announces Maria Sjödin as Acting Executive Director

The Board of Directors of OutRight Action International bids a fond goodbye to longtime Executive Director Jessica Stern as she joins the Biden Administration this week as U.S. Special Envoy to Advance the Human Rights of LGBTQI+ Persons at the State Department, and is thrilled to welcome Maria Sjödin, Deputy Executive Officer, as OutRight’s Acting Executive Director.

Maria has over 20 years of experience advocating for LGBTIQ equality. Between 2005-2014 Maria was Executive Director of RSFL, Sweden’s largest LGBTIQ organization. While in this position, Maria established RFSL's international program and played a key role in ensuring that the human rights of LGBTIQ people become ingrained in the Swedish government's agenda for development and foreign affairs. Maria also advocated for marriage equality (won in 2009) and the abolishment of forced sterilization of trans people as a requirement for legal gender recognition (outlawed in 2013). Maria was recently quoted in the Economist and wrote an op-ed about the attack on LGBTIQ Hungarians for Euronews.

“Maria is the perfect person to steer OutRight during this time of transition,” said Jenny Pizer, Senior Counsel at Lambda Legal and OutRight Board Co-Chair. “As Deputy Executive Director, Maria co-created many of OutRight’s greatest successes, while also leading the organization’s development and communications work through a period of extraordinary revenue growth and media visibility. We are extremely fortunate to have in Maria a world-renowned LGBTIQ human rights expert, an skillful manager, and a deeply trusted face of the organization as our Acting Executive Director.”

Today, OutRight is a 31 year-old global LGBTIQ rights organization with staff around the world. OutRight’s global research program recently released its inaugural Pride briefing paper, “Pride Around the World,” and an authoritative report on digital censorship. Its COVID LGBTIQ Emergency Fund has now released $3.2 million in grants to 310 LGBTIQ organizations on the frontlines in 102 countries around the world. Its annual conference, OutSummit, will take place online December 8-10.

“The Board values the opportunity to appoint a citizen of Sweden to the post as one more demonstration of OutRight’s global identity. Furthermore, as a non-binary lesbian, Maria’s appointment highlights the organization’s commitment to a gender diversity in our values, staffing, and programs. The Board places great faith in Maria and will give Maria our full support in the exciting months ahead,” said Aalap Shah, Head of Product and Design, Plume and OutRight Board Co-Chair. 

A Transition Committee of the OutRight Board of Directors will manage the search for a permanent Executive Director. 



OutRight Action International works at a global, regional and national level to eradicate the persecution, inequality, and violence lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ) people face around the world. From its offices in 7 countries and headquarters in New York, OutRight builds capacity of LGBTIQ movements, documents human rights violations, advocates for inclusion and equality, and holds leaders accountable for protecting the rights of LGBTIQ people everywhere. OutRight has recognized consultative status at the United Nations.