Out in the World: OutRight appoints Sjödin new executive director

  • by Heather Cassell, BAR Contributor
  • Thursday August 11, 2022
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Maria Sjödin has been named the new executive director of OutRight Action International. Photo: Courtesy OutRight Action International<br>
Maria Sjödin has been named the new executive director of OutRight Action International. Photo: Courtesy OutRight Action International

OutRight Action International has officially announced that Maria Sjödin is the international LGBTQ organization's new executive director.

Sjödin, who was named permanent executive director August 4, had been serving as acting executive director since June 2021 when longtime former leader Jessica Stern was tapped by President Joe Biden as the United States special envoy to advance the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons at the State Department.

Sjödin identifies as nonbinary. The move marks the first time a nonbinary person has led OutRight since its founding as the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in San Francisco in 1990. The organization is now based in New York City.

OutRight is the largest international LGBTQ organization in the world and it is the only LGBTQ organization with a permanent presence in the United Nations. The $5.7 million organization, according to its 2020 IRS Form 990, the most recent on file with GuideStar, has staff in 12 countries and works with hundreds of advocacy groups globally.

Jenny Pizer, OutRight's board co-chair and acting chief legal officer at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, said the organization's board of directors was "beyond thrilled" to officially name Sjödin as the organization's new leader.

Pizer expressed the board's confidence that Sjödin will "continue to steward the incredible impact and growth of this organization," in a news release.

A key member of OutRight's executive team for nearly nine years, Sjödin has experienced the organization's decade of tremendous growth and visibility. They also know the status of progress and the challenges around the world.

"Accelerating legal and social change across the world is at a very critical moment," Sjödin stated. LGBTQ communities are "more visible than ever" but governments in many places are attempting to halt or roll back progress for LGBTQ rights, they said.

Sjödin pledged to continue to support communities in crisis and emerging organizations in underfunded regions. They promised to continue "the work that creates sustainable change, ensuring that LGBTIQ people can live in safety, with dignity and with our rights protected."

Pizer described Sjödin as "rare" and their leadership style as an "extraordinary blend of intellect, empathy, and long-term strategic vision" that will keep "with the mission and values of our global movement."

Prior to serving as acting executive director for OutRight, Sjödin was the agency's deputy executive director and held various positions within the organization. During the past two years, Sjödin spearheaded pioneering initiatives, including the organization's LGBTQI-specific COVID-19 and Ukraine emergency funds, according to the release.

Sjödin has 25 years of experience advocating globally for LGBTQ equality. Sjodin came to OutRight after serving nearly a decade as executive director of RFSL, Sweden's largest LGBTQ organization, according to their LinkedIn profile.

Sjödin was chosen to lead OutRight after a yearlong, extensive search process that involved highly-qualified, diverse, and passionate candidates from around the globe, according to the release.

An OutRight spokesperson declined to provide Sjödin's pay, saying the agency didn't comment on individual salaries. According to the 2019 IRS Form 990, Stern earned $234,280 in salary and benefits. As deputy executive director, Sjödin earned $179,508 in salary and benefits.

LGBTQs will have a chance to meet Sjödin at a virtual meet-and-greet hosted by OutRight Tuesday, August 16, at 7 a.m. Pacific time. Register here.

Got international LGBTQ news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at WhatsApp/Signal: 415-517-7239, or [email protected]

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