OutRight Says Goodbye to Executive Director and Celebrates Her Appointment as U.S. Special Envoy for International LGBTQI+ Rights


25 June 2021

Media Contact: Daina Ruduša, commsteam@outrightinternational.org, +1 (917) 622-1865


OutRight Says Goodbye To Executive Director and Celebrates Her Appointment as U.S. Special Envoy for International LGBTQI+ Rights

It is with a mixture of emotions that OutRight Action International announces the forthcoming departure of its executive director, Jessica Stern, who has been selected by the Biden Administration to serve in the role of Special Envoy for International LGBTQI+ Rights. Stern, who became executive director in 2012, oversaw a period of extraordinary growth for OutRight. While OutRight laments Stern’s departure, it celebrates the reestablishment of the role of Special Envoy and the Biden Administration’s decision to appoint a globally recognized expert in the human rights of LGBTIQ people to this important position.  

Under Stern’s leadership, OutRight underwent significant transformation and achieved meaningful and lasting impact. Stern expanded the organization to establish a permanent presence at the United Nations, a Global Research Program, an Arabic Media Project, a Corporate Engagement Program, and a Caribbean Program. Moreover, Stern created a training and advocacy program for LGBTIQ activists, Advocacy Week, that has become a model used around the world.

Executive Director of OutRight Action International, Jessica Stern, comments:

“Serving as OutRight’s executive director has been the honor of a lifetime. I can think of no organization that works with more integrity, more skillful staff, more motivated board members, more valued partners, or greater impact. After 11 years with OutRight, leaving will be bittersweet, but I know that the organization could not be stronger.”

Stern’s vision was for OutRight to help LGBTIQ movements accelerate their progress by focusing on research, resourcing, and advocacy. Guided by a conviction that LGBTIQ movements need research to advocate for law and policy change, Stern led OutRight’s publication of landmark global reports documenting the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTIQ people and exposing the global reach of so-called ‘conversion therapy’ - practices aiming to change sexual orientation or gender identity which are professionally repudiated as futile and damaging. Stern also focused on the under-resourcing of LGBTIQ movements and guided OutRight to create new resources for LGBTIQ activists, organizations, and allies on the frontlines. During her tenure, OutRight helped launch a dozen LGBTIQ organizations; trained over 1,000 LGBTIQ activists; and distributed millions of dollars in grants to LGBTIQ organizations, including creating the largest global LGBTIQ COVID-19 relief fund in the world, which has raised more than $4M to support LGBTIQ communities in 80 countries.

Under Stern's leadership, OutRight expanded the organization's impact as an advocacy organization. OutRight became a watchdog and advocate at the UN by obtaining official accreditation (ECOSOC status), advocating to establish the UN Independent Expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, and fighting for inclusive language in numerous UN resolutions and documents, among other successes impacting the daily lives of LGBTIQ people. 

Stern has also been a strong fiscal manager and successful fundraiser for OutRight. By diversifying the organization's revenue, with support from board members past and present, the organizational budget grew 340% from $2M to a projected FY22 budget of $8.8M. In the coming year, OutRight will enjoy its largest budget ever, enabling the organization to create new programs and recruit a dozen new staff members. 

Co-Chair of OutRight’s Board of Directors, Jenny Pizer, comments:

"The United States is emerging from four years of unreliable foreign policy, distortions of international human rights standards, and backs turned on LGBTIQ people domestically. In such times, LGBTIQ communities in the United States and around the world need and deserve a clear-eyed human rights champion to galvanize a wise reemergence of the U.S. government insisting on full human rights for LGBTIQ people everywhere. Jessica is that person. No one works with deeper commitment, greater integrity, or more skillful strategic vision on behalf of our global LGBTIQ family. We who know Jessica’s talents best know what an immense positive impact she can have. This is an exciting new day for our global movement."

OutRight has long advocated for the position of US Special Envoy for International LGBTQI Rights. First held by now-Ambassador Randy Berry during the Obama Administration, the Special Envoy is the most senior State Department official focused on the full and equal inclusion of LGBTIQ rights in US foreign policy. OutRight notes the important message the Biden Administration sends in countering lesbian invisibility by appointing a lesbian to this role. At a time when democratic institutions are under attack by authoritarian forces and the dangerous anti-gender movement, LGBTIQ people globally need the US to invest in stronger LGBTIQ movements everywhere. As with all government officials, OutRight will look forward to holding the new Special Envoy accountable. 

Co-Chair of OutRight’s Board of Directors, Aalap Shah, comments:

“OutRight today is a formidable organization that is deeply attuned to the diverse needs of LGBTIQ people around the world. We have a clear vision, robust programs, a skillful deputy executive director, experienced staff, and a strong Board of Directors. We will continue to fight as part of the global human rights movement. Nothing will slow us down in our pursuit of human rights for LGBTIQ people everywhere.” 

Stern’s departure date from OutRight has not yet been set. OutRight's Board will work in close coordination with Stern and the senior management team to ensure a seamless leadership transition in the coming weeks and months.



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.